Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Writing Advice from a Reader

I'm easy to please. If it has words, I'll read it and like it. If it's fantasy, they don't even have to be big words. So, it's extraordinary that I've been disappointed by all of the books I've read this month. It's even more surprising given that the books were the whole range, from the twentieth book by a well-known author to a book from a major publisher by a new author to an independent author.

Since I only have one book out, I don't feel qualified to give advice as a writer. However, I've read thousands of books. I buy about 100 books a year - I bought five on smashwords last night - and check out another 150 or so from the library. Given that, I think I'm the kind of person writers want to attract, that is, the kind who will put down money for a book.

Here is my advice for how to get me to not just buy your first book, but your second, third and fourth one.

  1. Keep with the same tone. If I buy a fantasy book and the first 100 pages are a fantasy book about fairies and some quest to retrieve the important-to-fairies thing, I am happy. If on page 101 some nightmare monster shows up and tears the arms off all of the fairies and eats them alive, dripping blood, it has turned into a horror book and I am not happy.
  2. Don't get too complicated. It worked for Tolstoy but you're not Tolstoy. The worst example lately was a book that was quite good for the first 100 pages and then the author added two more main characters, one trapped in an alternate world, one villain escaped from the alternate world masquerading as a damsel in distress but the hero had to see through this and rescue the trapped character all the while the story in the first 100 page is proceeding. Yeah, it lost me, too. Enough that I didn't even bother to finish reading the book, which almost never happens.
  3. Unless you're writing a romance novel, don't spend half your book on the love interest. Lord of the Rings had that whole thing going with the elf princess and the human, but Tolkien wouldn't have the status he does if that had been the main focus of the books. 
  4. On the flip side of #3, don't make your characters just a name going through the actions to advance the plot. Do a little character development and description. This was the book by the experienced author that was such a disappointment. I did finish it but I won't buy any more of his books. It reminded me of playing paper dolls with my sister when we were little girls. The whole story was, "Mongo rose up in front of her and turned into an elephant with three heads. Shane got on him and rode quickly to Ebsinor where they met a dwarf who turned him back into her brother. Then the dwarf gave them the magic beef knuckle." Somehow, I think there should be a part in there where Shane thinks to herself, "My brother just turned into a three-headed elephant. Serves him right for being such an evil bully to me his whole life." or At the very least, Mongo should be thinking, "WTF? How did I get to be an elephant?"
I'm not going to post any of the book titles because I'm never interested in advice on books not to read. There are hundreds of thousands of books not to read. Hopefully, I'll find something really good in these next five and can post some recommendations of books that I was glad to read.

Any suggestions are very welcome.

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