Home > Writing > You Want Me to Write about WHAT?

You Want Me to Write about WHAT?

I’ve been a writer on the side for several years now. Officially, that is. Unofficially I’ve been writing since I was…well, a lot younger than I am now (let’s not get hung up on details). I’ve gone through the stages where I wrote tried to figure out what to write and who to write it for. I’ve scoffed at some genres then been knocked on my butt when I found out how well some of those genres sold. Through it all I have been write about one thing – writing a book about basket weaving is not going to make me rich! πŸ™‚

A while back I read a study that indicated the majority of e-readers were owned by women. It wasn’t a big majority, but anything over 50% counts. Conversely, the majority of tablets were owned by men (or in my case owned by me but used by my children to play games on). That made me begin to understand why some of the genres were so successful (e.g. romance and it’s many shades). So all I had to do was write romance-ish books, right? Well… not exactly.

My wife recently picked up 50 Shades of Grey. I was torn on the decision. On the one hand it’s a book with loads of bad reviews, written by a writer that made me grimace when I sampled the blurb and some of the text within, and it’s very poorly edited. Professionally speaking, I just couldn’t condone it. But then there’s the sheer volume of copies sold, not to mention the promising secondhand mention of the affect its had upon women reading it (one friend recommend I “nip down to the shops and get some plastic ties, cuffs & a whip”). With advice like that, how could I deny her?

To continue the tangent, my wife is most of the way through it and her opinion of it is that it’s not her thing (the BDSM), the writing seems immature or inexperienced, and there are countless mistakes throughout that are driving her crazy. But she’s still reading it. And no, I haven’t needed the ties, cuffs, or whip.

So I asked her what the deal was. The movie Magic Mike was a big success amongst women and the most regular review is that there’s too much plot and not enough dancing. Similarly, books like 50 Shades are light (at best) on plot and long on smut. Is this a sign that (like usual) most men have no clue what women want? Do you ladies want sexy, fun, light, and humorous entertainment without the burden of plot and story behind it? Oh sure, there needs to be enough to make it look good if somebody should glance over and ask about it. Think of it as a beard covering the steamy parts hidden within.

I asked my wife that same question and I got a half smile and a shrug. That’s it. What the heck is that? How do I, and other writers, provide the kinds of things you’d like without being able to get any clear guidance or data? Maybe that’s just my man-brain and the quest for something that makes sense, but throw us a bone here. Ladies, you’ve been dating and marrying us for years. You know by now us guys don’t do well picking up subtlety. Help us help you…

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

  1. August 24, 2012 at 10:19

    I’m a lady and I have a Kindle Fire (there’s an idea right there).
    My favorite authors are John le CarrΓ© and Annie Proulx – hardly any sex at all.
    But then again, I also like Vladimir Nabokov – all sorts of elegantly written sexual perversion in Lolita, Ada etc.. If there were a formula, every book would be a best-seller.
    PS – I enjoyed your well-written article, if that helps πŸ™‚

    • August 24, 2012 at 11:24

      Thanks Nora! I’ll take what I can get and work hard to earn the rest. πŸ™‚

  2. jvonbargen
    August 24, 2012 at 11:19

    I’m a long-time writer myself, Jason, but I thought it was an absolutely riveting book! BDSM is not the important thing in the story. It’s nothing I’d ever even remotely consider in my personal life. What IS important is that the protagonist, Ana, makes a huge, ongoing effort to be who she is and not cave to this powerful, controlling, deeply flawed man in such a way that she loses her core self and values. Yet, she adores him with a love equally as powerful as her self-love. This constant, internal struggle is what is familiar to most of us. Author James has succeeded, also, in making Christian Grey (who admits he is 50 shades of effed up) a totally captivating, multi-faceted man who makes us privy to his own internal struggle. He fiercely loves Ana, though can’t admit it to himself because he has no experience with being loved and has no clue what that is. Add to that the enormous attraction of unlimited wealth, an ability to go, do, buy without checking cost, and a penchant for lavishing expensive things on Ana, usually against her will. There is a vast moral underpinning to this novel, though the BDSM is what gets the press. We women identify with all she goes through in a society which still defines us as second class, with no power over own lives. E L James found all the right buttons to push. In all the above, my friend, you will find the golden keys to your next blockbuster novel!! Great post!

