Friday, February 10, 2012

Very Annoying Things About Books

At the very real risk of becoming known as a curmudgeon ( I need to look that up), I do think it's in all our best interest if I address certain issues pertaining to books. Yes, books, those thing we adore or hate, and everything in-between.
Shifting POV from One Paragraph to the Next: I've been under the distinct impression that this practice went out of style years ago. Editors have told me repeatedly--"don't do it!" I've learned my lesson so well that when I notice this in a romance, I cringe and want to take my red pen and edit the book. I'm reading one now by a prolific author with a reputable publisher (no, it's not NR). But my goodness, I've not seen one quite this bad. There are no breaks from one POV to the other, and  there may be as many as a dozen shifts within one chapter. Honestly, I simply cannot understand how this happens. Are we shifting away from pure POV with a return to more lax rules?
Merging of Erotic and Non-Erotic Novels: Not too long ago, eBook publishers mixed erotic with non-erotic. I believe there was an outcry, because most created new imprints for their erotic imprints. Good, at least we know what we're buying. Not so fast, because the trend seems to be reversing once again, except this time with a twist. I read that an author may label her book "hot" (erotic lite?), when in truth it is only sensual/sweet: Quote: "When my books were rated a 3 on the hotness scale, they barely sold. But when I upped them to 4s and 5s, they sold like hotcakes." (Get it? Hotcakes?) Does the reader, then, know the difference? Does she comprehend that she is reading sensual/sweet but thinks it's erotic? Are the lines becoming blurred?   
Women's Fiction With No Place To Go: Before I complain, here's an actual event this week. Kristin Hannah released her newest novel titled Home Front. We know her books tend more to the Women's Fiction category than pure romance. I may have read every one of her books, and they're all along the same lines: the story revolves around a woman and other women, and/or family members. Yes, there's a man in there, but her novels aren't true romances. So, this last week, I pulled it up to buy for my Kindle. Want to know the price for the ebook? $12.95. Yes, that's exactly right--a  price times the amount most readers prefer. And now a week later, she sits atop four best seller lists, including the NYT. Now, you tell me--is there a market out there for WF? Oh, I was so hoping there was, because two of my books are WF. I realize I'm not even close to Ms. Hannah's caliber, but I'd safely say my stories are good. They're just not selling.
Decades-Old Novel Re-Released With a 2012 Cover But With No Updated Text: Enough said.
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas      


  1. The shifting POV irritates me too, Celia. I wonder sometimes if the writers even know they're doing it. When I was first writing romances, it was heroine POV only, and it's taken me a while to adjust to being able to switch POVs now (but not within the same paragraph!)
    Re erotic/non-erotic, it seems publishers have their own criteria for the different 'heats', and personally, I'm confused as to what constitutes each level of heat.

  2. Changing POV really bothers me too. I have seen it done and done well, but it is very rare. I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one. I am also happy that there is a market for Women's Fiction because that's what I write too. Many blessings to you. Happy writing!

  3. Ever since I started writing I find myself picking out mistakes that I would have skimmed over before. I have trouble with jumping POV's to. Glad I'm not the only one. :} Enjoyed your post.

  4. Celia, your stories are most definitely good! And that cover for your book with Whiskey Creek is gorgeous.

    The POV thing frustrates me too. There is one author I read regularly who I don't mind it with. She's been around for quite awhile, writing since way back when this wasn't a no-no. Somehow she still manages to connect me with the characters. Having said that, I also thing her writing would be even better if she didn't head hop.

  5. Changing pov seems to be returning to favor. I like it in love scenes, but never in the same paragraph.
    As to erotic/non-erotic, I think some books are labelled that way to sell. And sex sells doesn't it. True erotic romance is very different to spicy romance.

  6. Celia,
    I wouldn't call your comments complaints about books...more along the lines of observations. As writers, we all become more concious of 'other' writers once we've reached a certain level. Not only do I see POV issues, but 'telling' and not showing is rampant in many I've read. As to the erotic vs non-erotic, I know several authors who write for erotic lines. There is a REAL difference between erotica and sensual, hot romance. I don't judge, I observe.
    I'm constantly searching for the elusive 'target' audience. I know I've found at least one reader when I get a review like the first one for my recent release. Someday, I hope more fall in line and read my work...then pass the word - Yes! This is what we've been looking for!

    Til then, I savor the ones who have found my stories and understand what I've been trying to project. Same with Women's Fiction. Someday our time will come!


