Monday, 8 July 2013

When being a writer ruins reading...


A plotting point - how can a deaf boy sign to his companions in a dark cave? Don't they need to see him?

I'm currently reading Hollow Earth by John and Carole Barrowman, from which the above situation is taken. The premise of the story is good - twins who draw pictures that come to life, whose abilities are sought by villains trying to access Hollow Earth: a place where demons, devils and imagined creatures lie trapped. 

Unfortunately, I'm getting more and more frustrated with what appear to be pretty basic errors in this book - like repeated information, unrealistic dialogue, too much tell and not enough show. Now I'll gladly hold my hands up to state - this is my own personal opinion,  and this post isn't about the book and its merits - it's about whether being a writer ruins reading.

I wonder whether I'll ever be able to read a book without always thinking 'I'd have written that differently' or 'ping-pong dialogue' or 'that could've been tightened', etc etc. Does trying to become a writer yourself mean that you also become a dreadful critic of others because you're constantly on the lookout for things you can improve? 

I hope not. 

Of course it's always easier to see improvements elsewhere, because you're often far too close to your own work to make an objective decision on it. It sometimes takes another person to come up with exactly the word that you meant, but used twenty-three to say! I feel very strongly that this kind of improvement should be done before your book goes to print, preferably by yourself as the author or your editor - not by the reader. Some rough bits might still get through to the printed page, but it's our duty as authors to make our books the best they can possibly be for the reader who will pay good money for them. I can't help feeling that several of the books I've read recently could have done with a bit more spit and polish before being released on the world. 

Perhaps I've just got to learn to turn my inner critic off at certain times, so the reader in me can enjoy the written word again... 


  1. Dropping in from the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Nice blog!

    I find that when I'm trying to write fiction - I do well to stay away from mysteries because my inner critic comes out full force. I usually read biographies or something more mundane to keep her quiet.

    1. Good to have you dropping by, Sushiboofay! I think I might just pick up one of my old favourites for a bit - good old Sir Terry P and Discworld; I know the stories off by heart, but they're much better to read.

  2. When I decided to write a detective novel, without knowing very much at all about the genre, I began an intensive read, limiting myself initially to Scottish (mine was set in Edinburgh) but extending to Irish, for the pleasure of the writing. I aways mean to critique as I go but get sucked in to the story and in truth am incapable of the sort of analysis which you speak of - perhaps when I've done the self-edit course which is pencilled in for next year? - but truly bad writing has me hurling the offending book across the room.