This is a post in response to Jessewave’s post about oversaturation of M/M … are readers getting bored? You can find the original article HERE.
I tried posting my response on JW site, but it kept getting kicked back as spam … probably since it is so long. So here it is in case anyone is interested … 😉
I’ve heard a lot of the same talk about the M/M genre but I’m still on the fence. I have my favorites set on auto-buy and none of them have enough duds yet to be kicked off the island. In addition, there are quite a few themes that I go for regardless of author. I’ll at least give it a shot, anyway, and if the writing or editing is too bad then at least I know for next time.
I’ve been reading M/M for years and here are a few of my observations that may tie into your topic today.
1) Too many shorts –
A short story written well is a masterpiece. The economy of language alone is amazing. Choosing the right words to tell a complete story is not something every author can do. I compare it to runners – some are sprinters, some are cross country. It takes a different set of skills for each distance. Insisting that a runner switch their distance would end in disaster more times than not.
I don’t know the reasoning for why some distance authors are writing sprints. Do they not know their own strengths and weakness after so many years of writing? Is it by publisher requests/call outs? Does the author lose interest in the story and just wrap it up to get rid of it? Is the author not an author but instead a reader with a plot bunny? Whatever the reason, it has littered the genre with stories that are not as complete as they should be. And because they are between the $0-$4 range, they are the most accessible for new readers looking to try the genre and for M/M veterans who are looking to try new authors without spending a lot in this economy.
2) Book-lite –
Beginning – Middle – End. It is what every trained author is taught, what every natural author figures out, and what every reader responds to. I think I can say that we all like the build up, the tension, the what-in-the-world-is-all-this-about parts of any story. And I think I can say that we all like the a-ha moment, the awww, and the everything-will-be-all-right-eventually moment. I think the problem happens somewhere in the middle.
Regardless of length, many M/M stories pad the beginning set-up and rush to a quick resolve, leaving the middle to rely heavily on sex or obvious/stereotypical action. I call these stories “surface stories.” They hint at what’s under the surface, but they never dig deep enough to really develop the characters or plot beyond the immediate events. There are true authors out there that have made a great career out of these stories because they have managed to find just the right combination of words to allow for a carefree afternoon of reading without getting too heavy and without missing anything important. For those authors, great job!
For novices with a plot bunny, however, not so good. The result is one dimensional characters, plot holes, timeline inconsistency, events of convenience designed to fast-track the story, illogical responses and often too-sweet dialogue. Personally, I want a story to develop at its own pace, not rushed to the finish. I want as much care and attention to the conflict part of the story as the characters on the page pay to each others cocks.
And some authors and publishers will be quick to say that the “sex” books far out sell the “no sex/limited sex” books. And I would have to agree … only because of the shear volume of erotically based M/M titles. But I can think of 6-8 titles right off the top of my head that I have read in the past couple of months that had little to no on-page sex and seem to have been quite successful.
IMO 1 – if 50% or more of the plot is guy 1 being distracted by guy 2 instead of saving Timmy from the well … OR … if 40% or more of a story involves sex in speech, thought, or deed then I consider it an erotically based book.
IMO 2 – lust does not automatically equal “love at first sight” … sex does not automatically equal “romance” … babies do not automatically equal “family.” For these concepts to work then there has to be more to the story then just the author saying it is so.
3) Attention span –
This is something my sister pointed out. Not sure how valid, but I think it might have some basis. Most of M/M stories fall in the short to novella length … from which I am told is about 10-50,000 words. From my estimation when I used to buy pdf’s instead of kindle format, that translates to between 30-150 pages (depending on publisher’s formatting.) That’s a lot of story potential in a short amount of space. Especially when you compare it to mainstream titles found in your local print bookstore.
Because of their lengths, we are able to plow through them at a faster rate, therefore hopping from story to story with little thought to the one we just read before starting a new one. Unless it was something spectacular, it just fades into the background until it becomes just a hint of itself. Then we read something similar and it pulls at our memories until we either remember the other story or until it all bleeds together into a jumbled mess. And then we move on to the next one … and so on, and so on.
Another side effect of reading so many of these size stories is that we are getting used to quick and easy resolutions. We have less patience for letting the scene unfold and enjoying the journey. Readers have always wanted to be drawn into a story from page 1 but were usually willing to give it a few chapters before abandoning it completely. But the average M/M story only has a few chapters. If the story doesn’t have a quick and obvious start then it is easy to lose focus and move on to something else. I’ve personally found this to be a problem for me after reading a lot of stories for my M/M book club and then having to read a mainstream title for my larger book club. Especially since I am crazy at work right now and have less time to read. Much easier to read a smaller M/M book with less characters and back story to keep track of then a longer more in depth novel. For those who have more time to read, though, this book-lite might me frustrating.
4) Sequels and multi-releases –
I like a good sequel when it is appropriate, when there is a valid story that brings our favorite characters back to us. I even like a good serial soap opera on occasion. The problem I have with sequels is when characters are brought back without a real reason and the story is just …. blah. No matter how good the first one was, unless the second is just as good, it brings the rest of the series down. Sometimes I think an author is trying to piggy back on the success on the first one instead of creating something new and sometimes I think authors are swayed by publishers and fans who want more and enforce a deadline that doesn’t allow enough time to flesh out a great follow-up. Personally, I’d rather wait, or not have one at all. Sometimes the end is really the end.
Mainstream authors are putting out 1 novel every 10-15 months. For M/M authors who write novel length stories, who may think that in this age of e-book explosion and economy fallout that they will be forgotten in the shuffle if they wait that long in between releases, I would hope that we as reader wouldn’t let that happen. For novella length M/M authors who try to slip in 6 or 8 releases a year, I would ask that they try 4 or 5 instead, using the extra time to polish. And for those authors/publishers who specialize in putting out a new edition every week or so, I say try every two weeks, or even once a month, so that there is time to check for continuity and edits.
Point being, for every fan satisfied by rushing a release at the expense of story and edits, there are even more loosing faith and jumping ship after every installment.
5) Novices –
Everyone who has ever written anything has put time and effort into creating it. I don’t care if it is 300 words or 100,000. Whether they simply “save and print,” hit the “send” button, or place the stamp on the envelop, they think they are done; that they’ve done the best they could and are proud of their accomplishment. So knowing that, I mean the next section with all the respect in the world for these brave folks.
But not everyone should be published for profit.
Anyone who has an idea, who puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard should write and write and write. Share those stories with friends and family. Create a blog to share them with the world, if that’s what they want. Gain experience, hone the craft/style, work out the kinks, and gather helpful criticism without inviting official “reviews.” With very few exceptions, the first thing an “author” writes should not be available for $2.99 from an e-book publisher.
Having said all this, I still love the M/M genre. I hope that every author finds their target audience. I hope that every reader supports their favorites so they can continue to produce stories for our enjoyment. I hope that authors who aren’t quite up to industry standard go back to the drawing board and come back with something great. I hope that erotica is erotica regardless of gender and M/M isn’t pigeon-holed into the erotica section. And I hope that publishers take better care of their authors so that the M/M genre finds its way to traditional print bookstores all over this country. It is very inconvenient to have to order everything online and wait for it to ship. 🙂