Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Tale of Two Books

Last week, I read two books.

Their names will remain unknown.

I haven't had a lot of reading time lately, but I'm in the middle of writing a book, and was a bit "stuck" on a plot point, and reading a good book tends to help me unstick.

Book One

This book had a plot that seemed really intriguing, but it was an author I didn't know, and my to-be-read pile was large. For some reason, the book triggered in my memory from a sample I'd read. I went to Amazon and it was 99 cents. I figured, maybe it might be just the thing to kick my muse into overdrive.

$1.08 later, I started to read it.

The plot was good.

The prose, most of the time, was pretty decent too.

The characters were....

Eh. They had GREAT potential to be really amazing characters. They had back story that could have been interesting. They had internal and external conflicts. But there was still just something missing. They were FLAT.

Even though they had back story and the MAKINGS of great characters, the execution just wasn't there. The back story didn't really interact with the present story. Some of the big things they had to overcome were ignored until the end and then resolved with a simple, unrealistic discussion. Emotions were barely touched on even though, given the story, you know they HAD to be there.

But the plot was still good-- it was enough to keep me reading. I wanted to find out what happened.

A few hours later, I finished the book. Meh. My muse was still in hiding.

Book Two

The next day, I started to write. And nothing came. You know when you see a bad movie and you really just have to see a good one to help get over it?

That's were I was. Writing was going to be non-existent if I didn't have a good book to balance out the not-so-good one!

So I searched my Kindle and found a book that I'd bought a while back, but hadn't read yet. It was by one of my go-to favorite authors, and I was shocked that I hadn't read it.

I devoured the book in a day.

The storyline was catchy. The characters were unique and raw and deep. They had back story and wow, did they interact with it. The dialogue was snappy and realistic. There was a big black moment, even if it was just a teeny bit cliche, but I was intrigued and could barely put the book down.

Moral of the Story

Two books
Two great, intriguing plots
Only one author I will seek out to read their next book.

So take that story and get a crit partner (a GOOD one, see Mary's post from yesterday!)
Invest in an editor.
Read books/blogs on writing craft.

Listen to beta readers.
Don't use "voice" as an excuse for poor writing. (There. I said it. I might blog on that later just to ruffle a few more feathers!)

Because you want your readers to close your books and think, "Hmmm, I wonder what else they've written!"

Discussion: What methods do you use to improve your craft and make sure you have not only a great story idea, but great writing to compliment it?

Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and author of Sandwich, With a Side of Romanceand A Side of Faith. She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at She is represented by Sarah Freese of Wordserve Literary.


Casey said...

Investing in craft is so important. I've hired professional writing coaches, taken classes and worked hard to get better and stronger with my writing. It's so true of what you said here. Couldn't have said it better myself. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

I totally agree with Case.

AND, my inspiration when stuck tends to be movies. I went to see Left Behind...for no other reason than I knew characters would SHOW panic. I took notes what they did. Yeah, tragedy happens to all of us, but that panic expression can't be seen the second I'm writing a scene. I select a movie that I know-or think- will demonstrate the emotion I want to convey in my current scene. The music holds the impression in me. I go home-at whatever hour and whip out the scene.

Well, it works for me. :)

Courtney Ballinger said...

I'm the same way about having to read a good book if I just read a bad one. Great points, Krista. I started reading a novella collection (an older one with authors I've always enjoyed). Turns out, the writing is elementary. :( I was so disappointed.
But now I'm reading a great book, so that helps.
Great post!

Krista Phillips said...

Casey, I agree!!! We all lament about the "wait" to get published, but the wait I think is what makes some authors even better, when the spend it honing craft and getting better and better!

Krista Phillips said...

Mary, movies are totally inspirational for kickstarting the muse!!! I chose books this time because I'm HORRIBLY behind in my reading.... I just haven't had time. So it was a 2-in-1 kind of deal, LOL

Krista Phillips said...

Courtney, I don't think that's uncommon. Especially if it was some of their first works. I think we all hope we can get better the more we write!!! (that, and writing even 10 years ago had a much different gauge and feel to it than it does now!)

Courtney Ballinger said...

Very true. This one was old, as in about a year or two. But the authors' full-length novels are still enjoyable. :)

Laurie Tomlinson said...

But what do you mean, Krista? I'm pretty sure everyone who doesn't like my writing just doesn't get my VOICE! ;)

Excellent post. One I wish so many would read before going indie!

Krista Phillips said...

Laurie... the thing is, I don't think they KNOW.

Heck, don't we all live in fear of being "that one" who gets published? I mean, I KNOW I do. SOMEONE out there (probably LOTS of someones) have read my books and thought, "Geez, who the heck published THIS chick?"

and I'm sure they've said the same about my indie book as well.

That was one of my big indie fears too. Is that everyone would slap the "crappy indie" label on my writing, but just not tell me and smile to my face.

I'll admit. I've done that many times myself.

But I've also read quite a few traditional publishing book that I wonder how they ever got through editorial.

It's hard.
Because it's subjective.

But things like QUALITY crit groups, and QUALITY editing, and people who will be brutal to your book... you NEED those. It's the only way to lessen (not avoid) the "ugh, how did she get published" comments :-) :-)

Krista Phillips said...

That said... I'll say it now. Y'all are free to tell me if my books suck. Nicely... privately... but please let me know if I'm doing a crappy job of it! Pretty please!!!