Today’s guest post is kindly provided by Margaret Yang and Harry R Campion
We are going to tell you a secret.
All writers know it. None of them talk about it.
The secret is this: writers hate a lot of the books we read.
Not all of them, mind you, and not in a malicious way. It has nothing to do with jealousy or spite. It’s just a horrible side-effect of being a writer. We see every plot twist coming, know why characters can and can’t do certain things, and see every subtle bit of foreshadowing as a huge neon sign. We understand how stories are put together because we put them together ourselves. We always see the support structure underneath the pretty prose.
It sounds arrogant, doesn’t it? As if novelists think they are too good to read other people’s fiction. But it’s not that. We just see behind the curtain, and it doesn’t matter if we’re reading master writers or untalented hacks. There is no pride in this. It’s actually really sad.
All of us wanted to be writers because we love books. We grew up losing ourselves in fictional worlds. The more we write, the less those worlds have the power to draw us in. Ask any writer when was the last time she lost track of the outside world while reading. Ten years ago? Twenty? Her answer will tell you how long she’s been a serious writer. Most of us don’t enjoy movies as much as we used to, either. Same reason.
We all have our personal work-arounds. Some writers do their pleasure reading in a different genre—science fiction writers reading mysteries, or romance writers reading thrillers. Some read more literary fiction, hoping the unique turns of phrase will compensate for the predictable (to us) plots. Some read only indie authors, hoping to find something quirky—something that hasn’t been homogenised by big publishers trying to appeal to a mass audience. Others re-read novels they loved when they were younger, hoping to recapture the wonder.
In the most ironic twist of all, many writers start reading less. Some watch massive amounts of television, getting their fiction fix through a different medium. Or, they read only non-fiction because the fictional worlds they loved so much are no longer welcoming. Some of the writers who produce the best fiction no longer consume it.
But not all of us. Most of us still read fiction. And every so often we come across a book that’s different—a novel that buries the superstructure of the plot, crafts seamless characterisation, and disguises the exposition so well its own mother wouldn’t recognise it. Those are the books that surprise and amaze us. Those are the books we want to read.
And here’s an even bigger secret. Those are also the books we hope, someday, to write.
About the authors: Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion are the authors of The Caline Conspiracy, Fate’s Mirror, and Taking the Highway, all published under the shared pen name M.H. Mead. The authors live in Michigan, where they are hard at work on their next book. To learn more about them, visit their website www.yangandcampion.com