August 10th, 2012


further on rookie mistakes

In comments on that last post, someone said: “I would like to read what you think should be thrown away. I’m not sure I’d agree.”

Here’s the thing: you’re right. You wouldn’t agree. But you would be wrong.

I have written entire books without plots. I am a good enough writer that I can almost get away with that, and without an editor who wouldn’t let me, in one case, I would have. And that’s what’s wrong with what I’ve been working on: I had something that looked like a plot, but it wasn’t really. It was interesting, entertaining encounters between characters. Some exciting things happened. Reading it would have been fun.

But if I wrote the whole book that way, a reader would enjoy reading it and get to the end and feel like something was missing. They wouldn’t know what exactly, just that it didn’t feel quite right, and they’d keep looking at it trying to figure out what was wrong and they wouldn’t be able to quite put their finger on it.

Which is essentially what I’d been doing in the 6 weeks I’d been working on the book. The really critical thing, though, is if I pushed through and wrote that plotless book and, God forbid, an editor let it slide on through to publication…

…then I would be leaving my readers disappointed, even if they couldn’t quite put their finger on why. And if I did that, then next time a book of mine came out they might say, “Eh, meh, the last one was okay but I donno, maybe I’ll wait a while until I get this one…” and that’s one way careers are destroyed.

It’s really not that what I was writing wasn’t well-written, or even unreadable. It’s that ultimately it wouldn’t have provided a satisfying reading experience, and *that* is why it had to be thrown out.

(x-posted from the essential kit)