Reading Roger Sutton’s Blog was highly enjoyable, mainly because reading his blog pieces was very similar to conversations I have with a wonderfully flamboyant and intelligent coworker of mine. Although I started reading by skipping around, I ended up reading a few dozen posts, his sense of humor and insights into the publishing work are easy to get into. Plus, Sutton often references genre fiction, which is wonderful because I am surrounded by genre fiction all day long, as my store specializes in mysteries, romance, westerns, and children’s. Despite the amount of giggling I did while reading his posts, I also had some interesting personal insights.
One of his posts dealt specifically with mystery writing, as he was currently reading Lisa Scottline’s latest book in her Bennie Series. He spoke of how ludicrous the plot was but how he would not only finish the novel but eagerly await the next book. This sentiment brought to mind two questions. How long should a mystery writer keep a reader in suspense, or how long should they drag out the element of suspense, but the reader becomes too frustrated and throws the book across the room? I ran into this problem outside of the mystery genre just reading Robin Mckinley’s Beauty, which drags out its final plot elements to the point I could feel my teeth grinding as I read it. While her character development is wonderful, there is definitely a feeling it is far too dragged out, it takes nearly half the book before Beauty even meets the Beast. In my own writing this is also a large worry I have. I always wonder how much I want to reveal with a chapter and what I want to save for later, how much later, when will my reader feel I have kept too much hidden for too long and throw the book across the room. And yet the right amount of suspense is golden, fuel for the fire, it keeps the reader strung along, unable to put the book down. For all I don’t like his books, Dan Brown is the king of suspense. The Da Vinci Code consists of two to three page chapters each bloody one ending in a cliffhanger but by god you can’t put that book down.
The second question Sutton asked in this post was in a character series what unforgivable mistake does the writer have to make in order for the series to be dumped? This is a very scary feeling and again applies across multiple genres. I myself dumped the Anita Blake series by Laurel K Hamilton when her books became too raunchy. He even mentioned that perhaps the author did not truly make a mistake so much as fail to hook the reader from the beginning. I have to point a finger at Patterson in this case. The man does not even writer his own novels anymore, but the Alex Cross series sells like mad, even after he actually had a commercial where he threatened to kill the character off if not enough people bought his book. Ugh.
Aside from Sutton’s insights on writers, he also had many posts which shed more light on the world of publishing and selling. I found his post on Amazon.com’s war with Macmillan a bit unsettling. I know I am treading tricky ground here but I have always had issue with book pricing, I love working in a used book store that sells books for $1 -$4 because I hate how much Borders expects people to pay for the pleasure of reading in our current economy. When Amazon attempted to sell Macmillan’s books for cheaper than the publisher wished, Macmillan pulled all there stock out of Amazon. Okay, but I am not going to stop using Amazon because I am a poor working class housewife and Amazon helps me afford school books. It is hard to defend Macmillan’s decision, or Amazon’s reaction when I have been perpetually torn over book pricing for years now. Still it was insightful to read about the situation. I wonder how I would feel if I were a published writer in this scenario.