Someone remembered my writing and used it as an example!
Of bad writing.
(Oh, come on. You had to see that coming.)
I can’t say that I disagree, per se. It wasn’t my best work and could have used some polishing. However, that’s not why it was used as an example. Of bad writing. (I might be a tad bitter.)
I know up front that I still have a lot to learn about the craft of writing. Loving to write, needing to write, being unable to stop writing, isn’t enough. That’s the truth I’ve come to grips with lately. Loving it isn’t enough. Very few of us are naturally “that good.” Most of us are good, but have to really work at the “that” part. I’m one of them, and that’s fine.
The reason it was held up as a bad example wasn’t because of the writing but because of where it started. Specifically, because this reader didn’t care about the character yet. There was no emotional involvement so why do we care about what is happening to the character.
OK. I see what she’s saying. Really, I do. But.
(Because you knew that was coming, too.)
Don’t you automatically care about the character because you picked up the book? Part of me wanted to say, isn’t that what book jackets and synopses for? You’re reading the book because your friend said it’s awesome, right? So, don’t you automatically want to know what happens even if you’re not emotionally connected to the character in the first 200 or so words? You don’t just give up on a book after 200 words do you? If you’re an agent, maybe, sure, but a reader? Don’t you keep reading a little further, just to see?
Personally, the soonest I’ve ever given up on a book was about 3 pages in. A record for me, to be sure, and it wasn’t because I didn’t emotionally connect with the character. It had to do with some really bad writing about testicles. Don’t ask. But that’s more than 200 words.
Don’t misunderstand. She wasn’t saying she had to like the character, which is a totally different thing. She just needed to connect. And that’s fine, for her. Not everyone needs to connect with a character just to keep reading.
Take The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I loved that book. But the first 70 pages. Yikes. What the hell was that? I couldn’t understand what all the fuss and hype was about. But, people told me not to give up and I didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t. And, in turn, I shared that advice with others who wanted to give up. Don’t, I said. I promise.
I didn’t connect with any character in the beginning because, frankly, there was no one really to connect with. Lots of set-up, no action. Boring. When I was reading it I remember thinking, I could easily condense this into about 3 pages and move on, but, that’s not how that book was written. I would have missed out if I had given up after 3 pages just because of the lack of connection.
So, what does this all mean? While the critique was coming from a good place, I just can’t agree. I started in the right place. Perhaps I needed more characterization for context and connection, but, no, I was right to start where I did.
And I’m going to keep going.