I finished a book this morning. I had high hopes for it, but it just didn't work for me. So disappointing.
Sometimes I hear writers complain about all the bad books out there, especially popular, commercial series. Writers can be jealous creatures; they wonder how something so bad can be successful while their manuscript continues to languish unread in editors' slush piles. But my struggles with writing for the past years have taken me to a different conclusion...
I've been working my way through a book on plotting (Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell). I'm nearing the end of my novel's very rough draft, so I'm planning to go back and examine and strengthen its structure. One of Bell's suggested exercises is analyzing a published novel's plot to see if it follows common plotting structure. He also suggests, if you were bored or frustrated by the published novel, considering if this might be due to plot problems.
I figured this was a perfect opportunity to analyze the book I had been reading. But you know what I discovered? The book I have been reading has a perfect plot structure. Actually, a really amazing one. All of the major external action plot points correspond with major internal, emotional plot points. So, for example, just when monsters attack the village, the main love-interest tells the heroine he could never love her. So physically all hope is lost and AT THE SAME TIME emotionally all is lost. The external action plot and the internal emotional plot points occur at the same time and follow the same arc. That can't happen by accident. Or at least, I could NEVER just think that up. That's skill and work.
I definitely have a tendency to criticize. But any books that can keep kids turning pages, going to midnight book launching parties, sell thousands of copies... they must be doing something right. And even books that don't succeed at all those things, sometimes I think they're doing many more things right than I realize.
My conclusion? Writing is hard. =)