  7. I was intrigued by your invitation on this blog, Celia. I have found the rating of our books depends on which publisher is rating them. And they do tend to stretch a point to raise the heat level, Just today I read an excerpt by a bestselling ebook author and the POV was switched several times in that. I guess I am a minority of one who doesn't mind this, in fact I rather like it if done smoothly. And (confession here) I like to write it also.

  8. Celia,
    Being a woman, maybe you are a curmudgeon-ette? LOL I think these are just observations, too, not really complaints. I never noticed POV shifts before I started writing and having my books edited. Now, I notice it, but it doesn't really bother me. In fact, like Linda, there are many times I enjoy it and feel more "in the story" --especially in a love scene. I don't know...being the youngest child in my family I guess I don't believe in rules.LOL The erotic thing I have noticed too, where everything is kind of slipping toward a more middle ground, and I think it IS in the eye of the beholder in a lot of cases. I love your cover. Well, I love all your covers--you have some gorgeous ones!

  9. I don't understand all this hype with POV. I come from an era when the point of writing in the third person was that you could write from different viewpoints. If I want to write from one viewpoint only, I write in the first person. Who decided that you can only write from one point of view? The great writers don't do it. It seems to me to be a needless restriction on writers imposed by people who teach but can't do.
    From a fellow curmudgeon

  10. Oh my goodness Celia, you've touched on some things that many of us can relate to. Not only does shifting POVs and blurred lines between erotic and sensual problems seem to be resurfacing but poor editing in general. I've run into misspelled words and typos galore in some of the books I've read lately. Some reviewers give a reason for their heat ratings that help determine the content which is very helpful. Before I wrote my first novel, I didn't know that head hopping was a bad thing. I read books by the author who shall not be named and thought that was how it was done. I found out in a hurry when I sold my first story that head hopping was bad.
    I guess we all have issues in writing to conquer. I have a tendancy for backstory and tell instead of show--not that I want to but that I have trouble recognizing it.
    The worst offense is to read a story that has no story line.
    Not to worry Celia. I've read your work and you write an excellent story.
    I loved your blog today.

  11. Hello Celia,

    What an interesting post.

    I agree with you that head-hopping can be downright annoying and considering all that is required to solve the problem is a little disciplined editing, writers who simply can't be bothered, shouldn't be taken seriously!

    As for the erotic/non-erotic question, I wonder if the problem here is that we are being labelled to death nowadays? There are so many romantic sub-genres that it's not surprising readers and writers (and possibly even publishers) are confused.

    Until a much simpler (and universal) form of classification is introduced, it seems anything goes - which is far from ideal.

    I'm considering starting a campaign about this - lol!

    Great blog - beautiful cover!

  12. Hi, Paula--it's a universal annoyance, I guess. In the end, it's what we learn and what is expected of us. I never knew authors switched POV at the drop of a hat, but now I do, because I did it to some degree. However, I've learned, also, I almost naturally write in one POV at a time. That's all I ask--and the confusions over heat levels. Oh, yes, big problem. Thanks for your input.

  13. Vanessa-I'm so glad someone else write WF. It was very popular in the 80s, but somehow has gone out of favor. Except a few big authors--namely Kristin Hannah that I named. Thank you, and keep writing those WF stores!

  14. LKF--it's been said that being a writer ruins us for reading--we constanly pick out the errors!
    Thanks for visiting.

  15. Shawna--oh, I know who you're talking about--I mentioned her, too--NR. But I stopped reading her books--too many others to choose from. Maybe I should check her out again. Thanks!

  16. Maggi--yes, sex definitely sells. And those novels are driving the ebook surge. I know authors who switched to writing erotic that I never thought would. But if it's money we're after, that might be a wise thing to do.
    Thank you for commenting..

  17. Nancy--I like your statement that we're observing instead of complaining. That's a good distinction. And the telling instead of showing--that was the most difficult thing for me to change--I love to describe! But it's another lesson learned. Thank you for your input.

  18. Linda--you have it right. The heat level definition totally depends on the publisher. Same, too, for the POV and the telling--depends on who is editing your book.
    We know, don't we, that editors come in a very wide range of ability.
    Yes, I know POV doesn't bother you and you even write it some...but truthfully, the way your write I never see any shift in POV.You're good! Thanks for coming by--I always value your opinion.

  19. CHERYL--you never fail to make me laugh! Oh, and yes, definitely you do break a few rules. Like writing Westerns right alongside the male authors! Wow! I am so proud of you for crossing that line--Thanks!

