Monday, November 1, 2010

Formulaic? So what!

I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that I'm on the lookout for a new literary agent. Wait, that's not exactly an accurate description.  That makes it sound as though I'm just waiting for one to fall into my lap when the reality is that I'm sending out anywhere from one to twenty query letters a day.  The point of this is to set up what today's blog post is about.

As you know, with queries comes rejection. It's inevitable, and for me it feels more inevitable than for others. Last week, I alluded to some of the standard responses agents send out that can tend to drive writers over the edge. I'm no exception to those responses.  I've also been accused, both by agents and publishers, of being too formulaic.  For the first time ever, I'm here to publicly ask: what's wrong with that?

Being formulaic has netted some writers some big sales. For instance, I can tell you that Lurlene McDaniel will always write about teens facing life changing issues such as cancer or drug addicted parents.  The teen characters will always be wholesome and never promiscuous yet she'll sell tons.  Okay, she's a little outdated. Let's take Nicholas Sparks.  Not only do all of his books follow a very distinct formula, but so do his characters.  There's been a teacher in more than one, a law enforcement officer in more than one, a veteran of the armed forces in more than one...  I could go on and on, and I'm not just talking about bit characters. These are main characters, but his books sell big time. Why?  Readers want the formula.  They like it.  It comforts them and makes them feel safe.

So hear this.  The next time I get accused of being too formulaic I'm going to challenge you to tell me why that's so bad.  Good luck.

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