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View Full Version : What are you reading just now and what can you learn from the reading?



scarletpeaches
04-23-2007, 07:03 PM
I realise we have an AW book club, but this thread isn't intended to be about any one particular book or author, so figured it would fit here.

Anyhoo, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the books we're reading just now or have just started reading, and what we can take or learn from each to improve our own writing, concentrating on the positive aspects of each book. Even the worst book ever written must be able to teach us something - even how we don't want to write!

I've just got Pat Barker's Regeneration from my local library and cannot believe I didn't realise it features two of my favourite poets as main characters - boy do I feel daft! I've never even picked up the book before, so don't know what made me do so today. I can already tell I'm going to enjoy it.

So. What about you?

Stew21
04-23-2007, 07:45 PM
I've just started Tishomingo Blues by Elmore Leonard. Leonard has a knack for intricate and entertaining plots and characters. You seem to know the players instantly in just a few words. Definitely a learning experience in characterization.

MidnightMuse
04-23-2007, 07:53 PM
Dead Souls by Ian Rankin. I love his characterization - for me writing and reading is all in the characters, and Rankin does a good job of making them come to life without overdoing anything. His descriptions are quick and to the point while also being very full - he's using only as many words as necessary to tell a good story, and that's what I'm trying to improve upon myself.

Judg
04-23-2007, 08:04 PM
A Taste for Death by P.D. James. I wanted to read a few mysteries, because I haven't touched them in so many years, and I was so blown away by her Children of Men that she seemed the best one to start with. She is a genre writer with literary sensibilities, which is my favourite type of writer. That and literary writers who tell rocking good stories. I want it aaaaaaaaaaaaall, riveting stories with lots of depth and subtlety.

Novelust
04-23-2007, 08:06 PM
I'm trying to read more Urban Fantasy, and currently I'm working through 'Moon Called' by Patricia Briggs. I'm about halfway in, and the really interesting/jarring thing is that she gives the reader a lot of historical detail about her world. She'll stop the plot to tell the reader all about the history of the fae, werewolves, everything.

I guess it beats being horribly lost as a reader, but I can't help but feel I'd like her to just chuck me into the middle of the story, and keep the story going. She's built a very detailed world, and I applaud her for that, but I don't feel like stopping to check out all the architecture. :)

Judg
04-23-2007, 08:17 PM
She's built a very detailed world, and I applaud her for that, but I don't feel like stopping to check out all the architecture. :)
What a great way of expressing it!

tjwriter
04-23-2007, 08:17 PM
It gets better Novelust. I just finished it. Better than this other book of a similar vein where I spent 3/4 of it going, "Huh?"

When I get home, I can give the rundown on some of the really cool things I've learned in the massive quantities of books I purchased and read recently.

Novelust
04-23-2007, 08:41 PM
Hey TJ - I'm sticking with it. :) I like the plot and her writing; both are keeping me interested, but I sort of want to take a red pen to the infodump passages. "Do I need to know all this? Really? Right here? Right now? ...You sure? There's not going to be an exam later, is there?"

Novelhistorian
04-23-2007, 10:47 PM
I loved Regeneration too, Scarlet. Right now, I'm looking at Graham Greene's thrillers (Quiet American; Our Man in Havana) to see how a character-driven suspense novel can work.

scarletpeaches
04-23-2007, 10:48 PM
His The End of the Affair is on my 'favourite books of all time' list.

pconsidine
04-23-2007, 11:17 PM
I only read nonfiction, so what I learn tends to be whatever the book is about.

I've recently begun work on a new screenplay idea, so everything I'm reading is research for that. Given that I know nearly nothing about the world I'm going to be writing about, I guess I'll be at it for quite some time.

Arisa81
04-23-2007, 11:35 PM
I have just started Plan B by Emily Barr.
I have been trying to find a novel I can really get into for a while now. I've borrowed so many from the library that lose me within the first chapter. I'm just happy I've been able to get into this one.

Judg
04-23-2007, 11:47 PM
I only read nonfiction, so what I learn tends to be whatever the book is about.

I've recently begun work on a new screenplay idea, so everything I'm reading is research for that. Given that I know nearly nothing about the world I'm going to be writing about, I guess I'll be at it for quite some time.
If your screenplay is for a story as opposed to a documentary, you'd better start reading some fiction. You'll need it.

underthecity
04-24-2007, 12:00 AM
I wanted to read authors I had never read before, so last week I finished Ghost Story by Peter Straub. I discuss it in the AW Book Club if anyone wants to check it out. Overall, I thought it was good, but meandering, confusing, and at times, overwritten. And lots and lots of colons.

