Monday, January 28, 2008

Writing is ruining EVERYTHING!

Sinead's last post and the resulting discussion is something we talk about a lot. Why are there so many bad books coming out? Do people really want to read these rehashed plots and cardboard characters? Well, the answer is clearly yes. The New York Times Bestseller list is filled with books that all seem vaguely familiar. And frankly, the problem isn't the books - it's us. We're writers and we're working on our craft and trying to figure things out and when we read a book - our inner editor is working full-time. Part of it is probably jealousy (how did this get sold when my books aren't) but most of it is what I heard a writer say (I want to say Laura Kinsale but I'm not sure) about why she doesn't read fiction anymore - "I've looked behind the curtain and seen the wizard." There's not much that can surprise us anymore - or mystify us - or really sweep us away. And because we've read so so so so much - and we all have, it's why we wanted to become writers - I think those things that do sweep us away are usually on the fringe. They're obscure and not seen before.

Romance is popular because it offers some predictability. It's just the nature of genre. And if we weren't trying to write it - we'd probably be a whole lot happier with it.

Writing has ruined reading. It's ruined movies and TV. It's ruined my Olympic swimming career and my knitting hobby. Damn you, writing. Damn you.


K J Gillenwater said...

I totally agree. Writing has ruined reading for me in some respects. If I read a new author, no matter how good, I find myself wanting no mistakes, high calibre of plot and character, something better than amateur. But what I am finding is that those types of books are very rare.

I have little patience or tolerance for mediocrity.

The only saving grace is to read books in completely separate genres from what I am writing.

Writing has not ruined TV or movies for me. Just because it is a different medium. I can still find high-quality shows & movies that challenge me.

BUT, I know it's gotten harder to be surprised or shocked. A lot of times I can guess where things are headed. I don't know if that comes with age, because I have watched and read more, so I learn the tricks---or because I write and just look at things differently.

For other readers out there, tv shows that recently have grabbed my attention and kept me guessing:

LOST (that's a given)
LIFE ON MARS (superb ending!)
and most recently BREAKING BAD

I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones that came to mind.

Natasha72 said...

It is January, isn't it? I'm working on positive self-talk, so here goes.

For me, reading is about escape. I beg the writer to take me to another place, make me forget about the piles of laundry, the ho-hum existence of constantly unloading the dishwasher, feeding children and falling asleep before there is any kind of exercise in the bedroom! Please, oh please, dear author, take me to your world and let me forget about mine for a little while.

Sometimes I can see the man behind the curtain and I curse him (and his little dog too). But oh, the magic when you forget there's a man behind the curtain. You're transported to Oz, and those red shoes don't look so tacky and the idea of a scarecrow that talks doesn't send you screaming under your covers. That's why I keep reading because there are people out there who write so well my children have McDonalds for dinner because I've forgotten to start the crockpot.

And I'll keep studying craft because I want to be one of those people someday.


Kimber Chin said...

Well, I know for darn certain that writing is ruining my girlish figure. LOL

BTW... in an upcoming post, could you please address when you felt like a writer?

We just came back from a convention and the hubby pointed out that over the entire week of meeting new people (including a product developer for Sony eBooks), I never once mentioned that I was a writer. Not once. I still see myself as a businesswoman who happens to have written a book.

Was wondering when the magic flip with switch.

Anonymous said...

Yep, ruined a lot of my reading as well, and because of writing, I can't cook, sew, or garden and don't have any hobbies.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Sinead - did you have plans of being a seamstress?

Thanks Kristin for that list of TV shows - I can't wait for Damages to get here and I have never heard of Life on Mars or Torchwood - have to check those out. I got a little tired of the Pushing Daisies voice over -- it just killed it for me. Maybe if it were shorter? Not sure.

And, I'm with you Tasha -- it's not like I've given up on reading because when it's good there's nothing better.

Maureen McGowan said...

Your insight that our tastes probably run along the fringe of what the average reader wants is likely right, but terrifies me. Terrifies me in terms of finding that magic intersection between books I want to write and books that might actually sell...
But I am encouraged that some of those "fringe" authors we like who pushed the edges of the genre boundaries are NYT bestsellers... They might get ripped to shreds with some reviews for, but the readers find them.

Maureen McGowan said...

and I'm laughing at Sinead's comment too. Yes, if she weren't writing she'd totally be gardening and sewing and cooking. Not.

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