Are readers buying the same old story over and over again?

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FOR SO LONG, I confess, I have believed that authors should write what their heart wants them to write.

Forget the genre.

Don’t even worry about mixing and matching genres.

Your novel may be a sizzling romance.

The plot and subplots may all be triggered by an intriguing mystery.

The story may take place in outer space.

Yesterday.

Today.

Tomorrow.

It doesn’t matter.

It’s all about the story.

I still believe that.

But I fear that we as authors, in a frantic attempt to place more and more books on Amazon and other eRetailers, have become complacent.

We have developed a simple formula.

It fits the genre we like.

It’s a comfortable place to write.

But, without our realizing it, we find ourselves writing the same old novel with the same old characters wallowing in the same old plot over and over again.

But why should we worry?

Readers loved our work once.

They’ll love us again.

Well, we better start worrying.

Readers, I’ve discovered, don’t want the same old novel with the same old characters wallowing in the same old plot over and over again.

That train of thought struck me when I listened to judges for the First Chapter Contest sponsored by the East Texas Writers Guild.

I read the entries when they came in.

I had a lot of friends submitting them.

I was prejudiced.

I didn’t have a damn thing to do with the contest or the results.

I’m just a used word salesman, but the contest judges were a different breed.

They were educators.

They were librarians.

They were bookstore owners.

More than anything, they were serious, no-holds-barred, I go through three books a week readers.

I have no quarrel with the decisions the judge made. The winning entries were all well written, well edited, and deserved to be at the top of any contest.

What surprised me, however, were the entries that didn’t win.

Many were written by some of the best authors working today. Many possessed brilliant writing. So why didn’t the judges choose them?

Here is what I heard the judges say.

I’ve read that story before.

I’ve read those kinds of characters before.

Different novels.

Same characters.

The writing was great, but the plot has been around for a while.

I’m tired of reading about serial killers.

Two people kissing doesn’t make a romance.

“What do you want to read?” I asked one of the judges.

“I don’t care if it’s romance, mystery, thriller, science fiction, fantasy, or historical fiction,” she said. “I want to read a story I’ve never read before. Our final decision was based on whether or not we would buy the book and read it.”

In essence, those judges were refusing to wade through the same old novel with the same old characters wallowing in the same old plot over and over again.

Readers, they said, are looking for something fresh.

Readers like to involve themselves with characters and plots that are original.

Readers want stories that are different.

Readers are intrigued with stories that take you someplace you did not expect to go.

It’s easy for writers to come up with a new story, but that may not work so well when dealing with today’s readers, young and old.

It’s time we think about breaking the mold, fighting our way out of our comfort zone, taking the hard road and not the easy one, and developing a totally new story that has a totally new twist.

We don’t necessarily have to walk away from our genre of choice, but it might be advantageous if we take a chance on a concept we’ve never considered before, a story we’ve never told before.

Look at recent blockbusters.

Harry Potter.

Twilight.

Fifty Shades of Grey.

The Girls.

The Girl on a Train.

The DaVinci Code

The Devil in White City

Water for the Elephants

When published, there was nothing like those novels anywhere in the marketplace.

So sit down tonight and invent an innovative concept that pushes and stretches your imagination beyond its limits.

Look hard at story idea you’ve created.

Ever read anything like that before?

No?

Why not?

It’s unconventional.

It’s compelling.

It’s extraordinary.

Well, it might be the story you’ve been waiting all your life to write and just didn’t know it.

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