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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

DIY Novels

Okay, I was cruising around the web and I found a website that customizes books. I’ve seen this before. Couples will hire a ghostwriter to compose their lukewarm romance into a paperback of Fabio-bodice-ripping caliber. Granted, it’s kind of a neat valentines/anniversary gift, but for most relationships, it would involve a WHOLE lot of embellishment on the writer’s part.

Turns out there’s one for teens, though FAR less in depth. There’s nothing really customized, the story is 95% written with a few spaces the customer inserts to fill in the blanks. In short, it’s the same story with a different character name. (I’m not going to link it, so just search “personalize teen books”)

I have a problem with this on a few levels. There’s self-insertion and then there’s THIS CRAP! Young girls can now— quite literally—put themselves into the story. For that to work, the character has NO personality, which would imply the customer/teen girl is a dull, blank slate waiting for shit to happen to her. There is no sense of individuality and it cancels the whole “Personalized” concept the book company is going for. The character info is beyond generic and not very politically correct, I might add. There is no data slot for ethnicity, hobbies, quirks, or physical attributes.

The sad part is the writing in the template is better than tripe I read on the bookshelves. It has the basic boy-meets-girl formula, but there’s less grammar errors and a better plot than some bestsellers. This brings forth a notion that offends and disturbs me: What does this say about the genre it’s emulating.

Is the YA world SO closed-minded and unimaginative to the point where people can make a cookie cutter format and be SPOT ON? Are teen books so predictable, so lacking in creative integrity that it’s sold in bulk like a year-supply of toilet paper at Costco?

I take this personal because it demeans what I do. I refuse to believe that the genre that I grew to know and love is nothing more than kitsch art or something so simple a toddler could achieve. No matter how bad the book, there is NOTHING simple about writing. There’s no A + B = C formula to the creative process. It takes dedication to build a house with words. The size, design, and stability of that house depends on the skill of its architect. I want to believe that the field in which I write has something meaningful to say, but crap like this shakes my faith.

I’ve heard the sardonic pitch that “There’s nothing new anymore,” but at least make an effort to be original. I’m sure the company means well, and I think the basic idea is nifty, but it’s a jarring wake-up call for those who write for a living and those who love the craft.

5 comments:

  1. I can't believe stuff like that exists! It really does demean our work. That's why so many people feel that they can be writers--they don't really understand how much blood, sweat, and tears we pour into each page.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm absolutely with you on this. So many plots are formulaic these days!!! Kudos to you for insisting on writing unique stories! More power to you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. yes, most YA books today are very predictable. Nothing anyone can do about it. The formula seems to work and publishers loooove it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Akin,

    I don't expect someone like YOU to undertsand. You hate teen books or anything remotely girly, so shut your face! Plus I'm mad at you. Where the hell have you been???

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow, I have never heard of such DIY books - other then some cutesy gift sorta things for kids. But not for novels. Huh. I totally agree with you. It seems compeltely weird/wrong. On the other hand, I don't think it demeans what we do. Yeah, there are tons of "more of the same" novels out there and tons that seem formulaic, buuuuuuut, on the flipside, there are tons of great books out there too. I've read about 40ish books this year and if I'm being conservative, I'd say more than half of them I'd put into the "wow, that was a great book" bucket.

    ReplyDelete

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