A few days ago I bought The Abandoned by Douglas Clegg at Borders. I've never heard of the book nor the author. I based my choice on the publish date (2005--I wanted to read recent horror), the back cover blurb, and the first page. I'm on page 68. It's good. It's kind of a twist on the haunted house story, and its main characters are all teenagers, so it's weird to read characters using modern vernacular. (In some ways, it reminds me of a RL Stine YA novel, but it's much more vulgar. Definitely adult fiction.) It's told in third person omniscient mostly, and I've spotted a few instances of headhopping and POV issues (since I'm always on the lookout in my own revisions). I'm enjoying it, though. I'm also studying it for characterization, setting description, and dialog structure. Trying to learn from it, as it were.

allen

Soccer Mom
04-24-2007, 12:02 AM
I'm reading the latest Jim Butcher. His pacing leaves me breathless. It's a rocket ride, but sometimes I need to catch my breath.

sunna
04-24-2007, 12:03 AM
I am re-reading CJ Cherryh's Fortress in the Eye of Time as a scene-comparison with my own WIPs (on someone's excellent advice), and Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer just for fun.

Sean D. Schaffer
04-24-2007, 12:10 AM
I realise we have an AW book club, but this thread isn't intended to be about any one particular book or author, so figured it would fit here.

Anyhoo, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the books we're reading just now or have just started reading, and what we can take or learn from each to improve our own writing, concentrating on the positive aspects of each book. Even the worst book ever written must be able to teach us something - even how we don't want to write!

I've just got Pat Barker's Regeneration from my local library and cannot believe I didn't realise it features two of my favourite poets as main characters - boy do I feel daft! I've never even picked up the book before, so don't know what made me do so today. I can already tell I'm going to enjoy it.

So. What about you?



I'm reading Eldest by Christopher Paolini, on a somewhat off-and-on basis right now. What I have learned so far is, although I have no real problems with his writing in this book, I have a sense of "If he can get published, so can I". It's a major encouragement to me.

Plus, it shows that dragons are not so dead in Fantasy as some writers would claim they are. This is good, as I have an endless love of dragons and their lore.

Chumplet
04-24-2007, 12:15 AM
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick - just because, and

The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky - because I'm researching Basque culture to flesh out the hero in my romantic thriller. Information I found in the book led me to investigate my own lineage, and it turns out my great-grandmother was descended from a Basque who arrived in Nova Scotia with the rest of the Acadians in the late 1600's!

lfraser
04-24-2007, 05:47 AM
I am re-reading CJ Cherryh's Fortress in the Eye of Time as a scene-comparison with my own WIPs (on someone's excellent advice), and Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer just for fun.

I love the Fortress books. Recently I've been reading a fantasy series that is less than inspiring, and I'd like to read a really good one as a comparison (or as an antidote?).

I'm also reading Dan Simmons' The Terror, which is wonderfully suspenseful. I've been looking at how he intersperses horror scenes with the depiction of the characters' simple and terrible struggle to survive.

Will Lavender
04-24-2007, 06:05 AM
I'm about 150 pages into Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian. This is the first book I've read from this author and I'm enjoying it. I'm learning quite a bit from Bohjalian about pacing and character development.

Bohjalian is a...funny writer. Perhaps that's because you really can't place him in a genre. His The Double Bind was a collision of about four different genres, if you count the Great Gatsby stuff as science fiction.

Yet his writing is tremendously accurate. There were some scenes in Bind that were really hard for me to read because they were so true. He reminds me of Laura Lippman a lot; Lippman is an absolute master at creating scenes and situations and realistic emotions. Bohjalian has that knack as well.

The Double Bind was from Shaye Areheart, BTW, which is my publisher.

triceretops
04-24-2007, 06:07 AM
Reading a bunch at once:

Ender's Game, and wishing Card would get on with this after 200 pages.

Meg--another Jaws.

Subtereanean (sp?) by Rollins. Gak. He writes like I do!

I guess I'm learning how to keep so many commas out of my work and use periods. Damn good thing I'm not reading King, eh? Learning about snappier transitions.

Tri

Will Lavender
04-24-2007, 06:18 AM
I guess I'm learning how to keep so many commas out of my work and use periods. Damn good thing I'm not reading King, eh? Learning about snappier transitions.

Tri

Let me put in a recommendation for James Sallis's Drive, then. :)

Tallymark
04-24-2007, 06:19 AM
I just finished Fables: Animal Farm, the second in what's turning out to be a delightfully fun graphic novel series. I'm hoping to get into doing graphic novels, so I'm paying attention to things like layout and pacing. But the real charm for the series for me is the great characterization (especially the banter between Bigby Wolf and Snow White).

