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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Would you like that Shrimp cooked?

My hubby and I went to a new restaurant last night. I quickly focused on the seafood alfredo. The blurb read "sauteed shrimp and crab mixed with Fetticine noodles and a creamy alfredo sauce". I've always been an alfredo kind of girl, it wasn't a hard decision.
When the meal arrived I knew right away that I hadn't been fully informed. First of all, in addition to the shrimp and crab in my fetticine there were also mushrooms, green peppers, tomatoes and onion. The mushroom and tomato I can live with--the green peppers and onions, no way. That's what I get for not going to Subway.
Amid my trying to pluck the onions and peppers off I noticed that my shrimp was still grey--not pink like COOKED shrimp should be. I picked one up and it was cold. I took French in Jr. highl and though I barely eeked out a C I know that sautee does not mean partially thawed. After more inspection I had three shrimp still FROZEN together. I quickly scooted my bowl to the side. The waitress said she'd get me some more--I said I'd rather have the halibut (which was dry, by the way).
The moral of this story--how often do you pick up a book to read with high hopes and find out that there were onions and peppers included? How often to you expect a nice satsfying read and find that the shrimp is frozen? In days gone by, this has happened to far too many people that pick up LDS fiction. And then what happens? Well, do you think I'll ever go back to this restaurant again? Probably not. With so many restaurants to chooose from, why would I bother? The cold sad truth is that too many books that have been published into the LDS market are undercooked and poorly presented. Too many people have read the book and decided that LDS fiction isn't written well enough to be worthy of their time. They simply read in the national market from that point on. And even though every other meal on that menu may have been great, the two I had weren't--am I going to try each individual item to see if I find something I like? Or will I simply go to a different place that serves what I know I like? It's not rocket science.
Last night my husband and I tried to figure out how the mistake was made. The shrimp was SUPPOSED to be sauteed. How does an important step like that get overlooked? We were truly befuddled. I suppose in a poorly written book one might wonder why on earth there was a plot hole big enough for a halibut to swim through and be just as perpelexed.
So how does one avoid this? Just as the cook should know what they are doing, so should the writer. Sautee means to cook--plot structure means that every scene relates to the other scenes and is a necissary component to the growing conflict that leads to climax that ends in conclusion. Any cook worth their season salt should know what sautee means, just as every writer ought to know what plot structure is. So as a writer--learn your craft!! A well written book will always be more satisfying to read then a poorly written story.
I promise you all the halibut you can eat that if you rush through the production of your book, if you don't ask for feedback from people that will give an honest opinion, and if you write the story YOU want to write rather than the story THEY want to read--you will regret it. You can't un-publish anything. Hopefully no publisher will pick you up--and if that's what you are banking for in avoiding education...uh, doesn't that seem a little unsupportive of the goal? But if you want a published book with your name on the cover that you can not only touch and feel, but you can also be proud of, then know what you're doing. Make sure your book isn't full of onions and peppers that would offend the sensibilityies of your publisher and/or your reader.
The Market is changing. What people used to overlook in favor of a clean story, is no longer so palitable. What publishers used to publish because it was 'cute' is no longer on the top of their list. The competition is getting fiercer, but that's a good thing. It means that those readers who once had frozen shrimp, might be convinced to sit at our table again. But if they do, we have to make SURE that they leave that meal satisfied. I think it will happen--but only if writers do their best.
Just like Mama always said--do your best. It's never been more true than in creating a book you hope to bless and inspire peoples life. Happy Writing!!


Stephanie Black said...

Josi, I enjoyed this article. The frozen shrimp analogy is great, and I like the way you've shown that our individual writing affects the success of the whole market. The stronger each individual book, the more likely that the customer will come back to the "restaurant" to order something else from the menu. Great insight! When we write well, we help not only ourselves but every other LDS author.

I look forward to reading more on your blog.

Tristi Pinkston said...

I know there was a writing tip in there somewhere, but I confess, I got so grossed out by the thought of biting into frozen shrimp I sorta got sidetracked.

Okay, I'm re-reading ...

And I'm back! And I agree with you! :)