Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Keep it relevant


Just finished reading a book, the 2nd book in what is purported to be an epic trilogy.

I will not divulge the writer or the book, as this is not intended to be a book review and this is definitely NOT a book review blog.

However, after reading this book I thought it was imperative I pass along my thoughts on what this author did with his second book.

Basically, he flubbed it.


That’s about as direct (and as polite) as I can get.

And in the spirit of TOTAL disclosure, I love this author. And I love the books -- even book two. And I will buy the third book when it comes out (I hate not knowing the ends of things).

So, given that I love the books and author, what did this guy do with book 2 that has my knickers in a bunch?

In a nutshell: the author provided us with a wonderful “set” of stories that are a “nice-to-know” bunch of tales but really add absolutely nothing to the overall story and really do nothing to move us into book 3.

He flubbed it.

I’m serious. I pretty much believe at this point that I could have completely skipped book 2 and gone on to book 3 and would still be able to figure out where I was and what was happening in the story.

Book 2 was a bunch of fluff.

It’s pretty sad too, as this fellow is a great author with a great book deal with a well known publisher.

Yes, he is a TRADITIONALLY published author.

And this book... it’s like the phone book.

HUGE.

Being his second book, I am betting he had a little bit more leeway from the publisher and editor. But the first book in the trilogy was huge too.

I believe that almost 30-40% of what was written could have been left out and the story would not have suffered. In fact, the story would have been stronger for it.

But as it stands, it’s just a nice long collection of a bunch of tales... yada yada.

Now, imagine if this was the FIRST book?

Think about THAT for a minute!

Self pub, or traditional pub, it would have been a FLOP!

Guaranteed.

Whatever the reason this second book got published the way it did, there is no way it would have been allowed as a first.

As a FIRST book or as a standalone, it would have failed.

Why?

One reviewer called it a “mess”.

I agree. It was all over the place. There were 990 pages of great stand alone stories, and then 10 pages at the end trying to wrap it all up into something remotely recognizable as a cohesive tale.

That just did not work.

In the end, I had not one shred of tangible information that made me feel like the story had progressed from the end of Book One.

And that’s exactly what I want to point out today.

This is the lesson that we as writers should ALL take to heart.

If we want a good book that sticks to the storyline and makes a cohesive tale all the way throughout, then we MUST Make the story matter! The WHOLE story.

Give the reader the feeling that the hours spent slogging through the pages was worth it... that, in the end, they know something real and valuable about the characters and have a reason to want to come back.

Don’t JUST throw the kitchen sink at them.

You have to give them bread, and cheese, and wine, and candles... you have to give the readers the ONE story... not a BUNCH all in one that you think is a story just because you say it is!

Where’s the build up?

What’s the main tension and conflict?

How does it all tie in together?

Where’s the big climax?

Where’s the wrap up, or the cliff hanger that makes me want to look at the next book?

In a large tale, you are bound to have multiples of these things. But you HAVE to have ONE constant theme to make the LARGER story remain coherent!

If you add these elements to the smaller stories but leave these things out of the larger story, the overall story will suffer.

There will be nothing to cement the smaller (possibly interesting stories) together to make the main story interesting.

Again, I am trying to be polite here because I love the author and I love the books.

But sometimes I wonder how this stuff gets printed?

I guess in many ways I still expect the traditional published authors with the publishing deals and the editors and the proofreaders hanging all over it to give me more than this.

But then again... there is 50 Shades of whatever out there.

I am once again reminded of why I am happy to be an indie author.

The key, as always, is good writing.

You have to write well and be able to tell a good story to keep readers intrigued.

But what about when you have all those things and STILL something is missing?

You get the book I just read... all 1000 pages of a bunch of great tales all by themselves, but you DO NOT get a great total package story.

Here’s one rule: Just KEEP IT RELEVANT.

That’s the key, I think, in making it all come together.


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