I've also just started Good Omens by Neil Gaiman, which is just totally awesome. And even though it seems to break a lot of 'writing rules' (he's been in like twenty different heads so far, for one), he really pulls it off.

Conversely, on the backburner, I'm trying to get myself to finish reading One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, simply because the more I read of it, the more I can see what not to do as a writer. The story has so much tell that it makes me want to grab a pen and start rewriting it.

seun
04-24-2007, 12:14 PM
At the moment, I'm reading Red Dragon, Frankenstein and a collection of Bradbury's short stories called The October Country. I'm about halfway through the Bradbury and have been blown away by each story. He makes the stuff I write look like a big bag of poo.

Penguin Queen
04-24-2007, 01:27 PM
I've usually got a whole lot of different books on the go at one time. So...

For work:

"1-0-1 Intersex" (catalogue to an exhibition/number of installatins about intersex)
"Hermaphrodites and the medical invention of sex", Alice Dreger and just finished
"Middlesex", Jeffrey EugenidesI highly recommend both of the latter ones. Dreger writes very good, well-researched and exceedingly readable non-fiction. And Eugenides is just very readable, and very well-written. It's not the sort of book I would usually read (a family saga-cum-(fictional) autiobiography) and I only did read it because my radio editor thought I should.

For fun:

"Antigua vida mía", Macela Serano. Partly to keep my oar in with my Spanish, & partly because I'm "homesick" for Latin America & the books is set in Chile & Mexico, both of which are countries I really want to go to. Soon. This is very oddly written, it feels like two or three novelas stuck together, the tense keeps jumpig back between present & past (a thing Ive found wth a number of Lat Am Spanish novels, mebbe it's a done thing there?) and at one point the first-person narrator becomes omnicient 3rd person. So I'm picking up
on how-not-to, but I find it very readable and enjoyable despite that, and actually very well written -- much better than Allende for example, who can write a wonderful yarn and tells it all and shows almost nothing, whereas Serano is very good at showing. And at constructing a withheld character and managing to write from within that restriction.
"Four to Score", Janet Evanovich. Wonderful, wacky, funny, sexy, mad -- this is pure escapism and pure pleasure. Long may she live and write. And I guess I'm also picking up useful stuff for my own mystery novel. Which I really, really must get back to & revise. Really.
"States of Denial - Knowing about Atrocity and Suffering", Stanley Cohen. Nonfiction. I'm reading this for the good of my soul, and because a good friend of mine is a human rights lawyer & currently living in Palestine. She recommended this & I want to know more about what her work & daily life is like. And ... yanno. How to change the world. :o And it is actually telling me lots of stuff about the world. And poeple. And myself. Very, very good. Wish I could write nonfiction like that.I think thats it... :tongue

akiwiguy
04-24-2007, 02:49 PM
I've just finished Anthony Kiedis's autobiography Scar Tissue. OK it was really just because I've been a big Chili's fan, and I had been building up for the concert I went to on Saturday. But I became very absorbed in it, though you need to wade through a lot of fairly repetitive sex/drugs stuff.

But something that I must say... if any writer needs to develop a character who is living the seedier drug-addicted style of life, and your own experience in such things is a bit lacking then this is the book for you, a fascinating study, at one level, of the psychology of addiction.

And what's represhing is the lack of moralising about it that often would be expected from someone now clean. It's real.

J. Weiland
04-24-2007, 03:07 PM
I'm reading Goblin Quest by Jim C. Hines. I'm definitely learning something about delivery of humorous lines and how to pace effectively.

The Protector's War by S. M. Stirling, learning that the second one in a series is not always as exciting as the first one, perhaps due to an excess of description and interior thoughts. I'm still going to buy the third one, though.

Nyna
04-25-2007, 03:51 AM
For the past week I have read nothing but Martin Heidegger: essays and lectures, mostly, though I've been skimming 'Being and Time.' When I haven't been reading Heidegger, I've been reading about Heidegger. I'm... not at all sure what I've learned. That people will read anything? That phenomenology makes me want to pull my hair out? That I should focus my attention on letting-be and being in Being? Whatever the hell that means? That I'm not as smart as I sometimes think I am?

I'll get back to you.

Luckily, I can be done with him starting next Monday, and move on to something more enjoyable. I'm thinking I'll get back to The Three Musketeers, which I started reading a week ago and had to put off until the end of my 'holy crap I have a huge paper due in a week and a half that I totally forgot about' panic.

