The Death of Fiction?

Gina signing her debut, Crossing Oceans
probably at a bookstore that no longer exists

by Gina Holmes

Gina Holmes is a two-time Christy finalist and founder of NovelRocket.com. 

I go through stages. For years, I’ll read nothing but non-fiction. Even while I’m under contract to write a novel. I just can’t get into story. I don’t know why. Then, I’ll go through a period where non-fiction bores the heck out of me and I can’t get enough story. In recent years, I’ve gone through my biggest no-fiction lul yet. I may have read half-a-dozen novels, (start to finish, that is), in the last three or so years. I’m a novelist for crying out loud. What’s up with that?

I’m not sure what’s up with that for me, but according to the Writer’s Guild, authors are only making a fraction of what they used to. When I was a little girl, my parents had to rip the books from my hands and push me out the door to play with friends.

These days, we’re not ripping books out of our kids hands, we’re taking video game controllers away.

Less readers. Less sales. Less contracts. But more books. With the rise of self-publishing and boom of small presses, we have more books than ever, but fewer readers. So much for the supply/demand model.

In recent days, I’ve found myself getting down about the state of publishing.  I even declared to a  publisher that fiction was dying. He didn’t disagree. Ouch. I only said that so he would of course. (Note to men, if the woman says she looks fat in this dress, you don’t nod in silent agreement, you give her an incredulous look and declare her mad. Mad AND skinny, of course.

If his silence was proof that fiction truly is dying, than I am as much to blame as anyone. I’ve set down the novel for youtube, netflix, and facebook updates. I’ve helped slaughter the sheep I should have been shepherding. (Yes, melodramatic I know, but I AM a writer, sniffle, tissue dab to eye, for now.)

Today, I have a more hopeful outlook on the future of novels. Why? Maybe because the sun is actually shining outside. Maybe because it’s no longer that time of month, maybe because my son remembered to make his bed and kiss me goodbye. Or maybe because I stayed away from fiction so long that I actually began to miss it.

When the days are nice outside and not too hot, I love a good long walk to keep my middle-aged body in some kind of non-globular shape. Not being too technically savvy, I finally figured out I can listen to audiobooks via my iPhone and Audible. I’ve found that walking is more enjoyable when I’m “reading”.

On days when it’s raining or just too hot to walk outside, I use my treadmill which faces a plain, boring, wall. The hourlong workout feels sssoooooooo loooooooooonng . . . EXCEPT when I’m reading, and now I always am.

I don’t think fiction will ultimately die because people will gorge, then starve, then gorge themselves on it again. It’s cyclical like everything else in this world. Take it away and people will want it.

Yes, we still get  our fill of story with movies and TV shows, but sometimes we can’t or don’t want to watch. I don’t think anyone on the same road as me wants me watching a movie while I’m driving my car. Heck, I can barely drive with my eyes glued to the road.
Listening to an audiobook? Sure.

When I close my eyes to sleep, I can put earbuds in and listen to my 2nd generation Kindle read to me in the GPS voice I’ve become accustomed to without disturbing my husband with a flickering light.

Gina’s latest. In stores now.

 I can run on the treadmill without having my phone or computer screen jump up and down while trying to watch a show with rattling eyeballs. And I can walk my dog while listening to a book. (Good luck trying to watch a movie while walking your dog. I’ve tried it. No likey.)

So, I don’t think fiction is dying. I think  e-books are replacing paper and hardbacks. I think audio books will gain popularity when the price goes down and with more affordable and easy access sites like Audible.

The biggest reason I know fiction won’t stay on life-support is that my 13 year old son, who would rather play video games than anything else has decided that he wants to be a writer. He read a book that turned him onto fiction and if he can’t write the stories behind video games one day, well, he might settle for writing a novel. It’s this kind of slumming that gives this writer hope. The kids who hold the controllers today might just hold the defibrillator paddles over fiction tomorrow. If not, I wonder if Crossing Oceans the video game could work?