Thursday, April 18, 2019

True to the story, or true to the reader? by Robin Patchen

I’ll be honest: I’ve had complaints. And more than a couple of people have asked me why I wrote my latest story in three parts.

I can’t blame them. I never thought I’d write a book with a cliffhanger ending, much less two. That’s definitely not what I set out to do when I started this book last spring.

But the story went where it went. I had set out to write a shorter story than normal and ended up with a story so complex, I couldn’t figure out how to fit it into a single book. It wasn’t just the length, either, though that was an issue. It finished at about 525 pages, far too long for a book in the romantic suspense genre. But the bigger issue was the story itself.

I agonized over what to do with Harper’s story. Should I cut the first part, make it backstory? I considered that option, but the beginning of her story set up the rest. Not only that, but it showed the character growing through some very difficult trials. Here was a woman who’d been in prison, a woman who felt the guilt and shame of all her choices, a woman who could very easily have run away from the trials she was suddenly facing. I needed to show how love—not romantic love but love for an old man in her care—changed her, opened her heart to the true love of the Father.

So I contemplated cutting the middle part, but how could I shortchange the romance, the growing friendships, and the personal growth? Not only that, but the reader needed the middle part of the story to witness the villain growing more desperate.

And the ending… I couldn’t possibly hack away at the last part, where the story came together.

I sought counsel from wise friends and prayed for guidance. I know it’s a just story, but it is my story, and the story needed to be told the way it needed to be told. It’s a good story, one filled with danger and hope and Truth. At least, that’s how I see it. Sometimes, when we writers are faced with the choice between satisfying genre rules or telling the story to the best of our abilities, we must choose the story. Sometimes, the story is worth breaking the rules.
Don’t misunderstand me: genre rules are very important. It’s vital to know your readers’ expectations. When you meet and exceed those expectations, you will be rewarded with super-fans. That’s always my goal.

In my previous books, I tried to remain faithful to those genre rules, and I think readers have rewarded me for that
But in the case of Beauty in Flight, I felt like I could either meet audience expectations for the story or I could meet their expectations for the length and price of the book. I couldn’t do both, so I chose to stay true to the story and release three books in order to manage pricing and length expectations.
Like I said, there’ve been some complaints. A handful of people have emailed me to share their frustrations. One reader suggested I was manipulative and questioned my salvation.

At the same time, I’ve received many, many emails from people thanking me for the stories and encouraging me to write more. The first book in the series, Beauty in Flight, has a 4.4-star rating on Amazon. It’s not as good as the ratings for my earlier books—or the ratings for the later books in the series—but it’s still respectable. The bad reviews are from people who don’t like cliffhanger endings.
The final book in the series, Beauty in Battle, released last week and is already collecting positive reviews.

In the end, I’m glad I stayed true to the story, even if it might have cost me a few readers. I am, after all, a storyteller at heart. The experience of releasing a linked series has made me even more thankful to my loyal readers, many of whom encourage me and inspire me to write the best books I can.
Have you ever felt like you had to choose between writing your best story and meeting reader expectations? How did you manage it?

Amazon Buy Link

Beauty in Flight

Her beauty once opened doors, but the felony conviction slams them shut.

Harper Cloud used to love the gilded glamour of Las Vegas, but on the far side of prison, she sees the cracks in the veneer. These days, she keeps her head down and focuses on the elderly patients in her care. Even her new wealthy east-coast boyfriend, Derrick, can't entice her away. She's trusted men before, and look where that got her.

She tries to brush off the feeling that she's being watched. But when she's followed home one night and her pursuer gets within a hair's breadth of grabbing her, she knows it's time to get away from Las Vegas.

Maybe Derrick can be trusted. Maybe his job offer—to care for his aging grandfather in Maryland—will be the second chance she needs.

But Derrick has secrets of his own, secrets that could take him down--and take Harper with him.

Can there be a second chance for someone like her?

Buy Beauty in Flight today, Book 1 in a 3-book-series that’ll keep you guessing until the very end.

Series page:

Chat with Robin Patchen on staying true to your story! @RobinPatchen @TerriWeldon

About Robin Patchen:
Aside from her family and her Savior, Robin Patchen has two loves—writing and traveling. If she could combine them, she’d spend a lot of time sitting in front of her laptop at sidewalk cafes and ski lodges and beachside burger joints. She’d visit every place in the entire world—twice, if possible—and craft stories and tell people about her Savior. Alas, time is too short and money is too scarce for Robin to traipse all over the globe, even if her husband and kids wanted to go with her. So she stays in Oklahoma, shares the Good News when she can, and writes to illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.

Download a free copy of Convenient Lies, book 1 in the Hidden Truth series, when you visit Robin's website,


  1. I'm no expert, as I'm writing Book 2 in my own series, but I did have lunch with a NYT's bestselling author who told me, "I've been told never write for your readers. Even when you're uber-successful, write for yourself because that keeps your work fresh and creative. So I try to do both - remember my readers but write what I want to write and what interests me." I think that's good advice. And it seems as though you've done this with this three book series. I'd say you've taken on a challenging heroine with a wonderful story and done it justice. And as all three books are available, readers can't really complain about the cliffhanger endings! Congratulations and I can't wait to read them.

  2. Wow, that was brave, Robin, knowing that some readers would probably be upset with the cliffhangers. Kudos to you for following through on what you believed was best for the story!

  3. I'm astounded by the complaints! Your books released pretty close together, you were very up-front about this being a series and the e-book costs for each one were pretty low. Added together, they maybe cost the same as a book to a book and a half (and at 525 pages, that feels right). I thoroughly enjoyed the series. Of course, as a member of your street team, I didn't have to wait as long as the other readers for the conclusions, but regardless, no one had to wait TOO long. :) I'm glad you wrote it!

  4. Robin, thanks for visiting Seriously Write today. I always love having you guest post. I've read the entire Beauty Series and can give it a 5 star ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Recommendation! I'm eagerly awaiting your next release.

  5. I love this series! You did a fantastic job with the cliffhangers. Looking forward to your future books.

  6. Robin, this is a post I've been contemplating writing for a while now. Thanks! I can move on to something else! :-)

    As for me, I have to write what "comes to me," whether it be a standalone, a series of standalones, or a continuing series. I've received several reviews that read something like this: "Great book. Lots of twists and turns, Excellent story. Grabs you by the throat. Want to read the next one, but it's a cliffhanger. Two stars." Really? If you know it's Book 1 in a six-book series, then it should be obvious it's a cliffhanger, or at least has that potential, right?

    Now, when we watch TV shows or movies that end with an on-going storyline, we cry out, "Cliffhanger!" Isn't that what brings any reader or TV watcher back to the next season, the next show, the next book? Oh well, the poet John Lydgate was right. :-)


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