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Writing – Reading

Posted by mcm0704 on May 6, 2019 |

What a fun-filled, busy weekend I had these past few days. Friday, I drove to Winnsboro to spend some time with my friend, Becky Pickett, play cards that evening with a few other Winnsboro friends, and get ready for Saturday, which was the Second Annual Festival of Books, hosted by the Winnsboro Center For the Arts.

Photo courtesy of Jim Willis

It was so nice to share a table with my co-author on a number of history books, Bill Jones, as well as see many of my friends from the art center. It is so exciting and energizing to get together and share that creative spirit, but I came home exhausted. A nap was the only thing on my agenda for Sunday. 🙂

In keeping with this whole books, reading, writing theme, I thought I’d share a couple of things about writing that I ran across recently.

This first is from a May 2017 entry on a blog Craft Your Content. This article was about famous authors and their writing styles. The whole article, which focuses mainly on classic literary authors, is interesting. Well, maybe just for us writers and a few readers, but this one quote about J.K. Rowling caught my attention:

Rowling’s writing style is not often analyzed because it falls under “commercial fiction,” rather than literary fiction. Literary critics don’t tend to spend time analyzing works that aren’t doing anything experimental with their writing style. Commercial fiction is transparent in its prose and its intent—to entertain and to tell a good story. Its main focus is on pleasing the audience.

I thought that was the best distinction between literary and commercial writing that I’d seen.

This next offering is from a post at Writer Unboxed by Barbara Linn Probst  in which she wrote about the results of a survey she’d created and shared on several Facebook readers’ forums. The point was to find out why readers love some novels above others. She thought it was a question writers and others in the book industry should be asking, but too few are.

Here is a sampling of some of her results:

  • The characters, including their interactions (24%)
  • Specifically, within the category of “characters”:
    Well developed, authentic/relatable characters (11.4%)
  • Emotional connection/caring about the characters (5%)
  • A great storyline, with plenty of twists and turns (11.5%)
  • The experience of immersion and emotional engagement (9%)
  • A chance to learn something new/made me think (6.3%)
  • The quality of the writing, including the voice (6%)

Barbara went on to talk a little about what surprised her in some of the responses to her informal survey – the main surprise being in that respondents did not rank “initial encounter” as high on the list of things than make them love a novel. It seems that agents and editors may be more focused on that spectacular first page or first chapter than readers.

In writers’ workshops it is frequently said that we must hook the reader on that first page, and according to this reader response, maybe that isn’t so true after all. Not that our first page should be awful, but maybe we don’t need that inciting incident right there at the beginning. Maybe we can spend a little time setting up a wonderful, engaging character that the reader is going to love and with whom the reader is going to spend the next 300 or so pages.

Finishing with a few quotes from writers, taken from Writer’s Digest Online:

“Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life.”
Hunter S. Thompson

“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.” George Orwell

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” Ernest Hemingway

“Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps 20 players. … I have 10 or so, and that’s a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them.” Gore Vidal

“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.” Peter Handke

I love that last quote. What about you? Does one resonate over the other with you? Do you have big plans for the week? Whatever it holds for you, be safe and be happy.

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