Monday, August 30, 2010


One of my favorite authors is so big and in such high demand that he doesn’t even write his own books anymore. There is a whole team ghostwriters that help him do that.

Another author I have grown to admire bangs out a best seller every 45 days. Works eight hours a day, even on vacation.

That’s right, no need to re-read. Links to the articles where they say as much are pasted below. But let me ramble on…

One is disciplined, hard working, and dedicated to writing for her audience. She is the queen of Romance.

The other is an advertising and marketing powerhouse. Has a whole wing of his publisher at his personal disposal. Genius, pure genius.

I love their work. Entertaining, page turning, good reads. Guilty pleasures- dare I say.

But, do their characters stay with me? Do they love writing their stories as much as I do my own? How can they, 45 days and ghostwriters?

Do you have to sell-out to sell a book? I mean, after reading a James Patterson I am in awe of the sheer brilliance and excitement. After a Roberts, satisfied for the HEA.

Recently, I have noticed a pattern. Their books read like a carbon copy of their previous works. The formula? The expectation? The characters all seem the same. The scenery and names just change.

Patterson's ghost writers are trying to emulate his style. I read some from a writer's POV. I noticed the voice differences from the earlier Alex Cross books, which I absolutely love and adore. In some of these co-written stories Patterson's voice is muddled, and it would be with two authors. But muddled in a bad way.

The three Nora Roberts I read back to back were really all the exact same book. The same exact plot really, a murder/bad guy, group of friends/siblings, main love interest and other secondary love plots, bad guy caught, HEA. Like, Barbie, same gal, different outfits and careers.

At some point if I am successful enough will I do the same? Will I have to? Will I churn out the same stories?

I want a writing career, not just publish a book. I love the craft, my characters, and the world I have created.

With a team of ghostwriters and the four-five day clock ticking, it all seems so impersonal. Much like the boring work I do day to day to pay the bills.

What will become of me if I am lucky enough to be in their position?

Now when I posted these articles to a crit group a while back, a few fellow aspiring authors came to the defense of their idols, the ones I question above. I get that, really I do. But it doesn’t get rid of the utter disappointment of it all.

Maybe Patterson is right; it all comes down to entertainment. Quick reads are quick reads. But maybe they are for that alone, for me to quickly read and put aside.

I want to write is what sticks, what stays with a person. I remember the characters I fell in love with and still love now. Looking back, some of those authors aren’t/weren’t as successful by industry standards. But by mine, they are and always will be.

Maybe that’s the writer I want to be, we’ll just have to wait and see.


  1. I think there is a significant difference between writing to a formula and being prolific. There are authors who write one novel a year and every single one of their books is identical. The time taken to pen the works has nothing to do with their outcome.

    Ron L. Hubbard and many like him produced novels at regular intervals and it's tough to say their writing is cardboard. Stephen King was so prolific in his earlier years that he wrote under a variety of pen names to avoid the bias that your post pointed out. A lot of sensible readers feel that unless an author takes 6 months to a year or more to write a novel, it must be junk.

    That's just not the case. When you have 40+ hours a week at your disposal, as a full time writer, you can do a lot more than you could have done while trying to work a second job. the difference between a hobbyist and a career author is the ability to show-up and meet deadlines.

    So,no, I can't see you selling out. Ever. You've got too much passion for the art. Personally, though, I hate James Patterson for the sheer fact that he makes a mockery out of something I hold in high respect---the act of owning your fiction. He's a brand, not an author, and there too is a difference.

    But, the man is living the dream, so I suppose it depends on what you want out of life. I just know there have been authors who have been quite successful without the need to hire ghosts to do the bulk of the work.

  2. Breanne, thanks for the boost. I've got my passion back. I don't think it really left but more so went on vacation.

    This is another recycled post from another blog I used to post on, but it spoke volumes to me. Thanks for sending me the NYT article in the first place. :)

  3. Oh and Breanne, I think you have a point with the timing of pumping MSs out. You can write the same book after book and it take a year rather than 45 days.

    I just wondered though, if Nora Roberts took, say 6 months on her next novel, would it have any more meaning to the reader and herself as a writer.

    I am attached to my characters, they are my imaginary family. I can't fathom such dedication if I'm pumping them out every 45 days. And honestly, as enjoyable some of her stories were at the time, only one of her characters has stuck with me to this day.


  4. Yeah, but that's a classic example of correlation not equalling causation. Just because it was written in a month doesn't mean the characters weren't memorable because of that.

    Consider this prolific author:

    ALEXANDRE DUMAS pere (1802-1870) 277 books

    The famous French author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo said to Napoleon III that he had written 1,200 volumes, but that, of course, was in the days of multivolume novels. (Musketeers originally filled eight volumes.) His complete works were collected in 277 volumes, most of which he wrote with collaborators.

  5. Truth is, some books are like love affairs...they burn hot and fast, then cool, but that doesn't make them any less meaningful to the author or the reader. That love affair may have generations of consequences.

    Like a one night stand that produces a child who later rules the Roman Empire, for example ;)

  6. I'm a definite fan of Norah Roberts having read several of her books. But when researching the books in one of her most recent series, The Bride Quartet, I saw how many reviewers said these books were just some of her older stories rehashed with new characters.

    I'm trying to research the new releases in my genre (contemporary romance) but so many of the "new" releases for 2010 I see at my local Walmart (the closest place I have to shop for books unless I want to drive an hour to Barnes and Noble) were actually originally published in the '80s and '90s. When we hear so much about how editors want fresh new ideas, it's interesting how they keep rehashing these older novels by the likes of Roberts, Susan Wiggs, Fern Michaels, Debbie Macomber, and so on.

  7. when inspiration strikes it comes fast and furious for's hard for me to sustain that level of creative juice, so I find it a wee bit hard to believe Nora Roberts can consistently crank out books every 45 days and they all be unique and captivating...and as for using ghost writers, I'm pretty that doesn't make you a writer, but maybe perhaps a middle man....collaborations are different, you're contributing to the work, not just slapping your name on it and calling it yours...Ah to be rich and famous

  8. True poetry, as usual Breanne. Love the one night stand comparison.

    Ginny, BORDERS.COM. I am spoiled in the big city. Tis distressing when "new" releases are really "re-releases".

    Kris, you hit the nail on the head. To be rich and famous indeed.

  9. I should own stock in as much as I spend there. I definitely miss Vegas and its huge libraries and assorted bookstores. Now I'm in Nowhereville and our little library only stocks hardcovers and most of them are several years old. :oP But sometimes I just want to research without buying, you know? Amazon's "Look Inside" feature is great, but you have to know what you're looking for. So I do like to actually go browse the aisles when I can to see what's out there.

    Yup, I agree, the re-releasing trend is distressing.

  10. Charli, great post. Write what's in our hearts or what the masses want to read? I guess the answer to that depends on how many advance checks we'd like to receive. ;)

    Ginny, I'm so deep in Nowhereville, we don't even have a library. There are libraries in neighboring county seats - but nothing to write home about. I'd be insane without the internet.

  11. I'm a little late to the party, but Charli, this was a great post. I'm just the opposite of these writers and maybe that's my problem, My plots and characters bounce around like that chrome ball in a pinball machine.