AnnieColleen
04-25-2007, 06:00 AM
The first of Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, and Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card. In both of them I'm noticing how small segments following multiple different characters are layered together to build the story -- Turtledove's really has no main protagonist; Card's builds from one main character to another and uses some skillfull misdirection to play up the contrast between where the reader thinks the story is going and where it actually goes. (I'm noticing these lines on the second read-through.) I also like that this one answers the questions it raises, unlike many of OSC's, and noticing the detailed historical/cultural research that went into both.

And what all that means is that I'm resisting the urge to go back and redo the first half of my WIP a la Turtledove (I have to finish the darn thing [first draft] first) and avoiding thinking about the amount of research I still have to do!

Stew21
04-25-2007, 05:51 PM
I've just started Tishomingo Blues by Elmore Leonard. Leonard has a knack for intricate and entertaining plots and characters. You seem to know the players instantly in just a few words. Definitely a learning experience in characterization.


I just finished this book and really liked it. His characters come through crystal clear with their dialogue, requiring very little description - letting actions and their voices do the job for them. The interactions between them, reading between the lines of what they are saying and what they mean.
I learned a lot.

Evaine
04-25-2007, 06:21 PM
I've just finished To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett, one of her House of Niccolo series. She has a very devious mind, and I don't, so I'm trying to learn how her characters carry off such Machiavellian plots convincingly, so that I can manage something along the lines of Machiavelli-at-nursery-school.

Susan Breen
04-25-2007, 06:32 PM
I'm reading The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, which starts off in London in 1946, then goes back to 1944 and then back to 1941. I'm so intrigued by a novel that goes backwards and I'm amazed at how she's able to keep up the suspense, given that you start off knowing how everything turns out. I love it when writers do interesting things with pacing.

pconsidine
04-26-2007, 12:23 AM
If your screenplay is for a story as opposed to a documentary, you'd better start reading some fiction. You'll need it. What on earth for?

CaroGirl
04-26-2007, 12:41 AM
I'm reading "The Inheritance of Loss" by Kiran Desai. I normally love Indian literature, but find this one a truly tedious slog. It's peppered with Indian political history (fine if you like/know anything about politics; I don't) and has no discernable story. Not much happens, or it happens at a pace slower than drying paint, or has already happened decades before. The characters would probably be interesting, if anyone ever did anything.

OverTheHills&FarAway
04-26-2007, 05:18 AM
American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Two-thirds of the way through, and feel like going back through my manuscript and cutting unnecessary stuff.

I'm learning a lot about show vs. tell, and when summary is a good thing, and what happens when a whole bunch of telling finally comes together and you realize you've just been shown something, and came to your own conclusion about it. . . . reader input is a very important part of writing.

Do not patronize the reader! He has a brain! (probably)

Plus I'm learning how to characterize in a hundred words or less. This book is all about characters.

KCathy
04-26-2007, 06:09 AM
Birthing from Within by Pam England. I'm 6 weeks away from birth and starting to get into that really annoying self-centered baby/pregnancy/birth obsession phase of pregnancy. If it irritates me this much I'm scared to death of the effect I'm having on other people, so I try not to talk about it constantly. Oh, crap; I'm doing it now, aren't I?

Maybe I'm learning that having your belly button pop out prompts too much navel-gazing?

Popeyesays
04-26-2007, 07:22 AM
Birthing from Within by Pam England. I'm 6 weeks away from birth and starting to get into that really annoying self-centered baby/pregnancy/birth obsession phase of pregnancy. If it irritates me this much I'm scared to death of the effect I'm having on other people, so I try not to talk about it constantly. Oh, crap; I'm doing it now, aren't I?

Maybe I'm learning that having your belly button pop out prompts too much navel-gazing?

That reminds me of the old definition of dancing: A naval engagement without loss of seamen.

Seriously, best wishes, now you've reached the point where even if you have the baby early, everything will work out fine. So hang on til the time comes and squirt it on out of there.

I hope it all goes just that easy.

Regards,
Scott

Popeyesays
04-26-2007, 07:25 AM
I am re-reading On Basilisk Station, by David Weber. Yeah, I'm watching the master at military SF write his first novel in the Honor Harrington series, and I'm out to steal whatever techniques I can pry out of there.

Regards,
Scott

Namatu
04-26-2007, 05:21 PM
My commute book is Rebecca Ore's Time's Child. It's illustrating quite nicely why plot needs to move forward. I'm two-thirds of the way through and just getting to the part described on the back cover. Until now, it's all been giant set up. I'm not sure why I keep reading except for the fact that I've gotten this far and I kind of refuse to not know how it ends, but I also refuse to skip forward.

