Friday, 28 August 2009

You are what you read

Today I am resisting the temptation to launch into either the third Euphemia Martins novel (intriguingly entitled A Death in the Asylum) or the redrafting of the synopsis of the YA novel before the final/penultimate redraft.* Today I am going to read.

Authors need to read. Not only to understand what is selling, but because what you like to read is often a strong indicator of what you would be good at writing. This should be a really obvious point, but an awful lots of authors miss this. An awful lot of seemingly intelligent authors - like me.

My writing group, which is also another topic in itself, had seen many many of my ideas walk in only to later fall upon their sword. Generally the reaction to my pieces went along one of these lines

  • Half the members liked it. Half hated it.
  • A few loved it. The rest were indifferent.
  • Many had used it to help them fall asleep, but one member was eager to deconstruct my story structure at wearisome length.
  • Everyone quite liked it, but agreed no one would ever publish it.
  • Nobody minded it much. One or two had used their copies to mop up cat sick.
  • Almost everyone was keen except one member who pointed out some terrible flaw(s) and then the rest turned against it as a mob and tore it to pieces
There were quite a few other permutations, but you get the general idea. Before I launch into the next paragraph you need to know that my group is essentially a Science Fiction and Fantasy writing group.

Which is why when I brought them a crime proposal I felt I was really chancing my arm. I remember coming in, sitting down and studying their little faces to gain some clue as to how terminal my critical evaluation would be. In their defense I have to say this is an absolutely excellent writing group and as such we pull no punches.

It was then history was made as one reader after another said (and I couldn't help feeling they said it with some surprise) that this was actually rather good. I waited for the voice of doom that would turn the tide once more away from me - and it didn't come.

I love reading crime novels, but it had never occurred to me to write one. Today I sit here with the third, already commissioned novel, of the Euphemia Martins mystery knocking at the back of my mind, but today I am going to read. Who knows what I will learn about myself today?

*There will be a later post explaining all the fascinating ins and out of dealing with WIP (Work(s) in progress.)


Nicola Morgan said...

"I love reading crime novels, but it had never occurred to me to write one" - funny how the best ideas are slap-on-the-forehead obvious when you think about them! I completely agree about authors needing to read - we sometimes feel it's an indulgence but it's very much part of feeding our creative brain.

Anonymous said...

It's not insane *not* to write a genre that you like reading, since novelty might be the attraction. For example, I like naval thrillers and I emphatically don't know anything about the navy!