I’ve been doing a lot more reading lately than I have in months past, just for the pure joy of reading.
A while back I gave up on the idea of reading computer programming books and took the family to our local Borders and spent a C-note on reading books. Money mostly well spent. A few hiccups, but nothing I can’t live with. LOML liked her haul too … mostly.
Well, there are a few reasons for that.
For one thing, there’s a disconnect between what we see in bookstores and what those trying to get onto bookshelves are told. I thought, at first, it was me and my incredible, raging arrogance that all the books I looked at seemed to be … well, lousy. I poked around the tiny section called “horror” and picked up a classic collection of H. P. Lovecraft’s, found Stephen King’s On Writing and grabbed a copy of Self-Editing and Revising by Jason Scott Key. Oh, and re-acquired the ol’ standby, The Elements of Style by Messrs. Strunk and White.
I grabbed one other book for pleasure. My love picked up a Jodi Picoult, an Amy Tan and some unheard-of author – at least for us. She seemed pretty happy with her haul, too … until we started reading.
We noticed something. New, aspiring or wannabe authors are told time again to strengthen their prose. Cut adverbs, use stronger verbs and nouns, limit adjectives, omit needless words (Rule 17 in Strunk and White, by the way). Keep it clean, make sure it moves the story forward. If you have a prologue that doesn’t separate from your main story by either time, distance or both, rename it “Chapter One” and go from there. Write a story that hooks from the very outset, and then use every technique known to man to keep the reader interested and entertained, tense, horrified, intrigued, mystified, whatever.
And that’s fine – it’s all good advice and makes for better writers. Right?