Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Writing Wednesdays: Looking at Books from a Writer's Perspective

The good thing about being a writer is that you can appreciate books at their true value.

Ever since I've been trying to plug away at Polar Opposites, I've realized how hard it is to write a book.

You have to show, not tell. You have to be able to insert little clues without making things too obvious. You have to develop the characters fully, to tie up any loose loopholes, to make it an engaging story. Writing a story is a lot harder than it seems; writing a good story is a war. 

So it brings a whole new appreciation to reading for me. 

For most people, reading is just a recreational activity, if that. They read for the pure enjoyment of it. If they don't like a book, they'll say so without quite knowing why. Writers have the ability to know why they don't like a book.

The hook didn't grab me.

There was too much showing, not telling.

The main character was too annoying.

As I've worked on Polar Opposites, I've been studying the books I read more closely. Why do I like Sammy Keyes so much? (Answer: The characters are realistic and the plot catches me by surprise.) Why was Magyk, by Angie Sage, so good? (Answer: The writing was descriptive, the humor was engaging, and the characters won my sympathy, even the evil ones.) 

And I learn from reading other books. I learn to make my hook engaging. I learn that sometimes, dialogue shows more about characters than any action will ever do. I learn to let the story flow, and to push through when the writing gets sticky. I learn to keep the conflict going.

I also learn from what I disliked about some books. Some books' main characters were overly sassy. Some storyworlds seemed cliche (that ties into the overly sassy main character). Sometimes the "chemistry" between characters was awkward and rushed, so I learn to take it slow.

So read. If you don't want to write, and you feel like you haven't read in a while, pick up a book and read. And don't just read for the fun of it, although that's good too: read, and pick up little hints about where the author went right, or where the author went wrong. Study the good books and learn from the bad. Pinpoint why you didn't like the book, and learn from where the author stumbled.

Look at books from a writer's perspective, not from the viewpoint of someone who's trying to get away from reality.

What books do you admire for their craft?


1. I'm taking another break from Polar Opposites. I've been struggling for the past couple days, and for the past couple months, I've realized that my book's structure defies the usual plot of a regular book. It has no specific climax. And I'm starting to get sick of the story idea.

Plus, my brothers said it was boring, and I don't even have to reread the beginning to know that it is.


Okay, so which books do you admire for your craft?