Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reading As a Writer

While being published is still quite new to me, I've been writing for as long as I can remember. This tends to affect how you read -- at least it has for me. You tend to analyze what is working and what is not working in a book.

In my case, it also affects what I read. I find it inspiring to read about writing, or just about the creative process in general. Yet there are some widely held truths in writing instruction that catch me up.

One in particular is about writing style. Don't get hung up on style, these books warn. As long as your writing style doesn't get in the way of the reader, it's fine. Most readers are more interested in plot.

These things are probably all very true. My problem is that writing style is what turns me on or off a book very quickly. If I don't like the writing style, I really don't care how good the plot is because I can't move forward on the page. And there have been some very popular authors whose styles made their books impossible for me to read.

How about you guys? Is there an element of a book that is a dealbreaker? Is writing style a crucial part of your reading pleasure?

1 comment:

Angie said...

Great topic. :D

For me, a major deal breaker (for a writer, not just one book) is stupid stuff. If you don't know something, look it up. Everyone here has access to Google; use it. And learn how to use the info you get.

If I see one more historical or semi-historical (fantasy with recognizable setting, that sort of thing) state that 30 was "old" in the Middle Ages, I'm going to scream. :/ "Average life expectancy" does NOT mean everyone was born, lived that long, then keeled over. Learn what an "average" is if you slept through fifth grade arithmetic.

Another deal breaker for me is sex that's been duct-taped on. Sex just for the sake of sex bores me silly, and when I come to a sex scene that doesn't further the plot, show character, develop the relationship, something, I start skimming. If I skim too much in a book, I start to regret buying it, and I probably won't buy anything else by that writer.

Style isn't a big issue for me unless it's so over-blown or so awkward or clunky that it gets between me and the story. I love stylized stories when they're done well -- see Steven Brust's book The Phoenix Guard for an awesome example. But it's one of those things you absolutely have to do right or it'll backfire on you. If you can pull it off, go for it. If not, stick with a clean, transparent style and let the reader enjoy the story without the ruffles and gingerbread.