Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A writing moment

I haven't been doing enough for myself recently. Family funeral, birthdays, sick kid, and we're all running a little ragged. So in the quiet times I've been picking up some popular books to try to bottle the elements that make them successful.

My theory: If it's published, there must be something you can learn from it. Some of my current reading choices in fiction include The Time Traveler's Wife and Wuthering Heights. So beautifully written it's stunning. I'm also reading a bestselling young adult series out of curiosity.

Confession time. I've seen interviews with this author ... we'll call her Jane. Jane's written four books in a bestselling series. And she irritated me from the first moment I saw her on TV. "I had a really vivid dream and spent the next three months writing my story," she said. After a mere 15 queries, she was represented. Now her series has garnered movie rights, merchandising. Complete saturation. She was portrayed as your average housewife who just got a good idea and wrote it down. Really? That easy?

Not quite true. In reality, Jane has a degree in English Literature. So, at the very least, we know she's well read. And she's probably done a fair amount of writing, too.

Now I don't want to be a hater. But I will admit, I haven't found the stories to be well written. They break a lot of rules ... and not in a way that makes them better stories. Dream sequences, waking to alarms, pages of dullness as the main character does homework and chores. Large spaces of time where nothing happens.

But these are bestsellers, man! And the answer is in what Jane does well. Accessibility. First, her young readers want an easy read with characters they can relate to. Check. The main character is your average girl ... just like them. Check. And in between her normal teenage problems she has amazing adventures with an absolutely perfect boyfriend.

Writers write because they dream. So Jane is right. Sometimes our more primitive dreams make the best stories. So I'm going to finish reading these books in the spirit they were written. Not to admire the language and the craft, but to be immersed in the dream.

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