Posts Tagged ‘writing a book’

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The Perfect Book

January 24, 2009

“This is why I’m not good at being witty in real life. I think I’m so clever that I start laughing before I finish what I’m saying.”

-JLY

It’s probably no secret that JLY and I both enjoy writing SFA quite a bit… That should probably be reward enough for toiling over our pages… But I do take great delight whenever I see on the forum or in an email that someone is enjoying reading our work.

On the other hand, it makes me sad, sometimes, to know that some people… okay, possibly a lot of people… aren’t going to like our book.

There are many reasons for this, some of which have already been elaborated on in various comments, and others that are simply reasons I know, reasons that keep me awake at night every now and then, wondering if we should have done things differently.

I should probably admit that this is in no small part my own fault. I’ve developed a bad habit of reading the Amazon reviews for other books. It’s oddly fascinating to read the 5-star reviews, and horribly terrifying to read the 1-star reviews. Even great books, amazing books that are given 5 stars by reviewer after reviewer can be ripped to shreds by a single scathing 1-star review. How can some people hate a book so passionately, and other people love it so entirely?

The answer, I think, is both reassuring and unsettling. It’s just that people have different tastes, different things they look for, different things they love and hate.

For example, with our story, I know there are going to be people who don’t like the pace, people who don’t like the characters, and people who don’t like the plot (or lack there of in the beginning). But I also know– or at least hope– that there will be people who love seeing the school before we launch into the story, people who delight in watching the simple stereotypes blossom into deeper characters, and people who read foreshadowing into the early events that prepared the way for the main plot.

Writing is about making choices, and those choices come with trade-offs. The trade-off to getting a big, fun cast is that you might lose people when you introduce so many new faces at once. The trade-off to spending time on bullies, social events, and all the high school details is that there’s less time for the epic fantasy elements. The trade-off for entertaining ourselves with funny jokes and twists is that we undercut the dramatic elements.

One of my friends recently read our story, and he commented that he was taken by surprise when everything in the ending started happening, since up until then, it’s a happy little story without much danger.

Part of that is intentional. We wanted the twists to come as a significant surprise, but the trade-off is that there’s less urgency early on. Wisteria having a bodyguard, for example, seems completely superfluous at first. Rakam comes off as a slacker tag-along set on annoying her and making an easy buck… But we all know how that one ends.

Ultimately, there are many different ways that we could have told our story… I strongly believe that the published version is much, much stronger than the draft that is on the website. Even so, sometimes I still wonder if we should have told it a different way…

But if writing is about trade-offs, then I think the best we can do is to write from the heart, and write what we love… Because there’s no such thing as a Perfect Book that everyone will love… There will always be people who like a book, and people who don’t. And if you write for someone else, for what you think other people will like, at best you’ll still end up displeasing some readers, and at worst your writing will ring false to your readers and to yourself as well. The best I think we writers can hope for is to write for ourselves, and if someone else happens to like it, then we can consider ourselves very, very lucky.

And on that subject, I have a confession.

If you couldn’t tell, last week’s post is one of my favorites. JLY and I have had this scene planned for quite some time, so we’ve been looking forward to finally getting here. We’ve debated for a while how we wanted to play this scene… Ultimately, we had had to do it this way… It was just too much fun.

There are a lot of different ways that this scene could have happened. Perhaps more dramatically, perhaps with more suspense. But here we are, and I happen to personally like it the way it is.

You see, here at SFA, we write because it’s fun. We wouldn’t be able to sit inside on a Friday night and write for hours if it weren’t fun. We can be serious when we need to be, but our default setting is ‘have a good time’. And I can imagine that a lot of our choices aren’t very traditional, or might be very different than how other writers would do it… But maybe (hopefully?) different can be a good thing?

So that’s my rambling for today, but before I go, my sincerest thanks to everyone like mjkj and Mary who has helped so far with The Great Tagging Project (I’m compulsively checking to see if we ever claim the #1 spot for “Young Adult Fantasy” or “Young Adult”), to everyone who has bought the book, and to each person who has posted a review–Generic Pen Name, Charvale, Aiden Naecea, G. DiStefano, Larry Liang, and Drucilla Shultz–you definitely made our day, week, month! I’m savoring the time while we have a 5-star rating, since I know it’s doomed to not last for long…

KL

Quote for the week:

JLY: We have option A and B.
KL: What should we do?
JLY: Well, ‘A’ sounds funny…
KL: Yeah, let’s do that. Like we usually do. Whatever personally amuses us.

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