At home, I just started Vicki Petterson's The Scent of Shadows, and have so far noticed some things in the text that I try hard not to do, but I don't see anything hugely wrong with actually doing it - sparingly - which so far the author has done. I'm barely into the first chapter, but I'm interested and the story seems like it will move forward more quickly than Ore's.

RumpleTumbler
04-26-2007, 05:24 PM
I'm reading "Characters and Viewpoint" by Orson Scott Card. I was initially thrilled with the book. I figured out later that I keep forgetting what he said in the chapter before and that is really irritating. I don't know if my mind is going or I'm just not connecting the dots with what he is saying. It's frustrating. I'm quite sure it's me but I don't know how to fix it.

scarletpeaches
04-26-2007, 07:38 PM
I'm reading "The Inheritance of Loss" by Kiran Desai. I normally love Indian literature, but find this one a truly tedious slog. It's peppered with Indian political history (fine if you like/know anything about politics; I don't) and has no discernable story. Not much happens, or it happens at a pace slower than drying paint, or has already happened decades before. The characters would probably be interesting, if anyone ever did anything.

Booker winners tend to be so worthy and a damn hard slog. I've only ever managed to finish one or two.

I believe in recent years they've been given for bodies of work rather than individual novels (Atwood and Banville being my cases in point).

That said, it wouldn't hurt my feelings none if I won it someday. :D

Bmwhtly
04-27-2007, 01:08 PM
I'm reading Douglas Adams' The Salmon of Doubt. It's taught me that the good (and the geniuses) really do die young.
It's also shown that there is nothing wrong with writing pieces for no particular purpose. That not getting something published doesn't make it any less valuable.

rhymegirl
04-27-2007, 05:35 PM
Good question, Scarlet.

I just started reading Tell No One by Harlan Coben. A gift from my sister I've been meaning to get to. The novel is a suspense/thriller.

What I'm trying to do while reading it is pay careful attention to the metaphors and similes. And the set-up of the story.

Good first chapter. He sets up the suspense, leaves you dangling, wanting to read more. I like that.

Chasing the Horizon
04-28-2007, 04:56 AM
I'm reading Powers That Be by Anne McCaffery(sp?). My Mom is a big fan of all her books and has pretty much everything she's ever written. I'm learning that interesting characters and good world building can make one overlook a poorly written narrative, even me, who's usually a picky reader. I'm honestly more interested in this book than I've been in any book for a while, despite the ridiculous overuse of adjectives and adverbs, the occasional independent body part, and the fact I don't usually like sci-fi.

I'm still trying to read Lord Of The Rings (required reading for fantasy writers, right?), but I'm honestly bored with it. The narrative is hard to read and after fifty pages nothing has really happened and I still don't feel like I have a sense of the world or characters. Maybe I'll rent the movies instead.

I'm also reading Lissey's Story by Stephen King. Not his best book (IMO), but I've found a writing technique I've never seen before in it that I really like. In a scene toward the beginning where a very critical moment happens very quickly he slows down the narrative to the literary equivalent of ultraslow motion, where the POV character is super-aware of what's happening and every detail around her. It worked great in the book and I have every intention of stealing the technique for one pivotal scene in my series.

chartreuse
04-28-2007, 08:45 PM
I'm reading A Gift Upon the Shore, by M.K. Wren.

One of the things I struggle most with is avoiding stereotyped characters when the character is of a type that I don't have a lot of respect for in real life. In A Gift Upon the Shore, many of the characters are of the ultra-religious persuasion, but Wren has managed to draw them as unique and believable people by explaining well the circustances of their lives and how they got to be the way they are.

abemorgantis
04-28-2007, 08:50 PM
Coming Of The Horseclans. Classic pulp.

akiwiguy
04-29-2007, 03:12 PM
Booker winners tend to be so worthy and a damn hard slog. I've only ever managed to finish one or two.


Hmmm, this made me look at a list and I'm surprised how few I've ever read.

I see 1992 was one of my favourites The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje, I've read at least two or three times and might well re-visit.

I enjoyed Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre (2003) though it was an extremely controversial choice and I can see wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea. A dark satire that wasn't always so well received in America as Britain and the rest of the world. I do recall a lot of criticism that basically labelled it "typically cliched and over-generalised anti-Americanism." or words to that effect.

scarletpeaches
04-29-2007, 04:19 PM
I've read The Remains of the Day...that's the only Booker Winner I can think of straight off that I've read. I have a couple more in the house which are just sitting there and I've never got around to them - Midnight's Children and The English Patient, of course.

I tried reading The Blind Assassin once but then I decided even if I live to be a hundred, I won't have time to waste on that shite. Besides which, it made me rip the bookseller's face off and that made baby Jesus cry.

