Sunday 17 August 2014

Slam, bam, thank you, Ma'am!

There's an old adage amongst crime fiction writers that the first murder has to come quickly, preferably in the first 40 pages or so. 

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I've heard this advice repeated at crime fiction workshops and on the podiums at writers festivals, and I usually scoff and sneer and think that's so cliche. Can't we just kill people when and as it's required?

As I've said in an earlier blog, I hate stereotypes. I loathe so-called rules and regulations around any kind of creative pursuit, but especially around writing. Shouldn't writers try to break the rules, push the envelope, surprise world-weary readers?

I like to think so.

However ...

Now that I publish ebooks, I have begun to feel the imperative to kill, and kill fast, more than I care to admit. And I blame it all on Amazon.

You see, the thing about digital books—which I love, and which have given me a career I could never have dreamed of, let alone a tremendous source of cheap reading— is the free sample stuff. Today, browsers get to download a sample of your book for free, usually the first 30%. That way they can have a small taste test before they cough up the full amount.

It's a great idea in principle and I often use it myself when deciding what to buy. In turn, I get a lot of people downloading samples of my books, a hell of a lot more than actually go on to buy them.

But here's the kick: of those who download samples, I doubt most of them will even get to the 30% mark. I suspect, from my own reading habits, that most will read the first three pages, perhaps even just the first three pars, or even the first three sentences, to make up their minds.

This means I need to grab them fast!

I know these things should not matter when constructing a great story, and I truly wish they didn't, but sadly they do. The faster I grab people's attention, and encourage them to buy, the more 'great stories' I get to write. Purchases mean freedom to keep doing what I love, and what I know some readers enjoy.

It's a tricky balancing act— grab 'em quick without prematurely rushing the drama.

As my books have progressed, I think I have the balance right but it's hard to know. What I do know is, I never want to forfeit good plot and storyline for a quick buck. But do I pull it off?

Let me know what you think, about this and other topics.

And happy reading everyone!
xo Christina

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