Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Small Writing Rant

"Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon." - E.L. Doctorow

Okay... time for my annual rant about writing.

Recently I've talked to folks about complaints from books (mainly eBooks) they've read. I hear authors frequently saying that they think the "rules" can be ignored if you break them correctly and with enough writing skill.

I disagree.

Take head-hopping. This is a biggie for me (and several other people, apparently, based on what I've heard in my conversations). I realize that many authors (even big selling ones ... yes THE NORA head-hops, I know, I know but you're not her) get published with their head-hopping stories, and I know many readers don't seem to mind them. BUT: head-hopping can make the story difficult to follow and some readers may lose patience, stop reading and then never buy a book by that author again.

Is it worth it? If you lose even one reader because of something this basic, is it worth it?

Another complaint I've heard about is lack of real conflict. Simply having the H/H not like each other isn't enough. There needs to be more, even in (or maybe especially in) a short story. Readers aren't reading to read page after page of Joe and Martha's relatively simple courtship. They are reading to see Joe and Martha overcome something. Conflict can be internal (maybe Martha has a trauma in her past that doesn't allow her to trust easily, or Joe's ex-fiancee cheated on him with his best friend, or Martha can't have children and doesn't feel like a "real" woman, or Joe has massive scarring from a fire he was caught in when he saved six kids and their dog, so is self-conscious about his looks), or external (Joe's ex-fiancee returns with the news that she's pregnant and thinks it's his kid, Martha loses her job but is offered another one halfway around the world). But stories need to provide something that the H/H MUST overcome to get their HEA.

Something else I've seen happening a lot is having something happen off screen and then the characters recount it later. There are times this is appropriate, but there are times when it's better to let the reader actually SEE the action (IMHO, this is most of the time -- if something is important enough to the plot to mention, and involved the hero or heroine directly -- because we'll be in one of their POVs, right? -- then it's important enough to show the reader directly).

The last complaint relates to editing. I realize that we, as authors, have editors to help us tidy up our work. This does NOT meant we get to be lazy when it comes to grammar knowledge. You should know whether to use a semi-colon or a comma, or what the difference between peek, peak and pique is. If you don't, it behooves you to learn. This is your trade. A brain surgeon goes to medical school, a plumber doesn't just start turning wrenches and hope for the best. So, a writer must learn to write properly. An editor is just another human who may miss things that are wrong in your manuscript. And, to be honest, some of the editors in eBook publishing aren't as well-trained as they should be. It's YOUR work. YOUR name is on it. You want it to be something to be proud of, not something people snicker about ("Did you see here where she said it "peeked" her interest? :::: much laughter ensues ::: ).

There is more, but I won't bore you any longer. I'm not a pro, either, but because of my exposure to hundreds and hundreds of books every year (via LASR) and equal numbers of reviews (and complaints from my reviewers) I know what's being published out there, and I know what folks seem to like consistently and what gets on their nerves.

And, the author part of me tries to listen. I realize we can't please everyone with our writing or the story may not interest some folks when others find it amazing (check out the two reviews Allie got on her recent release to see what I mean), but we can at least strive to get the mechanics down correctly. Right?

Of course right.


Okay... who can tell me how to get my blog posts to go up on Facebook automatically? I was using Twitterfeed and sending them that way, but that isn't working for me anymore for some reason.



You Are Calm and Thoughtful

You aren't the type of person to rush to judgment. You weigh all of your options carefully.

You tend to gravitate toward what's old-fashioned and classic. You wait a while before you give anything new a chance.

You tend to have a lot of depth. You study subjects carefully, and the relationships you have tend to be strong and deep.

You don't have much time for frivolity in your life. You are a very serious person.

Yep... that's pretty dang close.



Maria Zannini said...

That was sad about DD, but I'm glad she found a new mission in life to keep the spirit of Santa alive.

Good on you, mom.

Maria Zannini said...

oops! Put that comment on the wrong post.

Ref: this post.

During the 70s (and earlier) when omni was so common, head hopping was a given.

I was accustomed to it and expected to move around from character to character.

And though it doesn't bother me much even today, reading is much more fluid and my enjoyment greater when I can concentrate on one character at a time.

Dru said...

You Are Unpretentious and Honest

You're quite happy with who you are, and you never pretend to be someone you're not.

You just act naturally. It's what works best for you, and you're comfortable with who you are.

You like people when they're just being themselves. Nothing turns you off more quickly than a phony.

You don't like it when other people want you to measure up to their standards. You should be enough as is.

This is accurate.

Brandy said...

I always find it interesting how authors think, especially if it's about other authors and writing.

I hope you have a terrific day!

Ceri Hebert said...

I'm reading two different books, a historical from the 80's and a contemporary published more recently and there's head hopping galore in both. That's one thing I steer clear of.

Good reading, Marianne, as always. Makes me rethink what I'm sending out.