Monthly Archives: November 2014
I recently finished reading the book Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen. I would recommend any of his books as they are the type to keep me reading after I should have gone to bed. A big part of why his books are so good is the characters he comes up with. The main protagonist is interesting and easy to get invested in, but the rest of the characters wander off the page in their own unique way. I’m not sure Hiaasen’s writing technique, but my own is to take a character and let them tell their story through me. I do not control my characters and when I try they do not cooperate. It is their story and I just get to hear it first.
Having a plot is useless to me unless it comes with the character to tell me the story. Settings are interesting, but there has to be someone there to stand out or I can’t write the story. This is probably why I need to work on writing description, because the character sees it every day and already knows what things look like.
Whether in books or in life, most of us are drawn to people with character. We like the people who are contradictions and stand out in the crowd. So, if you have great setting and a wonderful plot, you better have a character to navigate those or you are going to lose readers. And the story moves along much better when the writer listens to the character rather than a character who listens to the writer.
To me the perfect book is when you pick up the exact one you wanted to read, even when you had no idea what you were looking for. This has happened to be a few times in my life. The last time was several months ago. I headed to the library looking for a fantasy book to read, but not really expecting to find much. The first book I picked up I was not sure about because the reason I picked it up was that I had seen it recently on Good Reads, but I really did not know much about it. Then I went to the fantasy rack and looked it over. I pick up two more that looked interesting. After checking out, I took them home and hoped one of them would help jump start my own fantasy writing.
The fantasy rack picks turned into books I returned without reading, but the first one I picked up was the perfect book. It helped spark my own writing. It kept me up most of the night reading. It was well-written and funny. It also made me wish I was as good as that author in her use of description that moved the story along. I have read the next two in the series since then, but I have not read the last two. There is nothing wrong with them, I just have not gotten there. However, the first one was the perfect book.
Many readers wonder why it takes so long for writers to get their next book out. I wondered this for many years as a reader and it wasn’t until I was writing books that I understood. It isn’t the writing of the next book that takes so long, it is the editing. Writing is easy, all you have to do is sit down and listen to what the character tells you. Editing is clarifying that message. This can mean rewriting the story several times. It could mean reading it through a dozen times to get the missed words, the grammatical mistakes, and spelling errors. It means giving it to a test reader, who may come back with questions that reveal the plot hole big enough to swallow the whole story.
All this editing happens before you send the story to the publisher, who if they accept it will pass it on to their own editing team. This editing takes some more time as if get passed back and forth between the editing team and the writer until they are sure they have gotten all the plot holes, grammatical errors, and minor story mistakes. The reader will find the rest of them once the book finally gets in their hands after that long wait.