Thursday, September 1, 2011

My, how times have changed.

Or have they?

Doesn't the Bible say there is nothing new under the sun?  I have been pondering this lately.

What spurred my philosophical side is a few novels I've recently read. Novels that I felt a little disappointed in.  I am not a prolific reader as some of you may be.  In fact if you read my beginning few pages of this blog you will see that I hated reading for most of my life.  It was torture - so I didn't do it unless my passing grade in a class demanded it.

As an adult I acquired a more acceptable view of reading - "I will if I can learn something great from it."  Unfortunately that limited my reading scope to non-fiction that would knock your socks off. I can name them all because there only were three of them.

My mother-in-law tried to entice me with fiction when I was newly married.  She gave me a Christian fiction novel.  I think it was called The Wedding Dress.  I actually finished it!!  I was so proud of myself - in spite of the fact it took me over a year to do it.  To my recollection she was proud of me too and promptly handed
me book two in the series.  I felt as though all the air in my lungs was suddenly suctioned out.  'I finished the book and I can even say I relatively enjoyed it, but who would ever willing choose to invest another year into this ridiculous time waster?'

It wasn't until I became a librarian a few years back, that I truly tasted fiction.  I read a book that overwhelmed me.  It fed into places in my life I never knew existed.  It transformed me.  And in the matter of a couple months I read all four books in the series - approximately 2500 pages.  In a couple months.

Since then I must admit to being a full fledged reader.  I read for interest sake but with a strong emphasis on learning the craft. Therefore I try to force myself to finish books even if I am not enjoying them so much. Then I can learn what not to do as well.   There have still been a couple I never finished.

I picked up at my church library a book by a Canadian Christian author.  I enjoyed her first book, so naturally I returned to my library for the next two in her series.  By the time I was done them both I was extremely disappointed.  The last two lacked ... well, everything.  There were even numerous spelling mistakes and grammar errors.  (And I must add if I can pick out the grammar errors they must be very bad, because I forget everything I ever learned about grammar - practically.)

So in a fog of disappointment I moved on to a new author.  I opted for a name I knew, an author who had many titles on her resume.  (The first author had written a lot of books too.) Unfortunately I found the same thing.  Poor sentence structure, spelling errors, plot holes, inconsistent settings, dialogue tags littered with adverbs and thesaurus borrowed words.  You name it this author did it.  (I am not naming names because someone might think I really write poorly too!)

Now ... in defence of both of the authors the books were not written recently, if that matters.  The books were published in the early 2000's.  So I will assume the authors have gotten better at their crafts.  Perhaps, times in the publishing world have changed so much so that those books would never make it to print today?  Maybe times have changed?

However, it fills me with both hope and discouragement.

Hope that someday I may be published even if I am not 'that great' yet.

Discouragement because I feel like, after all the research I've done about writing, that I am expected to spend more time on craft (elements of the actual writing) and less time on the STORY just to get noticed by the powers that be.  However, do readers - people who spend their money to buy books, care more about story or style? See in both of the above cases of poor books - the story - the 'he did this and she did that' of the story was good.  I finished the books because I wanted to know what happened to the characters.

I feel like the more I read, the more I get frustrated by the dos and don'ts of writing.  If you are a writer you know what I'm taking about.  Things like, use third person, don't add extra words, only use 'said' or 'asked',  write in past tense, ect, ect, ect.

Why can't I just write a really cool story and forget all about the rules?  Who makes the rules anyway?

All these crazy thoughts I shall carry with me into my weekend of writing for the 3 day novel contest.  A weekend where all a writer can afford to focus on is ... STORY.

Tell me what you think?  Are you drawn in by writing or by story? Would you finish a mediocre story if the writing was impeccable? Or vice versa - a lower grade writing style with a powerful story?


  1. I am drawn first to the Story and will give the book a go. Then, after an honest effort, you may find the book sitting unfinished on my shelf if it is poorly written.

  2. I too pick up a book based on the story...but I have a number that have taken me a loooong time to finish if they're hard to read (or I won't finish them at all).

  3. Thanks for your input Heidi and KJ.
    I have another question for you then . . .
    Is it the back cover or the first page that gets you to go further?