Jenan Mac
04-29-2007, 04:27 PM
I just finished (like, fifteen minutes ago) Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett. The first eighty percent was interesting enough that the next bit was a real let down, and then the end picked it up again. Which annoyed me no end until it occurred to me that that's perfectly logical pacing for a book about a war, and getting out of a war, and then going back in.
Peace can be boring. In real life politics, boring is an extremely good thing, but in books, maybe not so much.

Turtle07
04-30-2007, 05:40 AM
I tend to circle around specific kinds of books when I read. Like one month I'll be reading medieval fantasies then the next I'm reading about vampires. Currently, I'm still reading vampire books and plan to borrow more from the library.

The book I'm reading now I actually read already. It's Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I love her book and I actually learned alot from it! Like how to subtly drop big words without sounding too descriptive (I just learned that too much descriptive is not good.) and making the readers confused. I love how she was able to write some random parts in there yet they led to something later on. Everything she wrote had a meaning to the story and I hope to write more like her someday!

Patrick L
02-20-2008, 02:03 AM
I'm rereading Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett. In the book, he quickly and effortlessly sets up a magnificent read.

For anyone who has read it: Who is the protagonist?

Red-Green
02-20-2008, 02:51 AM
I'm reading The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia. It's reminding me how important it is to have conflict between your characters. I enjoy her style and her story is interesting, but her two main characters just seem to exist in the same space without really interacting beyond the bare minimum. It definitely lowers my evaluation of the book.

L M Ashton
02-20-2008, 03:33 PM
I'm currently reading Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson. I'm learning - oh, how I'm learning! - that it is absolutely not necessary to put every single ounce of research into the novel. I'm learning that having parts of the book in the present tense and other parts in the past tense doesn't work all that well, although, really, it's the present tense bit that doesn't work at all. I'm learning that infodumps, even when in the form of letters, are still boring infodumps. I'm learning that vicious editing to cut the deadwood is so absolutely essential to make a better story. I'm also learning that having a point to a story really does help move things along.

I wish Neal had learned those things cuz, I gotta tell you, from Quicksilver, it's absolutely obvious that he didn't.

The only reason I'm still reading, despite the awkward kludginess and boring bits, is because of the subject matter, and that's completely separate from his fairly awful style in this book.

Kate Thornton
02-21-2008, 08:28 AM
I just finished In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan and it has changed the way I see food, the way I shop, cook and eat. It has even changed my body, as I have lost a considerable amount of weight by following his three easy principles: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

qdsb
02-21-2008, 08:10 PM
Oooh, I've been eyeing In Defense of Food! I'll add that to my Amazon wish list.

Currently reading:
1) Cold Mountain - I've been reading it for months...it's wonderful, but I'm just not always in the mood to pick it up. Frazier has such a great way with language and description.
2) Lost in a Good Book - 2nd in Fforde's Thursday Next series. Almost done and liking it more than I liked the first book, The Eyre Affair. It's fun and playful and unconventional.
3) The Nine - nonfic about the Supreme Court. Fascinating!
4) Matrimony - Interesting (though not necessarily likeable) characters, interesting writing. Reading it for a book club.

willietheshakes
02-21-2008, 09:07 PM
4) Matrimony - Interesting (though not necessarily likeable) characters, interesting writing. Reading it for a book club.

I just finished this... I won't comment on what I thought about the book, but I have to say it has some of the sloppiest writing I've ever seen. Example, from page 201 (yeah, I reviewed it, so I've got it right here on my desk, with notes and bookmarks for easy reference):

..."And when his mother fed him, she would imitate a plane, saying, 'Zoom, zoom, zoom, into the landing field,' moving the spoon like a propeller into his mouth."

Really? 'Moving the spoon like a propeller'? And just how do you think a propeller moves, exactly? Spinning the spoon in circles? Wouldn't that spray food around the room? Wouldn't that make it difficult to get the spoon into the toddler's mouth?

Sheesh. I'm usually pretty forgiving of sloppy writing, but that one, and several others like it, pulled me right out of the book...

lfraser
02-23-2008, 07:09 AM
I'm currently re-reading CJ Cherryh's Fortress series to see how a master writes high fantasy. Very illuminating.

Next on the list I have Henry James (Turn of the Screw) for some instruction on horror.

And now that I've managed to tear my copy of King's On Writing away from my partner, It's time for a refresher.

jannawrites
02-23-2008, 08:28 AM
I'm reading Home to Holly Springs, the first of the Father Tim Books, by Jan Karon. From her I get a better perspective on how to truly personify characters. How to show the book's events as they unfold. She's really, really good.