    • August 24, 2012 at 11:37

      I agree with a lot of what you said. My wife bought book two this morning because she wants to follow the story, not because of the “smut” nor the (as she puts it) amateur way the story is told.

      My problems are that the story / genre / characters / all that jazz do not appeal to me. I don’t know is that’s me playing the man card or just a personal choice. Maybe it has to do with the women as second class you mentioned – I don’t buy into that at all so perhaps it further alienates me. If anything, a lot of my books show a pattern of having female characters that positively kick ass, or at the very least overcome their challenges.

      With all that said, I applaud E.L. James for her success. Even though I wish her the best with it I’m still envious of her success. I’d like some of it too, darn it! I suppose that biases me a bit and probably makes me a little bitchy about it, or at least more critical than might be fair. But hey, isn’t recognizing my shortcoming the first step in overcoming it? πŸ˜‰

  3. August 26, 2012 at 08:27

    I’m a woman and Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t appeal to me in the least. I like reading humor and fantasy and have never been much for the romance genre, although I enjoy a little romance in stories of other genres. Character is what sells a story for me, then plot, then the world. I like quirky unique characters. If I fall in love with the character I will follow them through their story.

    I think there are as wide tastes among women as there are among men, so this may not be helpful, but I do know a lot of other women that are character driven.

  4. August 27, 2012 at 03:59

    As a woman, I have not been remotely interested in Fifty Shades of Grey. But several of my friends have read it and I’ve heard the same thing from all of them. It was the story that pulled them through. It got to the point where they actually skipped over the smut all together. I’m sure there are plenty of readers out there that enjoy that stuff, but the ones I talk to are much more interested in the deeper side of the story and character development.

    • August 27, 2012 at 07:21

      That sounds similar to my wife (reading it for the story – I wonder, is that like a man saying the read Playboy for the articles?). She (my wife) is on book 3 now and I’m starting to get a little concerned about what to do when she finishes it!

  5. August 28, 2012 at 05:07

    I haven’t read them yet but I will say that I actually feel under pressure to read them simply as they are now the basis of most of the conversations at work i work in a supermarket so it is 50/50 male female split in stuff but as the women use the staffroom more if you havent read them you are treated as a leper also when I speak to customers buying them many say they feel now they have to read them to see what the fuss is all about

    • August 28, 2012 at 07:14

      My wife explained them to me late last night and I found it quite interesting. It sounds like a series of stories built upon one cliche after another. There’s a spin to it, but to me the message seemed to be that money solves everything and a woman can do anything as long as she lands herself a sugar daddy. To be fair I haven’t read more than a page or two of the books.

  6. shirl i dc
    August 29, 2012 at 06:19

    I think you will never be able to write the right thing to the masses. Long gone are the days of one size fits all or producing for the mass. Books are very personable, therefire, it is ok to write for a specific audience or a targeted audience. Some women like plot, some women dont give a darn about plot.

    If you as the writer feel good about a subject area, you really like it, you pour yourself into the writing part, then people will read it ferociously. I think its that simple. If you try to please a large portion of people you will end up frustrated. Just write.

    As far as 50 Shades is concerned I have not read the book and do not plan on reading it because I dont have an interst in bondage or s&m, but some women and men do. So you see, there is a market for almost every subject. I just happen to love all things apocalyptic and almost anything dealing with aliens or humans with extraordinary powers.

  7. September 18, 2012 at 20:45

    A good writer can bring any subject matter to life. The only thing I, and fellow writer friends, have gotten out of this book…are endless “my inner-goddess jokes”.

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