Friday, November 30, 2007

This Kind Of Thing Makes Me Anxious

This fall I gave up reading a book after page twenty-five. There was nothing wrong with the author's writing technically. No dangling modifiers. No overuse of adverbs. No run-on sentences. No sentence fragments. There were no paragraphs that went on for pages. The author had all that down.

So what's your problem, Gail? My problem was the book was loaded with stereotypical kid characters and situations. You had the middle grade girl whose best friend wants to run with the cool crowd. You had the brother who calls his sister all kinds of names. You had mother/daughter tension. It was all stuff I'd read before, written in ways I'd seen before.

What distresses me about this situation? What is it about this book that makes me, myself, feel anxious?

Well, as I said, there was nothing wrong with the sentence by sentence writiing. This author knew how to do that. What's more, I'm sure the author felt her work had something unique about it, something valuable. All of us writers think that.

If she could be wrong (as I think she was, though, of course, that's just me), isn't it possible that the rest of us are wrong, too? Or at least some of us are wrong? Me, for instance?

How can we be sure that what we've done is as good as we think it is?

I hope that I'm just being self-centered, that whatever I read I have to make about me. Yeah. That's it. This has nothing to do with realizing around 4:30 this afternoon that the chapter I was working on was just talk, talk, talk and nowhere near as good as I'd thought it was. I'm just self-involved. Whew.

It's good to be the queen!


Keri said...

I have definitely seen this as a trend lately. Books that I probably would have liked if I had read them a few years ago I find boring and uninspiring even though the writing is solid. I don't read quite as much in the middle grade genre, but in young adult most of the "romance" books I've read recently have had the flattest love interests imaginable - and sometimes the protagonists are just as bad (in first person narratives!). If there is nothing in the characters that is unique and the plot has been done before millions of times, why should I bother reading it?

gail said...

I wonder if some authors haven't read much in the genre in which they've chosen to write. Thus they don't know that the situation they've chosen to write about--which may be very realistic and true to life--has been dealt with many, many times before.