Monday, April 18, 2016

When A Bestseller Breaks All the Rules

I check myself to make sure I'm not bitter.

It's been a long journey of rejection, correction and re-writing, and so, I know that my perspective might come from a less than noble place.

But I am sure it's not that. I am positive it's not the ugly green monster creeping up my torso to choke my neck and squeeze out my tears. Nope. After this long journey toward publication, I know that sensation all too well. And it's definitely not a judgement call out of envy, bitterness or the struggle to read when I want to be the one read.

So after I check myself and I am certain it's not that, I wonder how can an NYT Bestseller get away with all this? And it makes me slightly angry and mostly confused.

This book I hold and struggle to read breaks a bunch of rules...and it's a novel from a major house in a time where the market is completely saturated and competitive and fierce.

You may wonder, what in the world? And no, I am not going to mention the name of the book. That would certainly set me up for a debate the size of Facebook.

But I will mention the "rules" that I had once held dear, thinking if I can abide by these rules then I would be a bestselling author. And dilemma to embrace the following and come alongside the critics in their praise is in the face of these:

Head-hopping within one paragraph...but not consistently through the book. Just here and there. ACK!

Repetitive words through out a page...that could easily be changed. Ugh!

And then...

this one had me close the book, because this rule-follower-for-desperation-to-get-it-right just couldn't take it anymore...somewhere in Chapter 2:  While everything is in past-tense, this one scene--of little importance--is in present tense? WHA'??? How can that be? 

You may say, oh, the author has a readership so of course, they get more leniency. Ah, but this is a debut novel. Yes. The author had NO readership before this!

I am just so...annoyed.

And then, as I type this, I realize that I am looking from a backstage perspective. I am seeing all the tricks used by the actors to give the audience an elaborate show. And because I've tried to play out my own performance without any tricks, I can hardly breathe when the rules are broken and given accolades for a well-done performance.

Maybe that green monster really is there more than I care to admit.

Or maybe, I am just weary of this subjective road to be on the shelf and be read and have my story loved by the reader.

It goes to show that this industry really is not a guarantee for anyone. While one kind of book might satiate the needs of a certain house and the craving of a particular readership, another might just miss the mark on that day--that month--or with that single acquisitions team. While one house might play it safe and stick to the rules...AND produce bestsellers...another house might take a leap and break all the rules...AND produce bestsellers.

When it comes to the whys and hows of getting a book out there for all to read, it really is based on timing on many levels. So really, I have no reason to get upset, annoyed, or leave that book to gather dust. I just have to remember, it's not my time yet. And also, maybe broken rules aren't such a big deal if you can give the audience a great show?

What do you think? Have you ever had a difficult time reading a book as an aspiring author knowing the author is getting away with something you didn't?

Angie Dicken is a full-time mom and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she has written six historical novels and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Angie also spends her time designing one-sheets and drinking good coffee with great friends. Check her personal blog at and connect at:
Twitter: @angiedicken


Debra Chapoton, author said...

I completely agree. But I guess God had a plan for that author with no regard for publishing dos and don'ts. Hard not to be jealous or perturbed though.

Debra Chapoton, author said...

I completely agree. But I guess God had a plan for that author with no regard for publishing dos and don'ts. Hard not to be jealous or perturbed though.

kaybee said...

Oh, Angie, I know how you feel and I feel that way too. Often. If there's anything I understand about writing, it's that I don't understand anything about writing. There must have been SOMETHING in that writer's debut that SOMEBODY thought was worth overlooking SOMETHING. I don't like reading mistakes in other people's books, I often wonder how they got through, but it's interesting because now I know enough to spot the mistakes. I don't have a problem with legitimate authors so much as I have a problem with celebrities who decide they want to write a book, like Lauren Conrad or the Ghost of Thomas Kinkade (whom I think is not really dead because he keeps Churning Out Material). My crit partner is a Rules girl and she's always on my case about rules, but she's published and I'm not, so there you have it.
There may be rules but there are no shortcuts (except, apparently for the author you just read). I tried to take a shortcut earlier this year and was brought down this weekend by a rejection related to same. I was depressed for about 24 hours until I realized it served me right for even trying to skip a step. There are no shortcuts. Any more than there are shortcuts to salvation. He Paid The Price. Period.
Kathy Bailey

Robin E. Mason said...

OUCH!!! {{{{{HUGZ}}}}} you're so "write" how do we know when to follow the rules or which ones to follow and which ones to toss out the window? i [half] jokingly say i know the rules and i know how to break them. i've two novels out and sales that are barely a blip on the radar. but i'll keep writing 'cause that's what Heavenly Father tells me to do! #nogreeneyedmonsterhere #nonotatall

Angie Dicken said...

Thanks ladies! It's unnerving but still just another part of this journey to learn from...and I am so glad to have the AlleyCats and AlleyPals to walk this road to publication. We are all headed there, or already there and going to the next step, it really is just a matter of timing!!

FFJ said...

I almost feel as if you are talking about a book I read recently. Actually, a couple of books lol.

Yeah, Debra's comment, "God had a plan for that author with no regard for publishing dos and don'ts" is the only thing that makes sense (thanks so much for sharing that wisdom).

I only hope that with the hard work I'm putting into my pieces, I'll manage to achieve the goals I have for myself.

(BTW, new to your blog and came her via Jill Jepson's tweet)