One Writer’s Journey

April 1, 2016

Reading While Wearing Your Editor Hat

Waif, Hat, Portrait, Fashion, Cool, FaceEarlier this week, I wrote a blog post about the fact that I give a book 10 pages to catch my fancy.  It it fails this test, I return it to the library.  Then I had the opportunity to talk to Astor+Blue Editions‘ editor Jillian Ports.  Jillian believes in the idea that you can learn just as much from stories and books that you don’t like as from those that you do.

I know you won’t be surprised when I admit that I asked her what it is she readers should learn from stories that they don’t enjoy reading. Her response?  In this case, you need to put on your editor’s hat and figure out how you would fix the story.

So how would I fix the books or stories that I have recently failed to enjoy.

First of all, I would create characters with ARF.  Simply put, they need to be active, relatable and flawed.  The problem that I’ve encountered lately are inactive characters who are languishing while waiting for someone else to swoop in and rescue them.  Ugh.  Can I say that again?  Ugh.  My solution?  Get rid of the fix-it character and make the main character active.

Secondly, even fantasy needs to make sense.  Your story world has to have laws and rules and function accordingly.  Your characters may not initially know these laws and rules which is the case with Holly Black’s Tithe, but this lack of knowledge causes HUGE problems that she must struggle to overcome.  Black’s world made sense.

Third, be careful with your dialogue. I’ve quit reading books written by New York authors who were trying to sound Southern and making my ears ache.  Listen to the verbal patterns but don’t try to duplicate them word for word.  Written dialogue is different from spoken dialogue.

How would you fix the books that you’ve recently disliked?

–SueBE

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