Wednesday, April 11, 2018

#amwriting From a Slightly Different Perspective by Margo Hoornstra

Lately on these pages, my fellow Roses have discussed the writing process from their perspective. The struggles to get a book just right before it’s presented to the public. Several things to be sure of include:

1. The main characters are properly fleshed out and believable
2. Keep point of view true and constant throughout
3. Close all story arcs
4. Tie up all loose ends
5. Provide a clear and satisfying ending
6. Once finished, make sure every word is right and punctuation is absolutely perfect

The only way to guarantee a product readers will flock to and buy. Right?

Well, I just finished a block buster, made into a movie, best seller by an amazingly prolific author. In paperback format, by the way. My thinking was to get some insight in to how it’s done correctly as I embarked on my latest effort. The book I read was written in the nineties, and still today ranks right up there in block buster bestsellerdom.

So, it stands to reason each and every item of the above checklist would have been strictly adhered to. Right?

To my surprise, not necessarily.

Here’s my humble opinion on how this book fared when compared to the above checklist test.

1. Main characters’ believability. This was done to a point, but more through the actual telling of their preferences rather than showing them react. Plus they were always in adrenaline mode. Never really acting human. And, half way through an otherwise smart heroine became TSTL, and almost didn’t.
2. Consistency in POV. Not hardly. Some first person, some third. Lots of omnipresent head hopping. Hard to follow at times.
3. Completed story arcs. While passably done, quite a few character actions were left hanging. Put there, IMHO, more for shock value than story substance.
4. Tie up loose ends. Again. A lot of shock value chapter endings with storylines that were never heard from again.
5. True and satisfying ending. While the ending was a real, well, ending that rang true; it wasn’t in the least bit satisfying. Again, IMHO. It was as if the whole build up of so many previous chapters was crammed into the last few pages as almost a series of after thoughts.
6. Perfect on the page. While, of course well done in this aspect. There were errors. A few periods and commas that were missed. Some passages that could have used another content edit. Certainly not perfect.

What does this tell us? In my opinion, again, it tells us that the books we write don’t have to be flawless, they just have to be…good.

How about you? Any books you’ve read recently that, while memorable in their own right, weren’t exactly perfect in each and every aspect?

As you ponder this deep and deliberate question, here's my latest effort, Book 1, in the Brothers In Blue series On The Surface

Maybe not flawless but, the best I could do in making it memorable.

My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and stories I write, please visit my website


Jannine Gallant said...

I think hype plays a huge part in creating a blockbuster. The 50 Shades books being an example. I don't know what stirs hype. Shock factor? Something different? Who the heck knows. If I did, I'd be writing it. But a perfectly written book doesn't seem to draw or enthrall the masses. Also, I feel like authors who already have a name can break what rules they want, and people will still read them. Habit plays a large part in buying choices. People aren't always willing to try something new, especially when there are an overwhelming number of choices. They'll stick with what they know, even if it's flawed. Probably, as writers, we're much more aware of those flaws than most.

Margo Hoornstra said...

I think you're right, Jannine. Hype sells and the product is secondary. Or so it seems. In some ways, it's kind of comforting to know we, as authors, don't have to be absolutely perfect. Just basically so. Maybe in this case, I was more aware of flaws than your average reader. Doesn't mean they weren't there. IMHO anyway.

J L Wilson said...

I seldom pick up a best seller anymore; I've been so disappointed in them in the past. I can't tell you how many books promised to keep me enthralled, but ... not so much. Authors with a Name can get away with it, I guess!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Sad but true, JL. Sometimes makes you wonder how big name authors got to the top in the first place.

Brenda Whiteside said...

I totally agree with JL. Mistakes happen for big authors as well as the little guy. But when the "rules" we've learned are ignored, it's the big guys that get away with it. Granted, I don't agree with all of these rules, but most of them make a book more readable. When those types are ignored, I don't care who the author is, it's not an enjoyable read.

Margo Hoornstra said...

I totally agree as well, Brenda. Downright maddening, isn’t it? Depending on one’s position, those screwups are considered ‘quaint’ or ‘eccentric’. Maybe we’re all going for the wrong things, being true and authentic and all. Could happen.

Leah St. James said...

I don't think that kind of success comes down to adhering to the writing rules that we all (at least to some extent) live by. I think readers will overlook all sorts of flaws once they're pulled into a story. One of my work editors attended a conference a few years back where one of the sessions was about the formula for a best-seller (must have done X by page Y kind of thing), and they studied best-sellers over time, from Gone With the Wind up to present day, all different genres. She said it was amazing how that success pattern was identified in each of those best-sellers. I also think sometimes it's just a matter of luck, as tough as that is to accept. How many times TPM (The Plot Master) and I have watched a movie, shaking our heads thinking, Someone paid for this garbage? We just keep trying, hoping for that lightning to strike!

Margo Hoornstra said...

You’re right, Leah. Most readers don’t read with the intensity another writer does. That conference session sounds very interesting. I’m with you with the someone paid for this garbage question. Has happened to us many, many times. I like your lightening strike idea. It could happen, huh?

Rolynn Anderson said...

I read a thread on PAN about 'triggers.' Our personalities and our backgrounds...and even real time events trigger positive and negative responses as we begin to read a novel. The story might be fabulous, but because of some trauma, the reader can't possibly get into the novel. With a mediocre novel...maybe the subject is just what the reader wanted to learn about. As many of you have said, luck and timing are involved... there are no sureties in this biz.

Margo Hoornstra said...

You’re exactly right, Rolynn. It’s the nature of all creatures to seek pleasure and avoid pain. No sureties in this biz, kind of nails it. Luck, timing, and, I might add, perseverance.

Alison Henderson said...

As everyone has said, luck, timing, and hype make all the difference when it comes to blockbusters. Readers' tastes change, and offering them just the right story at just the right time is a real crapshoot. And then there's the problem of getting the word out. All we can do is write our own stories and keep an eye out for innovative ways to put them in front of readers.

Alicia Dean said...

Great post. I agree about luck and timing. And, for me, the problem with some of these best-sellers isn't just the breaking of rules (rules don't matter as much as an engaging story), but these books are really just awful. Not only poorly written, but boring and not engaging with characters you just want to throat-punch. Who the heck knows how they become famous?

Diane Burton said...

Great topic, Margo. I'm frustrated when I read a highly-anticipated (by me) novel only to discover it isn't as good as I thought it would be. My inner critic finds flaws, plot-wise or presentation. I won't review it, but I wonder how it got to be published. The key, as Alicia says, is a great story. Something has to click with the reader to make us ignore the flaws and enjoy the story.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Well said, Alison. You’re exactly right. But oh to hit that ever elusive sweet spot.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Who the heck knows, indeed, Ally. Love the throat-punch visual. LOL

Margo Hoornstra said...

Hey, Diane. Welcome back. It is frustrating, isn’t it? You’re right, a great story can override a multitude of flaws.