Writing the Book Only You Can Write by Pat Bertram

“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.” –Diane Arbus, noted American photographer

Out walking the other day, I noticed an incredible shadow of a tree on the sidewalk, and I had to stop and take a picture. I happened to pass at just the right time. In a few minutes, the sun would be in a different position, clouds would filter the sunlight, and the lines of the shadow would blur. But  for just a moment, there it was — stark and beautiful. Since I happened to be carrying my camera, I am not the only one who saw that shadow — you can see it, too.

During my two years as a published writer, I learned that if you wish to be a selling author, you need to pick a specific, recognizable genre, and you need to develop a series character in that genre who is so compelling people will be waiting for your next book. Readers who come late to the series go back to read earlier books, and so sales take on a life of their own, each book helping to sell the others. This was a painful lesson, because I did not do that. Each of my books is a stand-alone novel without a series character, and each straddles a shadowy line between genres.  Instead of a series that helps promote me and my oeuvre, I have to start over each time a new book is published, promoting each book individually.

And yet  . . . I can’t feel too badly about my stand-alone, genreless books. They would never have been written if I didn’t write them. Only I could have presented that particular world view, created those characters, told those stories. Maybe my books will never find a strong readership, maybe I will go down in obsucurity, but in those books are things no one would ever see if I hadn’t written a word photograph. Like my lake of flowers in Light Bringer:

Becka kept running, needing no footpath to lead her to their destination. She could feel the music tugging at her, guiding her, singing her forward.

At first a faint red trumpeting, the music swelled into a full orchestra: orange church bells, yellow bugles, green violins, blue flutes, indigo cellos, violet woodwinds.

Beneath it all, she could hear the grasses murmuring, “Hurry, hurry.”

And then there it was, spread out before her in a shallow thirty-foot bowl. A lake of flowers— chrysanthemums and tulips, daisies and daffodils, lilies and columbines and fuchsia—all blooming brightly, all singing their song of welcome.


Light Bringer: Becka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area? (Light Bringer has been called a speculative fiction thriller, which is as good a genre description as any.)


Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.  At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!


Filed under books, fiction, Pat Bertram, writing

7 responses to “Writing the Book Only You Can Write by Pat Bertram

  1. I enjoyed this post very much. I, too, am writing genreless books that are not part of a series. But that’s what I love to read, so that’s what I write. I know there’s an audience for such books — but it’s hard to find.

  2. Wanda

    I’ve had ideas for series book characters, I’ve made my notes, an outline and a general outline for the series but right now I’m writing the book only I can write, genre-less, no series character, no vampires… I suppose the closest I can come to for a catagory is mainstream – slice of life, I don’t really know. And for me, it’s important to get this story down. So I don’t really care if it is published or not, although that would be nice.

    Pat, I feel you’ve created a genre of your own. And I love each of your books, stand alone and unique.

  3. christinehusom

    Sounds like another great book, Pat. And there is nothing wrong with writing non-series books! I didn’t plan to write a series when I started my Winnebago County thrillers, but I liked the characters so much, I realized they had many more cases ahead of them. Someday I’ll write non-series books. At least I hope I live long enough 🙂

  4. Pat, you’re right in general. Then, there are those authors–like you–who write such evocative fiction that their readers–like me–are always waiting for the next Pat Bertram book. I know I’ll love the characters, whoever they are, and I know I’ll be pulled along through the edge-of-the-seat suspense and elements of beauty/poetry that sneak into the plot. So don’t get down on yourself about not doing series – there’s really no right or wrong choice. Your choice works for YOU and your readers. Keep it up!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.