Monday, August 11, 2008

What to Read

The trouble with studying the craft of writing is that you inevitable get to the point that you can see all the flaws in the writing of others.

That's not such a bad thing when you're an editor or a critiquer. You want to point out the flaws that you see to help that writer improve.

But when you're looking for a good book to read, it can be a pain.

There's been a lot of hubbub lately over Stephanie Meyers' Twilight series. Dozens of people have told me that I just HAVE to read them, that they're SO GOOD! But none of those people are writers. I had an opportunity a couple of weeks ago to actually browse through on of her books. I just opened it, randomly glanced, and read the first line my eye fell on.

I have to say, it was one of the worst lines of writing I had ever read.

To be fair, I haven't even attempted to read any of the books further than that, so I can't give them a fair shake at a review of any kind, but that one sentence put a bad taste in my mouth because it sent my internal editor into a frenzy. One day I still may read the books. We'll see.

As another example, I read the first four Harry Potter books before I began my serious study of the writing craft. I very much enjoyed them all. After that I could hardly stomach them. I'm not absolutely positive that the change was in me. I think the first four books had much stronger storylines than the last three, and I don't think my opinion there would have changed. Even us writers tend to forgive a lot of craft weaknesses when the story is brilliantly engaging. But Rowling's writing foibles in the later books stood out to me in a way they never would have before.

Now, looking for a book to read is so much more of a crapshoot than it ever was before--and before it was a pretty high-stakes crapshoot.

So, here I sit with $40 to spend at Barnes & Nobles and no idea how to spend it. Anybody want to help?

What is your favorite book of all time, or a book that you absolutely loved?

I'm looking for a book that leaves the reader if not uplifted then changed, effected. I want a story with heart, with unforgettable characters.

I like most genres, but tend to gravitate toward urban fantasy, slipstream, historical fiction. I like books with excellent quality writing, leaning more toward the literary in nature. I also tend toward authors; ie. I find an author whose work I really like and I read everything of his/hers I can get my hands on.

To give you an idea, my favorite author of all time is Ray Bradbury, mostly for his writing style. I also enjoy the way Orson Scott Card makes his characters come alive in the heart and mind of his reader and the way Neil Gaiman tells an engaging and entertaining story.

Unfortunately, one of my favorite recent authors doesn't have a book out yet--brand spankin' new Campbell Award for Best New Writer winner Mary Robinette Kowal. Come on Mary! Get on the stick! ;-)


Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury said...

Not science fiction or fantasy, but I am very impressed with Charles Martin after reading his WHEN CRICKETS CRY. So you might want to try him.

Suzanne Vincent said...

Ooh! Thanks! He's going on my library list.