Tuesday, September 02, 2008


"He decided to try a different strategy. Waving an arm, a window opened..."

No, we're not in some cybernetic future where architectural elements are embellished with humanoid limbs: the arm was being waved by "he", not by the window. I actually read this in a novel yesterday. The author just got an MFA from a popular fiction writing program.

Never mind that any college graduate should know better than to commit this error (and it's not an isolated occurrence: the book averaged one or two of these per chapter). This author went to graduate school specifically to study fiction writing. What on earth did that program teach?

And didn't this book get vetted by an editor before it went to print?

Todd and I really enjoyed the first two books in this series (titles withheld), but the third book was a serious disappointment. Besides the above-mentioned sloppiness, the whole book goes by in a kind of monotone: stuff that should be emotionally loaded happens, the characters don't particularly react, the plot stumbles on. People keep switching sides and betraying one another, for no apparent reason. Most of the newer characters aren't fleshed out enough for any motivation to be provided.

Overall, it looks like the author just got tired. Tired of the story, the setting, the characters, or simply of the act of writing: God knows, it can be exhausting. Todd's comment is that it seems like the story turned into "work" instead of "fun". I can understand that.

But, dammit. I turned out my 2000 words per day for two solid months last fall, in between dealing with bereavement, financial troubles, sick pets, and holding down my day job. And no-one was offering to pay me for it.

Maybe that's exactly the problem this author is having: deadline pressure, contractual obligations, the common (and perniciously toxic) perception that anything for which one is paid automatically becomes "work" rather than "fun". As though the two were necessarily mutually exclusive.

The bad news: There's another book forthcoming in this series. What are the odds it'll be any better?

Collection available! Knocking from Inside

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