Yesterday I landed smack dab in the middle of a quandary… or a quantum entanglement, whichever you like better (even if the second one is inaccurate, but be honest, it’s a cool phrase). Wednesday was my birthday, yep, another year down, 67 more to go. Yippeee! For it my husband, who always gives me the best gifts, got me a fire pit for outside which I’ve wanted for years and the new Anita Blake book by Laurell K. Hamiliton titled Afflictions. With this newest installment of the trials and tribulations of the multiple titled main character Anita in my greedy little hands, I did what any die-hard fan would do.
I started to read… and read … and read. He gave it to me at 11 PM and by 5 AM I was halfway through and loathed to put it down and go to bed. My body, on the other hand, demanded that I rest so with heavy heart, I did just that. That’s not the quandary though. Nope, it was the next morning (yesterday morning). When I finally dragged my butt out of bed, went downstairs to let the dogs out, I once again found myself deep in Anita’s primary crisis at the moment.
I start to read … and read … and read then finished. Imagine my surprise to find that the clock read 3 PM (I think it was 3:40 PM but I could be wrong).
I was, ahem, supposed to be working on Ancient Magic. My goal for this week was to be at Chapter 10, but I’m only in the middle of Chapter 7 at this time. Due to loosing valuable writing time on Tuesday because of my fault line tripping hazard and now because of yesterday with reading all day long I may not make my goal. Cue tears.
Here’s the quandary however: For most writers the goal is to find ways to improve our craft. We write and write and write then edit, edit, edit in the hope of taking a raw idea and making it into a finished project. One of the ways that writers learn the craft isn’t only through practice, practice, practice (yeah, I’m having that three times a charm trend happening today, I know) though most of the books about writing say so.
Another aspect is to read, to find authors who are writing in our genre to get tips, hints, and overall exposure to what works. Obviously it works because it was published and did fairly well. The Genre Killers I believe is what they were called in the workshop I attended. Read the best sellers in the genre you’re targeting for then see what you can absorb from their genius. (For anyone cross-genre writing, read both genre killers from each side to get tips then it’s up to you to merge them together.)
In short, it’s an excuse for writers to indulge in our other passion: reading. I have found that anyone with a passion of any type, they are more than happy to take an excuse to do it then run with it. Writers are no different, so my guilt at spending a day reading instead of writing isn’t as heavy as opposed to if I had spent the whole day watching TV instead.
However, the guilt is still there because I don’t write Urban Fantasy.
Actually, you know what, Ancient Magic is Urban Fantasy I think. Hot damn, look at that. Now I can really let go of the guilt trip because I did research instead of reading!!!* YAY ME!
*NOTE: Remember the post where I talk about writers lying to themselves? If not, you can read it here!
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, reading to learn. I have gotten to the point where I can’t read for the sake of reading. Every book in my hand, whether it’s fiction or not, because a learning an experience as I look at the content, format, dialog tips. I pick, I dissect, I examine with a magnifying glass. Reading for fun is now out of the question despite a few attempts to try recently. Affliction is no different and I began to laugh when I found myself, as I was reading, noticing differences between LKH’s previous books and this one in relation to format. LKH is usually fantastic at keeping her paragraphs at reasonable lengths that doesn’t make it feel like one long group of text. It was different this time though and I’m not sure what to think about it.
The truly perplexing thing about noticing this change is that a) I apparently have the nerve to start nitpicking about such minor details when she clearly has tons more experience and knowledge than I do. And b) I’m actually contemplating writing her a letter to ask why it happened. I know – shocking isn’t it? The other thing I’d ask her, if I ever did get up the courage, is about the ending. For the first time of Anita Blake, I was disappointed by it. I felt like it was anti-climatic. That’s never happened with any of her books for me. This fantastic build-up that spiraled me up and up to wait for the final ‘duke it out’ scene and pppbbbbtttt.
Cue real tears now.
I’m willing to grant that my expectations of what is a fantastic ‘duke it out’ scene is going to vary from any one else (especially LKH) and in thinking about how it did end, it made a hell of a lot of sense and worked. I didn’t hate it, I just wanted… more. You know?
Ah well, I’ll over analyze it another day. My quandary is, obviously, over because I finished reading it and I accept that I’m never going to write her a letter to ask why. I also accept that she’ll never read my blog and then send me a reply to answer my questions (though a girl can hope right?). To be honest though, in reading and analyzing Afflictions I find it comforting to know the greats still make mistakes. A misplaced quotation mark, a dialog chain without any actual action, just dialog going through, all the big no-no’s can come up in their work and the reason for it is that there are exceptions to every rule.
That’s my biggest take-away from Afflictions and I accept it in the spirit it’s given. The story dictates how it flows, grows, and is molded from one scene to another. Our characters pull writers where they want to go assuming they don’t have to fight us too hard, and if breaking a rule in format or technique is necessary, we do it because it has to be done. Our readers may not accept or like it immediately, but that’s they way it is when something out of left-field goes our way.
At least… that’s my opinion. What do you think?
- Why Write a Series? (pdonovanauthor.wordpress.com)
- Target Your Market (lemieuxpr.com)
- Things I wish I’d learned sooner as a Writer (mqallen.com)