I've been sampling indie-published books lately, in a semi-random way. I bought three and told the authors I'd post a review when finished.
I just posted the third review.
If you choose books semi-randomly, you're not likely to get your cup of tea.
None of the books I chose clicked for me. One was a fantasy set in a Czarist Russia type of world with a princess who pretty much had everything under control for the entire book. Fun in its way, but under control.
The second was an angel-demon book where the demons seemed to think it was important to take down the main characters. The main characters spent a lot of time doing not much, and having things under control, and the demons didn't do much, either.
The third dealt with a female college student who could see other peoples' dreams. She witnessed a dream in which a man murdered a young woman, and it turned out to be a real murder.
Most of the rest of the book was spent on the college student's dorm life and starry-eyed relationship with a clueless but very loyal boy.
Again, most everything stayed in control until the very end of the book.
So, what's with all the staying in control?
I thought that the whole point of a story-driven novel was that things were out of people's control. I learned that you have to be throwing the kitchen sink at the main characters pretty much in every chapter in order to keep the reader interested.
Obstacle, solution. Obstacle, solution. Big difficult choice. And wham, huge cataclysmic ending.
These three books each felt like the author was interested in writing a book and spending time with characters he or she had grown to like. Each author seemed to think that just hanging with the characters was enough.
At the end of the third book, for example, the author thanked his college dormies for inspiring the supporting characters in the book who made the main character's world "a little more real and a lot more interesting."
There were romances in all three of the stories, but no significant relationship bumps. The couples seldom if ever fought.
In other words, the authors didn't actually tell a story.
That's why, when someone posted on Facebook the other day, "What advice would you give a new author?" I replied very simply with "Become a better storyteller."
Now, some people would argue that this is a symptom that there are too many immature writers publishing books and that they should be stopped, until they have written 6 bad novels that they have put into their desk drawers, attended a dozen writers' conferences, and written 200 unsuccessful queries to agents.
That's what I did, give or take a few bad novels.
And it leaves much to be desired as a method of getting better at writing. Why does it have to be the way? When is hazing a good thing?
So no, I don't begrudge anyone their right to self-publish the heck out of their own work, at whatever level of maturity they happen to be. It's fine with me.
And it's more than fine with me based on the non-stories that actually get funded for millions of dollars.
Take the movie "Chef," for example. This was a high-gloss peek into the world of celebrity chefs and food trucks. Very current. Much of the action involved the celebrity chef's 10-year old son using an iPhone to drum up social media business for the chef's food truck as they made their way from Miami to Los Angeles.
It was lovely. It was pleasant. Everything came up roses. And much delicious food was filmed.
But there was no story there. The conflict was weak and forced. Mainly what happened was that the chef became a better dad. But the kid started out pretty terrific. It wasn't that big of a transformation.
And yet people love the movie.
So what do I know?
Rock on, indie book revolution. You may not have glossy food preparation in your books, and not every story is my cup of tea, but you are the Little Engine That Could Publish, and I, for one, intend to keep pushing up that mountain.