by Anna Bell
As a writer do you ever dislike a book you’re reading because it reminds you of the writing problem you’re having at the time? Well, that’s what happened to me this week when I cried and swore off writing and reading chick lit for two days.
I was reading a chick lit book by an author I love. It was really funny and most of the way through I was enjoying it, but when it came to the ending I sighed at its predictability and I fell out with chick lit. It wasn’t really about the book, or the genre, it was because that same predictability was what I was struggling with in my own writing.
I’ve written on many occasions that I like the predictability of chick lit. I love the fact that you are guaranteed a happy ending and their rocky road on the path to true love that I enjoy. Yet, unfortunately, that’s often not enough of a story. There usually has to be some other disaster in the protagonist’s life to hold the reader's attention, and so often in chick lit it tends to be a woman’s career. I guess it makes sense, as next to love it’s probably the most major investment of time and energy in a woman’s life. The career storyline usually pops up in the guise of starting a new business (let’s be honest – it’s usually food, craft or event related), or they’re a downtrodden employee who either averts a disaster or causes one resulting in either promotion or firing accordingly.
Now I’m not saying that my books don’t feature these storylines, as they absolutely do. My latest WIP needed a subplot to support my story and I wrote in a storyline involving a pesky work colleague who is sabotaging and jeopardising my main character’s job. I’ve also used it in my Don’t Tell series – it’s the main storyline in Don’t Tell the Boss, and in Don’t Tell the Brides-to-Be Penny launches a wedding planning company. They’ve worked really well in my books in the past, but I don’t want it to be my go-to subplot.
I recently pitched a new book idea to my editor. It’s a terrifying moment, but having spoken to my agent about it half an hour earlier I was quietly confident that it wasn’t a bad idea. My editor agreed, but was quick to point out that the concept and the storyline weren’t enough. There had to be some other plot. I came home and began brainstorming, but kept getting really cross as, in my head, I could only think of something work related. My lack of originality grated on me, and that’s why when I read the other book I got so cross. It wasn’t because the career storyline didn’t fit with their story, as it did – perfectly, it was because I couldn’t think of any other ideas for my book.
I grumped around for a couple of days, being generally over-dramatic, wondering if I was going to have to stop writing chick lit. But after two days, I had an idea. I thought of a hobby for my character that would interweave with my main plot and provide an absolutely fantastic final climax to the book. And just like that, chick lit was forgiven. The book I’d read redeemed itself to its rightful place of a good book and I was happy again.
Writing really is an emotional roller coaster often for the most peculiar reasons. Does it ever affect your love of reading?