Riley
02-23-2008, 09:56 PM
-snip for length-

Anyhoo, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the books we're reading just now or have just started reading, and what we can take or learn from each to improve our own writing, concentrating on the positive aspects of each book. Even the worst book ever written must be able to teach us something - even how we don't want to write!

-snip for length-

So. What about you?

Right now, I'm reading Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. I love how Adams puts you right into his version of the universe with his witty observations and casual introduction of different technologies, planets, etc. However, I have found that his narrative is a little too loosely constructed for my liking. I don't like how he sometimes does radical POV shifts, either. I'm hoping that, one day, I can imitate Adams' strong points. Right now, I'm working on avoiding what I feel are the weak points.

I recently read a book called Wild Animus by Rich Shapero. I loved the lyrical quality of the writing when the main character, Sam, went into his "animus" mindset. However, Rich Shapero destroyed any potential for a spiritual epiphany by having his character drop acid. I mean, is Sam really reliable now? Also, Sam's girlfriend (her name escapes me right now) was such a flat character. She started out fine, but turned into a woobie. In the end, the characterization and unrealistic plot disgusted me, but I finished the book, feeling deeply disappointed. The "animus" mindset was so, so beautiful. The idea had such potential.

After reading Shapero's book, I started to try and apply his lyricism to my own works, balancing it out with my personal voice, style, etc. I'm really happy with the results. I also learned an important lesson about reliability with your narrator and/or main character.

Cranky
02-23-2008, 10:04 PM
I just finished reading Split Infinity by Piers Anthony. First book of his I've read in about a decade.

I liked it, I really did. But what I learned from reading it: Don't let your research overwhelm the writing.

He had a big long lecture by Stile in there, and he caps it off by the character thinking, "Well, that was quite the lecture!" Somehow, that didn't make it all better. LOL He worked all his research (or knowlege) of human anatomy, physiology, and board games into this thing, and it was a bit clunky.

I forgave him because 1) It's Piers! and 2) I liked the concept. A lot. :D

Triangulos
02-25-2008, 02:36 AM
I'm reading Peter F Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy (The Reality Dysfunction / The Neutronium Alchemist / The Naked God). They're way overlong but they're excellent stories, and significantly there are a large number of parallel plotlines that we jump between at regular intervals. Significant because some of the jumps make me think "excellent, I was hoping to get back to this one" whereas others make me think "okay, I'll just read through this and hopefully the next section will be back to this story or that story". I'm making a conscious effort to figure out what causes that instinctive reaction, i.e. what makes the good ones good and vice versa, so I can put similar features into my own large scale futuristic SF number (though hopefully not quite as long as his...)

T.

honeycomb
02-25-2008, 03:36 PM
I'm reading it now. The story is moving along. What I'm learning is that JG is one of the very few writers that can get away with multiple POVs in a scene. Go figure!

Kate Thornton
02-25-2008, 08:48 PM
I'm reading it now. The story is moving along. What I'm learning is that JG is one of the very few writers that can get away with multiple POVs in a scene. Go figure!

Oooh, I just finished The Broker! I loved the ending - no spoilers, but I learned how JG can also bend the reader's perception of characters throughout a story arc.

oneblindmouse
02-25-2008, 10:01 PM
I just finished "Housekeeping" by Marilynne Robinson. I've learned that one can write a haunting and very lyrical story with few characters and very little action, set in an amazing landscape. And that one can write about loss without undue sentimentality.

Phaeal
02-25-2008, 10:45 PM
Prepping for the first revision of my latest novel, I'm rereading Thomas McCormack's The Fiction Editor, the Novel and the Novelist. Far and away my favorite work on editing -- I recommend it to anyone who wants to get to the heart of prose fiction -- especially his or her own. :)

KikiteNeko
02-27-2008, 07:19 PM
I have just finished "The Life Before her Eyes" by Laura Kasichke, and I have learned that plots aren't necessary for publication.

Stew21
02-27-2008, 07:32 PM
Right now I'm reading The Ghost, by Robert Harris.

What have I learned from it? Sometimes similes are a good thing. Sometimes they are bad. and he has provided several examples of both. There shouldn't be so many of them that I find myself ticking them off on a mental notepad to keep score.


(It's quite like listening to a speech and counting the "ums").


but he did say something amazing. The Ghost is a ghostwriter and as the narrator he was talking about novels - "great novels are all different. Bad novels are all the same. What they have in common is not sounding and feeling true while you read them. A novel that feels false is a bad novel," (or something to that effect) which I really found truthful and liked a great deal.

