“I understand why creative people like dark, but American audiences don’t like dark. They like story. They do not respond to nervous breakdowns and unhappy episodes that lead nowhere. They like their characters to be a part of the action. They like strength, not weakness, a chance to work out any dilemma.” ~ Leslie Moonves
“Build your reputation by helping other people build theirs.” ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo
“By helping others, you will learn to help yourself.” ~ And San Suu Kyi
I love reading. For me it’s a lesson in writing. I learn about writing from the great books as well as the not so great ones.
Recently I’ve read two books with great stories, but with not such great writing. I’ve been thinking about sending messages to these writers to point out things that bothered me about their books. But here is my dilemma. The books are already published, and I’m a new writer, so do I have the right to critique their work?
I don’t know these people personally. One has written many books, while the book I just finished is the first novel by the author. Both writers have won awards. The books are fantasy. Hmm. Maybe the standards are different for fantasy writers but I don’t think they should be.
I had some great mentors while writing my book. Even though it hurt a little to hear that I still had work to do to improve my manuscript, in the end I was grateful. And I’m committed to making my book enjoyable for the reader. I don’t want them to skip sections or be irritated by the writing.
Here are some things I learned from my writer friends that I think these authors could benefit from.
The information dump. There is always important information the writer wants the reader to know, but to stop the action to dump the information all at once is not good. Spread the information out a little at a time throughout the book.
Use of adverbs. Now, when my writer friends first talked about this, I didn’t believe them. I thought that adjectives and adverbs spruced up my writing. Then I read a series of books that I loved, but the writer used an excessive amount of adverbs and I got irritated by the shear number of them. I got the message loud and clear. I went back to my novel and cut out almost all of the adverbs.
Keep the main character in hot water. In this last book, there were huge sections of the book that I skipped. These sections were about side characters. This is information I might need, but not pages and pages of it. Like my friend Debrah said to me, “Give the information in a couple of short paragraphs and get back to the main character. He or she is the one we care about. And keep them in hot water. That helps the story build to the climax.”
Creating the world with language. In fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction you have to send the reader to the world you’ve created. Therefore, the language needs to be different than the everyday language we’re used to. If a writer uses current idioms or slang, it throws the reader out of being immersed in the story.
Edit, edit, and edit again. If I read a book and there are only one or two typos, stray words, or even awkward sentences, I just read over them and don’t think a thing of it. But if there are lots of them, I get annoyed. After reading these two books, I’m inclined to go back and take another pass through my novel. I was going to use a section of my novel in this post today and found a mistake. Whew, dodged another bullet. The more eyes on your work the better.
So, the teacher part of me says I should send the critiques. After all, I was irritated as a reader and if I was, others might be too. I want these authors to be successful. And maybe we can help each other become better writers.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017