Querying update: So finding the fun worked so well that I’m about a quarter of the way through an agent requested revision of Tiger Eye! And having a lot of fun with it. While I work through this revision, and while the publishing industry is on holidays, I’ve held off on querying, so I won’t have any news for another month or so.
Next week, if I have the time what with all the parties and fun stuff, I’ll post an entry on Resolutions… the triumphs, the defeats and rallying for a new year. In the meantime, I’ve assembled a short list of my favourite reads for the year and what they have taught me about writing and myself. Most of these didn’t come out this year, I just read them this year – my budget is tight and I buy mostly from second hand stores!
1. Shiver and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Why I loved it so: It’s a love story that grows you, stretches you, never falls into cliche and stays true to character. Bittersweet. Lovely.
Taught me about writing: Words can be beautiful as well as functional. This might be obvious, but I spent most of my childhood writing flowery descriptions and much of the time since then cutting out every word that doesn’t serve a purpose (blame my journalism training). Maggie’s writing taught me beauty and purpose go hand in hand and the most beautiful description is the true one.
Taught me about myself: I love me some angst! It feels unkind to say so but I want characters to suffer. I want to feel when I read. I want to be touched. I want to read through my tears as I sob on the couch.
2. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
Why I loved it so: Voice! Character! Compared to a YA or a hard boiled mystery (of which I have read A LOT this year) the plot unfolded quite slowly and not a lot really happened until the very end, but I was so sucked in by this character! I would read Odd’s shopping list if I could.
Taught me about writing: How integral voice is in a story. The character’s speech patterns, his/her observations and world view, all should reveal character and draw the reader into the world. Especially when the world is as weird as Odd’s.
Taught me about myself: I love a good thriller. I didn’t know this before, as I’ve never read many thrillers. I lovelovelovelovelove them! Give me fear, give me anticipation, make me read until the wee hours of the morning and I’ll be happy.
3. Bag of Bones by Stephen King
Why I loved it so: It was so different than anything I’ve ever read… mainly because I’ve never read King before! Which is a travesty because he is such a great writer. He’s the type of writer than I want to be. I don’t care much about awards and the stamp of literary approval from the critics. I care about the reader. I want them to love what they are reading, be so sucked in that they can’t put the book down. King is great at honesty in his writing, too, and I’m not quite there yet. I care too much what people will think of me. This is something I want to work on.
Taught me about writing: Story comes from character. The whole ‘boys in the basement’ metaphor – just because I’m not at a keyboard doesn’t mean I’m not working on my writing – I’m letting my subconscious work. Also, much about how to write ‘creepy’ scenes.
Taught me about myself: Whoops, kind of answered that one above. One of my biggest writing fantasies is having King read one of my books and give it a positive review.
4. The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
Why I loved it so: Ultimate zombie book. And ocean! I’d love almost anything that was set by the ocean. This was the book I’d hoped Ryan’s first would be. And the primary difference between the two: character.
Taught me about writing: How important it is to have a relatable main character. I loved the plots of both Forest and Waves, but I hated Mary and I loved Gabry and that made all the difference. Relatable doesn’t mean without flaws – on the contrary, flaws are what makes a character relatable. But at some point a character can become so damaged that they are a complete shell, and not interesting to read about at all. I encountered this in the Hunger Games series as well. In order to feel connected to a character, and in turn the story, the character needs to feel strongly about things – preferably people. They need to care about their actions. They need to have loved ones. Without these things it’s hard to care about the story at all. I’m not saying this is true for all fiction, just true for the stories I like to read.
Taught me about myself: I like to read stories about people I can relate to on an instinctual level. Also with the angst 😀
5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Why I loved it so: Oh, how I love a good dystopian. My first was the Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody, and I like this book almost as much. The second and third, not quite so much due to plot conveniences and the character stuff I mentioned above.
Taught me about writing: How to keep a reader in your grip. How to write violence and tragedy without going to a place of despair. How characters can be outwardly strong but inwardly weak and broken, and how much the reader wants them to become fixed by the end of the book/series.
Taught me about myself: How I’m not quite so bothered by violence in fiction as I am violence in movies/tv. I wonder why this is… Also, I will always root for the boy the girl loved first.
And I’m out of time folks, but I hoped you enjoyed this little run down. I’d like to make a few comments on what I think this list as a whole reveals about me and my writing but that will have to wait for later.