Summer, sun, and the beach wouldn’t be perfect without a book to enjoy in the shade. For writers, these ‘beach reads’ mean big money. But how do you write one? We’ll answer this in a nutshell.
What’s A Beach Read & How Do I Write One?
A beach holiday – that’s the best time of the year, right? Most people look forward to it for weeks, imagining how they dip a toe into crystal-clear water, sail on a boat, and just relax the whole day under an umbrella. With an exciting book to read, of course.
To make sure you’ll find that perfect book to squeeze into your carry-on, the major publishing houses break out in a sweat to offer a whole ‘cruise collection,’ so to speak. Each summer, the sales of paperbacks soar, and this trend has been around for about one hundred years, the Guardian says. Beach reads sell copy, so writers should check this out.
What’s A Beach Read?
Defining a beach read is tricky. It’s not so much a description of a genre but more a geographical location of where people want to read your book and why. The place to read defines a set of qualities that this book should have. If you intend to write such a beach read, here’s a list for you.
While beach reads don’t drive home a particular message (these aren’t philosophical pamphlets) their true intentions are clear: they provide escapism and entertainment. Basically, they just mirror the reason why we buy them in the first place! When we go on holiday, we want to leave our daily routines behind.
This escape can only be accomplished if writers get the theme and the style right (see further down), and if the book achieves a certain amount of closure. When you write a beach read, you want to immerse your readers in a world so rich that they forget whatever made them need that holiday. So, you won’t want the book to ask tons of questions to keep your readers up all night.
Any book for a holiday needs to be easy on your baggage allowance. You still need to bring your bikini and sunglasses, right? No wonder that beach reads tend to be paperbacks.
The other reason is your reading position. You won’t be able to bring your comfy armchair to the beach. You will need to read lying down. Unless you have arms like a bodybuilder, a hefty tome in hardcover will be out of the question.
Not only does the actual weight of the book matter, but also the proverbial weight of your story. Any book bought especially for the holidays should be easy to read.
This has repercussions on genre, theme, and setting, for the plot, pacing, and even diction. If your style is light and fluffy, many genres are possible (see further down).
Remember that diction plays a big role in the accessibility of a story to readers. An academic and Latinate diction with a complicated sentence structure will require more attention than the average beach reader will want to give. The more accessible your story is to the reader, the more likely it’ll make it into someone’s beach bag.
If you need more information about how to make your story more accessible, please check out the blogs on Writers Write about ‘plain language.’ Other important tools are the readability statistics offered by your word-processing software.
The top genres for beach reads are romance and family drama, but they can also be memoirs or detective novels. Most importantly, the story must be immersive, intriguing, and easy to follow.
5. Theme And Setting
Summer, living on the coast, budding romances, and easy-going fun – all of those are classic themes for beach reads. Exotic locations, remote islands, and exciting cities also figure prominently. These themes provide escapism easily. Unsuitable for beach reads are themes that upset you, or even trigger you (like most of life’s uncomfortable truths, such as death, illness, and hard-boiled crime).
Every good story needs conflict, so difficult topics can come up. But easy does it for the beach reader. Don’t overdo it, make sure every conflict is resolved.
6. Plot And Pacing
Readers want to escape but they don’t want to get lost. To keep them on track, use a clear plot structure (stories with these 5 Plotting Moments). Just imagine reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It’s a great story, but not when you’re lying on a beach towel, holding on to your slushy. The plot is too complicated!
Pacing is another tool to help your reader stick to your story. Shorter chapters that end on a cliffhanger will allow your reader to devour chapter after chapter, and end that book right on time for the flight back home.
A happy ending is compulsory. Why? It’s the ultimate escape. It’s so satisfying to read that every hint of the universe is foreshadowing meaningful events, that everything has its purpose, and that every conflict is resolved in the end. Remember: readers buy these books to accompany them on their holidays, not on their commute to work.
Why Bother Writing Beach Reads?
Some writers say beach reads are lighter literature because readers don’t have to think too much to understand what the author wants to say. Many say beach reads are shallow because they avoid all the big and tricky topics. Some might give you the eye when you confess that you’re writing one.
But there’s something to make up for this: sales figures, and the deep satisfaction that your buyers have really finished the book. Let’s look at that more closely.
Sales figures are important. Writing is a business, and you need to sell. You can only do that if you meet your reader’s needs. A beach read is tailored to do just that. After all, who can make a living being cooped up in an ivory tower?
Beach reads might not be Pulitzer-worthy but they’re providing a wonderful summer holiday experience for millions of readers. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Money matters aside, writing beach reads is a very satisfying experience for the writer. Why? Because most people do read (and finish!) these books. You’d be surprised how many buy books and never finish because suddenly they find the style too demanding, the subject too heavy, and the chapters too long. Won’t happen with a beach read.
So, what do you want to write? A book of critical acclaim that collects dust on some library shelf? Or a beach read that proves to be a steadfast companion throughout people’s holidays? And lets them feel that deep satisfaction of reading ‘The End?’
The Last Word
If you love reading as much as I do, then a summer without a book just isn’t a good summer. But the book must match my mood. While I normally read mostly intricate philosophical treatises (catch my irony?), I love spending my summers under an umbrella, with a book in one hand, and a smoothie in the other. I do enjoy a good beach read. And in autumn, I will start writing one of my own. What about you?
If you’d like to choose a new beach read for yourself, check out your local bookshop or the websites of the publishing houses. Here are some links where authors put together their best beach reads.
By Susanne Bennett. Susanne is a German-American writer who is a journalist by trade and a writer by heart. After years of working at German public radio and an online news portal, she has decided to accept challenges by Deadlines for Writers. Currently she is writing her first novel with them. She is known for overweight purses and carrying a novel everywhere. Follow her on Facebook.
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