Lou resting and questioning (July 2015)
Several years ago, I embarked on a project to read nothing but first novels by up and coming Canadian novelists. I would search out “debut novels” every time I walked into a book store or library. I didn’t search out award winning books. Or, books recommended by critics, friends, or colleagues. No. I wanted to read books written by relative unknowns. Aspiring writers with the skill to weave an interesting, and compelling story. Eventually, I had a stack of books waiting on my desk.
My intent was simple. I wanted to see how my writing might compare. You see, I think there is a novel buried within, a story that needs to be told, and yet I question whether I have the skill, patience, and commitment to get it done. And, quite frankly, whether anyone would want to read it.
So, for the past several years, I have been reading a lot of “debut novels”. None of them really impressed me. None of them moved me to tears (not the way Restart Urgently Needed does), or had me sitting on the edge of my seat wondering what might happen next. They were an ok read. Unmemorable.
Would that be me? An ok read.
Chas: “Don’t worry. We can always go for a ride.”
They were all ok. Unmemorable. That is all but one. There was one book that once I put it down, I didn’t want to pick it up again. And it’s not that I didn’t try. For three years, I tried reading this book. At the cottage, when I had a lot of time. And, at home, when my reading time is more curtailed. I would pick it up, read a few pages, perhaps a chapter, maybe two or three, but it is the kind of book you put down and don’t pick up again.
I brought the book to the cottage with me, determined to read it. I wanted, once and for all, to determine if it is the book, or me. Perhaps I was in the wrong mood to appreciate the work. Perhaps I was tired every time I picked it up. Or, perhaps I just wasn’t ready for it.
Well, a week ago I picked up the book. Again. This time I persevered. And, finally, last night I finished it. Without a doubt, it was the most difficult, disappointing, lack lustre novel I have ever read. I won’t tell you the title, or author. I don’t think that would be fair. You might experience it differently. But, I am going to share with you why I found it so difficult.
It was too wordy. The story could have been told in half the time. Characters and dialogue were introduced that added nothing to the story line or character development. I found myself quickly scanning pages, hoping to find something, anything, that might lead to the killer, some new evidence, a new plot. But no. I laboured on, wanting to put the book down. And, I did.
The story line was not believable. I want a story I can believe. A character I can empathize with. A man is killed. Accidentally. His body is not discovered until months later. The killer, a local teenager, not only doesn’t accept responsibility, and turn himself in, but later befriends the dead man’s best friend. Hmmm …
But most disappointing of all, there was no suspense. It simply dragged on. One dialogue to the next. Possible motives repeated. Some possible. Others improbable, totally out of character.
Chas: “I hate rides like that. Rides without surprises, without a climb and descent, without turns.”.
This was a 317 page struggle. A battle. I wanted to read something else. I put it down often, but made myself pick it back up the next day. I was determined to persevere. Determined to understand why I was having so much trouble with this particular book.
Now I know. It wasn’t me. It was a poor story line told in a manner that only served to confuse, anger, and disappoint.
So, would be writers out there, take heed. Make certain you have a worthwhile story to tell, get to the point, and add suspense.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it 🙂
Chas: “We never have an easy ride. You say it is easy, but it’s not. Even if it is flat, there’s a headwind. That’s what makes it fun. Interesting.”.