Today is the 21st day that I’ve been in a self-imposed quarantine. I spent yesterday coughing and hacking. It had nothing to do with the Covid-19 virus, everything to do with spring.
I’ve had several emails from people this week asking if this was a good time to write about a pandemic. The answer is, “Please, no!” It’s on everyone’s minds, and if you write a book about it, you’re going to sound derivative.
Many years ago, Dolly the Sheep got cloned. It happened just on the heels of some articles that claimed that cloning anything was impossible. So when Dolly got cloned, a lot of scientists were taken by surprise. In the next quarter of Writers of the Future, I suspect that a full 25% of all our entrant stories were about cloning. It might have been closer to 40%.
Similarly, a quarter just ended two days ago, and after a very slow start to the quarter, we ended up with a lot of entries—possibly our largest quarter ever. I do hope that I’m not flooded with pandemic stories. We had a grand prize winner a couple of years ago, Darci Stone, who had a fantastic pandemic story. If you think you can beat her, I’d love to see you try. You can find her story, “Mara’s Shadow” in Volume 34 of the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future. Read it and weep.
That said, the question becomes, “What do I write?”
This is a perfect time to write. People are locked at home, and reading makes a great past-time. But when people read a book or watch a movie, they don’t want to be reminded of their world and problems, they want to escape from it.
Many years ago I did a study on what makes a bestseller, and I came to the conclusion that the #1 thing that readers want from a book is “transport to another time and another place.” I found that in every genre, be it science fiction, fantasy, romance, historical—the books that transported the reader the best were usually the ones that sold the best. Long books like Lord of the Rings, Dune, Gone with the Wind, and A Tale of Two Cities have all sold more than a hundred million copies, leaving their competitors far in the dust.
So when I was asked to help choose a book to push big at Scholastic, I carefully read each page of Harry Potter before I decided that, yes indeed, this one transports the reader well enough. (It also met all of the other criteria that I had considered for a bestseller.)
Given this, you don’t want to write about a pandemic right now. Your protagonist probably shouldn’t even sneeze from allergies. Instead, take the reader someplace fascinating, someplace strange. Give us some characters that we can root for, and give them some conflicts that will engross your readers.
What the Apex Writers Are Up To
Jacob Rennaker, a very talented Apex writer, has a co-wrote new book coming out called Rebel Sword. Rebel Sword is a LitRPG Space Opera Fantasy novel, by bestselling science fiction author Nick Webb and our Jacob Rennaker, who have teamed up to write the Galactic Knight series.
You can buy it here: https://www.amazon.com/
If you’re interested in learning about the Apex writing group then email apex to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you further instructions.