Descriptions for heat levels in book list

------holding hands, perhaps a gentle kiss
♥♥ ---- more kisses but no tongue-- no foreplay
♥♥♥ ---kissing, tongue, caressing, foreplay & pillow talk
♥♥♥♥ --all of above, full sexual experience including climax
♥♥♥♥♥ -all of above including coarser language and sex more frequent

Monday, March 11, 2013

Patterns in writing

Waking in the middle of the night recently, I thought about the dilemma of marketing books. When I have looked at what romances appear to be selling well in Amazon, which ones receive raves from readers, many of them follow patterns. Actually this is probably also true in other genres like sci fi/mysteries/horror/apocalyptic/etc. When a book has a huge success, one that isn't set into the standard patterns, as Harry Potter/Twilight/Gray whatever, it likely sets a trend for new patterns.

So when promoting your book, you figure out its genre but then what pattern of story you happen to be writing. Since I know the most about romance, I'll give a few examples-- which all involve falling in love complicated by obstacles along the way.

A person from another planet/time/spiritual dimension meets someone and falls in love. This can be vampires, aliens, angels/time travelers, etc. So you have the fish out of water story, where eventually the lover must reveal him/herself, but the stranger has hidden powers/knowledge that likely will solve problems in the story.

Woman (could be sweet young thang or not) must get revenge for wrong done/save father/save town/etc. and hires tough guy to help her do the deed. On the way, love happens.

Protagonist has an enemy and to get revenge or have hostage he/she kidnaps the other protagonist (possibly by mistake) where they go off together to escape from bad guys while they fall in love-- then hopefully unite to overcome the enemy since romances have happy endings for the most part. On the run stories have many possible ways to get there.

Moving back home for whatever reason, is a popular pattern in sweet romances where there is the old love or new love and the rest of the book is about how they work that out in that community, maybe overcoming some past bad deed done by themselves or somebody else.

Recently there was a big hit with the cute/naive/sweet thing who falls in love with rich billionaire and they have to work out some problem before they can be together.  With erotica added, you have the gray something or other and all its offspring.

Promising to marry one brother and falling in love with another one leads to a lot of stories. Along with that could be the mail order bride.

Girl pretends to be boy to fight a war/right a wrong/escape a bad guy and hero doesn't find out right away the truth of her sex. He might find out early on or go a lot of the book before he realizes he's falling in love with what he thinks is a boy. I've never seen this plot reversed-- likely because romance heroes wouldn't fool anybody with eyesight.

Then there's woman captured by Indian tribe who falls in love with warrior.  Can't say I've read many where the story is reversed but it is probably out there also.

Of course, there's the bad boy (not often bad girl) where she (generally innocent) is drawn to him and his problems become hers.

part of our herd in snow, not this winter though as this year, no snow

There is nothing wrong with any of these story lines. They say every plot possibility was already grabbed by Shakespeare. the problem is though what happens if your books don't fit into any of the apparently popular patterns?

I think the fact that my books don't fit any of the popular patterns is what makes marketing them difficult. Well I do have Her Dark Angel about the basic beauty and the beast story. From Here to There is a run away bride story except she doesn't really run away-- she just wants an annulment-- changing her mind a little late but most of that book is about ranch life in Montana where I guess there is a fish out of water story also as the hero comes out to try and win her back-- or at least convince her she's an idiot for thinking he's not hero material.

You might think not fitting patterns is good-- makes for originality, but actually not so much. When I used to send my manuscripts into editors (10 years since the last such mailing), I would get nice compliments on my writing,  BUT the books didn't fit a niche, not enough angst in the heroine, and that was enough to send them back. Sometimes with a suggestion for how to fix that problem but one I simply couldn't use or the story would lose what I saw it as its being about. 

After ePublishing, I understand better this desire for recognizable patterns. Readers want what they can recognize and count on. They like those stories where they know what they will get even though it's in a different setting with somewhat different characters (although the character types don't vary a lot either).

Not fitting a pattern is a drawback in marketing, but I don't know what I can do about it. As I have said before-- we write what we write because those are our stories. I don't want to write what someone else wrote but even if I did, it'd likely come off stale.

Then I began to think about what I do write and what can I promote as my own pattern for stories. I do have a pattern. Most of my stories do offer some of the same aspects in each one. How can I use that for marketing? How do I convince readers to try my patterns and what are my qualifications for writing such stories? Next blog this will continue this topic as I think it's a problem for many writers.