Being the kind who is usually 10 years behind the cultural trends, I'm just now getting around to "The Da Vinci Code," listening to an audiotape from the library. I can see why this is so popular. It's accessible, fast-paced, reasonably well-written, and provides a lot of information. I've known some writers who sneered at the book, considering it hack work. Of course, that comes from the position of assuming that 10 million people have to be "wrong" in a subjective matter. I have to admit, I picked up one bestseller and when I got to the line "I did a shrug," I thought, "Well, maybe I'm not in this book's audience."
But in thinking about my own work, I can't afford to take any kind of elitist position. I thought after 10 years I'd know how to write. The truth is, after 12 years, I am finally ready to LEARN to write. A big distinction. A little unsettling, a little intimidating, but also strangely freeing and transformative. In the last post, I was musing on my past. I can't disown it. Yet I also don't have to be "just my books."
By looking at the kind of books people like, instead of what I think they should read, I am more like the student I say every writer should be. I used to shudder when I heard about writers who calculated their plots and characters on whatever was popular at the time, deliberately copying big beats like First Kill, First Punch, First Kiss. But there's wisdom in it because it is the rhythm of our popular storytelling, and it didn't emerge in a vacuum. The reader completes the journey that the writer embarks upon alone. Everything is not Shakespeare. Sometimes you need some Patterson or Brown or Evanovich or Meyer.