Thursday, October 9, 2008

Don't Chase the Porsche

As I was going home the other day, I saw a Porsche traveling very fast down the freeway, passing the rest of the traffic. It wasn’t long and a Jeep pulled in behind the Porsche and began to chase it through traffic. “That isn’t very wise,” I thought. The Porsche may be the one that a friend of mine owns. If it is, I can tell you that she has the speeding tickets to prove that she owns a Porsche. And if that isn’t enough, even though it is never safe to drive fast in a lot of slower traffic, a Porsche is designed for high speed while an SUV is not. My advice to the guy in the Jeep, “don’t chase the Porsche.”

We can apply that to writing also. Writers know about the rules. If you have listened to anything I have said on the topic, you know that I prefer the idea of understanding the reason for each of the rules and applying that understanding to writing rather than either following the rules blindly or simply throwing them out. I have seen in the comments of some unpublished and rare book authors that they are frustrated when they see books by well-known authors that violate the rule indiscriminately. They wonder why they can get by with it and others can’t.

Just like a Porsche has a better chance of safely weaving in and out of traffic at high speed than an SUV, an author with a large fan base has a better chance of producing a book that isn’t as good as is could be and not offending his fans. Every author has a few books that don’t measure up to the rest. The faithful fans will overlook one or two and return for the better ones. For authors with a small fan base, that safety net doesn’t exist.

Another similarity between the highly successful author and the Porsche is that sometimes they get caught. When you see a Porsche sitting on I-20 and a white Corvette with flashing lights sitting behind it, you can be glad you weren’t chasing the Porsche. When readers find an author they think writes well, they buy the next book and the next, but if the author writes three good books and the rest go downhill, the readers will stop buying books. They may not stop right away, but if the author can’t keep his standards up, his fans will turn to writers who are producing better work.

So, don’t chase the Porsche. It might save you a bunch of headaches.

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