I visited a favorite haunt the other day, the local library. Prowling the stacks, I noticed that an author I enjoyed immensely a couple summers ago has cranked out several new titles, sequels in a series. I selected one. Opened it. Started reading. Talk about painful. That puppy made my teeth ache. I couldn’t believe the author I so admired had slid so far down the readability-o-meter.
I thought, “Maybe it’s me. Maybe I don’t get it. Maybe I’m missing something here?”
When I expressed my thoughts to Mary, the long-suffering library (who really should be a candidate for beatification), she pursed her lips, sighed, and replied, “No. It’s not you. Other readers say the same thing. It seems like she just takes her readers for granted.”
Taking readers for granted. The cardinal sin for any writer. It’s the one thing a writer can NEVER do – unless you’re going to swear off writing another syllable or planning to retire to the south of France and go mute. Remember. No one has to read you. And if you don’t treat your readers with respect, they won’t.
I moved on to the shelves of a couple favorite authors whom I’ve come to regard as dear friends. Prolific writers, both have published dozens of titles and numerous best-sellers. Not a one could be categorized as “lazy” or redundant.
One of the reasons I keep coming back to these fellas (Nicholas Sparks and Richard Paul Evans) is that they’re not only master storytellers, but they also never fail to surprise. Just about the time I think I’ve got them nailed like white on rice, they churn out a new book that’s as different as the last as night is from day. When I’m convinced I can outline their next plot in my sleep and predict the ending like last week’s headlines, they parachute in something fresh, bold and utterly unexpected.
Nicholas and Richard always keep me guessing, unable to put their work down until I’ve turned the last page. I love these guys. (As writers, of course.) They refill my creative well and inspire me on to dig deeper and fly higher. My short list of “kindred spirits” on this topic also includes:
- Max Lucado
- Jan Karon
- John Eldredge
- Gary Paulsen
How ’bout you? What keeps you going when you’re tempted to rest on your laurels as a writer? Who inspires you to NOT take your readers for granted?