Should You Write To the Needs of the Novel or to the Needs of the Reading Experience?
I just made a writing discovery last night.
This experience demonstrates the difference between writing to the ‘needs of the novel’ as I think most authors do (and editors demand) and writing to ‘the needs of the reading experience.’
I believe that the mega selling authors write to the needs of ‘the reading experience’ and this allows them to violate many writing rules. These authors write to make the reading experience the most enjoyable possible on a page-by-page basis.
You be the judge:
I’m now reading a book by a very good author who I have enjoyed reading very much in the past. This book is not an enjoyable reading experience. It is full of depressing events. I feel bad most of the time I am reading the book. Think about that. Do we want our readers to feel bad most of the time they are reading our books?
I am even reluctant to pick up the book again after putting it down because I don’t want to feel the way I know it will make me feel. (I read romances for the enjoyment and not as an educational assignment.)
Here’s the point:
There is nothing wrong with the book from a writing POV. Indeed, this book might be loved by the critics. It could get many stars by reviewers. Indeed, the book meets the guidelines for a publishable novel. It’s all there: GMC, ARCs, etc. It’s just not an enjoyable read.
I did not enjoy reading “The Grapes of Wrath” but it was a great novel. It is something an educated person should read.
Of course, I know the book I am now reading will have a happy ending and all the unpleasant situations will be redeemed by the grace of God and the ending of this book will be happier than it could have otherwise been without all the suffering. I know this will happen. OK. The lower the lows feel, the higher the highs will feel in comparison. I get it.
But I think reading a romance is like eating a seven course meal. Don’t we expect each course to taste good? What if the seven course meal had six bland or even poor tasting courses but the desert at the end is the best ever because it gains by comparison to the food that went before it? Would we like that meal?
I think a writer should have a ‘feeling meter’ on each page indicating what the reader is currently feeling as she is reading that page and if that feeling is unpleasant for a good part of the book, then the author needs to be aware of this.
I think writing in a way that makes a reader feel bad or depressed is a clear and present danger to the reader finishing the book and/or buying the author’s next book.
Do you have an opinion on this? Do you like a book that makes you feel bad most of the time as you are reading it? As a teenager I enjoyed reading dystopias that made me feel bad. But I don’t enjoy romances that make me feel bad.
Are you as a writer aware of what your reader is feeling as she reads each given page and how those feeling stack up in relation to the entire reading experience as a whole?
Here’s an additional danger: such a book could get good reviews while at the same time providing a dismal reading experience. This in turn could cause the author to write some more books of the same nature. But then the world is full of authors who get great reviews and weak sales reports.