Cindyt
08-16-2016, 07:50 AM
Nightmare in Pink by John D. MacDonald (for the 5th for 6th time :tongue) This and all of JDM's Travis McGee books are perfect examples of first person POV.

Samsonet
08-16-2016, 10:32 AM
I know this thread is old, but I'm glad it was resurrected. What a thread!

Raindrop
08-16-2016, 11:46 AM
I agree! Thank you, because I didn't know that thread existed.

I've just read The perks of being a wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I loved it. It's fresh and funny in spite of the heavy themes, but at times, well, there's something so obviously wrong with that kid that I just wanted to hug him. And I loved the mixing tapes. I actually must do a Charlie playlist.

I'm currently reading The Blind Man's Garden by Nadeem Aslam. Ouch. The writing is gorgeous, and I'm in love with the characters. But it's a tough, tough read. I'll need a lighter read after that.

Southpaw
08-16-2016, 05:03 PM
I reading The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. I'm learning about the octopus! It's science written in a fun, engaging style.

paddismac
08-16-2016, 05:56 PM
Re-reading Christopher Moore's entire output (currently The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove).

Reading him because he does what I do, and I need assurances sometimes that I'm not totally nuts for believing I'll ever be publishable!

Menyanthana
08-16-2016, 08:20 PM
I'm trying to read more Urban Fantasy, and currently I'm working through 'Moon Called' by Patricia Briggs. I'm about halfway in, and the really interesting/jarring thing is that she gives the reader a lot of historical detail about her world. She'll stop the plot to tell the reader all about the history of the fae, werewolves, everything.

I guess it beats being horribly lost as a reader, but I can't help but feel I'd like her to just chuck me into the middle of the story, and keep the story going. She's built a very detailed world, and I applaud her for that, but I don't feel like stopping to check out all the architecture. :)

Weird. I read "Dragon Bones" and "Dragon Blood", her High Fantasy duology, and never once noticed such boring details; it was all worked nicely into the plot, no infodumping. Hmm ... the Urban Fantasy are later works, are they? Do you think it is possible someone told her she should explain more stuff?
"Aralorn" had its weaknesses, but that was an early novel ... and I am not sure infodump was one of those weaknesses.


I currently read a Miss Marple novel - I can learn from it that one way to make a murder mystery interesting is by having a very unlikely motive for the murder, one that people would never guess. Quite useful, I would have thought the method employed by the murderer was the critical point.

zmethos
08-16-2016, 08:20 PM
Found a used copy of Wolf Hall at HPB and fell into it, completely absorbed. I'm learning some history and getting an interesting look at a style of writing very different from my own.

brainstorm77
08-16-2016, 09:35 PM
My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland who I think is a member of AW(?)

100 pages in and I like it a lot. It's quirky with humor and a mystery tied in. It's the first in a series and I will definitely get the next book.

Matt T.
08-17-2016, 02:04 AM
I've just read The perks of being a wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I loved it. It's fresh and funny in spite of the heavy themes, but at times, well, there's something so obviously wrong with that kid that I just wanted to hug him. And I loved the mixing tapes. I actually must do a Charlie playlist.


That is one of my favorite YA novels of all time! I saw the movie first, so I wasn't sure if the book would be as interesting after already knowing the story, but I liked it even better. The whole thing is only a little over 200 pages, but it feels so rich and well-developed. I loved how he handled the darker themes and balanced them out with the humor.

Raindrop
08-17-2016, 11:16 AM
Exactly! If Wallflower isn't considered a classic yet, it should be. God knows it's old enough by now.

We caught the tail-end of tapes, and mixing tapes for friends was a huge part of our lives. G. was the specialist of awesome playlists, while M. was the best live DJ we'd ever had (OK the only one); I was good at making pretty tape covers, cutting bits of magazines and pasting them together. We tried it with CDs afterwards, and they did change hands too, but it wasn't quite the same.

cmi0616
08-19-2016, 06:43 AM
William T Vollmann's Whores For Gloria. I don't know if there's much I can learn from it, other than it's a very fine line between meaningful art and pornography.

Koschei
08-19-2016, 06:47 PM
Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates. It has quite an unusual layout and it's not the sort of thing I'd normally read but I'm really enjoying it. Sometimes it helps to get out of your comfort zone every once in a while.

Claudia Gray
09-09-2016, 03:07 AM
MAGGIE SMITH: A BIOGRAPHY. I'm not learning a damn thing about writing from it, unless I manage to absorb some of Dame Maggie's wit. But it's enjoyable and interesting without being too distracting--in other words, an ideal free-time read for me as I settle into a new first draft.