  20. JENNY--hello, fellow curmudgeon! I think we're talking about shifting POV within a paragraph or scene or chapter. That's how editors have explained it to me. Most romance books have two POVs--the hero's and the heroine's. (as Paula, said, though, when she first began writing romance, only one POV was allowed, and that was the heroine's)
    Oh, yes, the reason I don't write in 1st person or like to read a novel in 1st person is that the reader only see the POV of that one person-we only get her feelings, emotions, etc. This makes for a flat story, IMHO!
    So, I agree, I want multiple POVs, just one at a time, though. Thank you for your comment!

  21. Sarah--I remember with one of my first novels, the editor was explaining the "one POV at a time" rule, and I remember she added, "Yes, I know N. does it, but you can't!"
    And I agree most whole heartedly about a novel with a good story. That is the number one bottom line. All sex and no story makes the book a dull read.
    I love your comment--thank you so much.

  22. Manic--I'll join your campaign to simplify the categories and labels. You have it right, I think--we simply have too many labels.Thank you for visiting my blog--and oh, yes, Crystal Lake Reunion does have a gorgeous cover.

  23. Celia, ditto about the shifting of POV. I've been told to stop, but I still it happening in all kinds of books regardless of genre and author. Things that make you go um....

    Sarah, I even caught a typo in "PIllars of the Earth." If they are miniumal, I tend to shrug it off, but boy do I get annoyed when they are obvious and an editor and proof reader should have caught them.

    Celia, great topic with lots of fodder for discussion.

  24. Head hopping as they used to call it is always a problem with me and my publishers usually point it out to me, a thousand times over.
    I have some funny things to add about erotic and non erotic. My historicals and borderline erotic romance. And yes, there is a big difference in erotic and erotic romance. But my publishers usually put the heat levels on and in my opinion my historicals are more erotic romance than steamy. I don't know why, they just seem to cross the border from what I used to call steamy. But I've had several books I've had to speak with the publisher about the heat level, either she had it too high or too low. Sometimes authors will let it ride especially if it isn't too steamy and the publisher lets it ride as though it was, as it brings more sales.

    I don't like to pick someone else's book apart, either I liked the book or I didn't. I don't look for errors as I'm sure most books have one or two here and there and I'm not overly troubled with editing. What I am overly troubled with is if I wait to buy a book, thinking this might really be good and I buy it and the story starts out as I anticipated but sex takes over and it's just how many times they can go to bed. I don't like those and I feel the author is merely trying to have enough of it to qualify as an erotic. And I have read those and get a little angry with them.

    I read a book recently I didn't care for the beginning at all, it was boring same old same old, until about the third chapter. It was rated high. Although it told a good story, the beginning was not good. It bored me with setting and same old romance type thing. It did finally pull me in, and I liked it. But the beginning was nothing I anticipated.

  25. Steph--thanks for your comment. Like you, I hear always no head hopping, but I do think it's either overlooked or acceptable with a few publishers. Very odd. And while I don't nitpick as I read, I am definitely seeing more errors in book. Such a shame. I wonder if our "rush to publication" is hurting our industry? Keep up your good work--

  26. Anonymous--you had some excellent points. I've read more and more that the lines between heat levels are being blurred. Another theory is that readers are becoming so used to it, they're not blinking as much as before. In other words, the reading public is becoming more liberal in their reading. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.

  27. Readers neither know nor care about POV as long as the story engages their attention. And that's the idea.

    Editors condemn head-hopping because too many POV shifts can confuse the reader. Before I knew what POV was, I reread sections of stories as I asked myself, "who's talking here?", so the editors have a point.

    There are specific techniques to let the reader know when the POV shifts. One is to start a new paragraph with the character's name. Nora Roberts has POV shifts down pat. And in the end, if your book sells millions, no one cares about POV.

    I think there will always be a market for WF. Romance sells better, which is why there are more romance authors. I also doubt Kristin Hannah started out on the best seller lists, and I doubt she sells as much as romance authors. But she has a name. Once you get a name, people will continue to buy your books. So, keep writing that WF, Celia.

    Sex sells. There's no doubt about it. Publishers will force authors to add more sex, or they will put a suggestive cover on a sweeter book to pull in more readers. For a new romance novelist, publishers use a racy cover to hook buyers. If the author becomes successful, later covers usually become more sedate. You can see that with Julia Quinn's books. The most recent example I can think of is regency historical author Joanna Bourne, who has sex in her novels, but she's mainstream. Her first two books have half-naked men on them (always a draw for women), while the later editions have fully clothed women on them.

    And then you have the people who condemn a sweeter book labeled as such because there's no sex, or because the H/H think about sex. And sometimes true erotica sells better when it's has a lesser label, like hot. You can't win, so write what you want.