Monday, December 10, 2007

How do you know…

Sorry this is late this morning! My wireless at home wasn't working. I put in several calls but the technician was unavailable, so I loaded the laptop and Tink into the car and headed to the coffee shop in town with wireless.

How do you know when your writing is boring? I mean if a writer writes a story and they are committed to the story and the characters, how do they know the story isn’t boring to someone else? They are living the story with the characters, going through what the characters are going through, but- maybe that life is more interesting than their own, but hardly something to write home about.

I read a story this weekend, that, while I enjoyed the historical information, the characters and story line were normal. Nothing that jumped out and grabbed me and made me want to continue reading the book other than to glean more historical information. I doubt the author of this story believes it is boring. So when does a writer know if they are boring their audience?

A book doesn’t have to have murder and mayhem all the way through to keep my attention, but the characters need to come to life. They can’t go about their day to day lives and keep me enthralled. Not unless there is a lot of emotional turmoil going on while they go about their daily routines.

A friend gave me Nora Robert’s “Angels Fall”. I’ve been reading it. It isn’t one I can’t put down, the characters have flaws, the secondary characters are characters, the setting is rural. She is doing less head hopping than in earlier books. But I’m not drawn to the characters as I’ve been in past books. And I’ve found myself skipping the brief paragraphs of setting. Which, I realize I don’t write much of in my own books. I don’t like to read sections of setting/scenery so I don’t write them. So, going back to my original question- since I also don’t like boring books, does that mean I don’t write boring books- or does it just mean I write what doesn’t bore me?

Thoughts on this?


Alice Sharpe said...

Paty, your dedication to our blog (driving to town to find wireless, etc...) is much appreciated!

Your blog comes at a good time for me because I have been worried my book is boring, esp. the first three chapters. And yet those are the chapters that sold the book, so I would have to assume the editor didn't find them boring. So, have I just read and reread them too many time to tell? How do I know?

I don't think the "I don't like boring so I don't write boring" deal is going to fly. I would seriously doubt anyone has said, "Hm. I like boring things so I think I'll write a boring book." And then an editor says, "We have room in our line-up for one boring book and this one is perfect!" And then a reader says (or several million in Nora's case) "I just read the most boring book! YOu're going to love it!"

If all that doesn't happen then I guess the answer is some things are boring to some people and some things are boring to others, which, when you think of it as the producer of a product, which a writer is, is a good thing. Lots of room for all of us.

Which is no way to tell if you write boring or not or if I do. I don't have the answer to this except that I know what I like to read so I try to write that. I am a sucker for an unanswered question so that's what I try to keep in mind as I write -- unanswered questions, large and small, terrifying and mundane, it doesn't matter. And the single most boring thing for me to read is a book about people I don't like or care about. If I like the people, I'll tag along for a long time.

Paty Jager said...

HI Alice,

Yes, I don't think people sit down and purposely write boring, but I wonder at how they can write something and not see that is slow and doesn't move the story along at a good clip.

I've kind of hit that spot in my WIP. I have an unanswered question lurking along the way that won't get answered until the end, but I've come to the spot- the sagging middle-. I have two scenes in my head that will be exciting/interesting, but I have to get to them. And I wonder- am I sagging or boring.

Well, I'm headed home and hope by this afternoon- I have internet at my house.

As much as I'd like you to all think I drove to town to get my blog up- I also had to do my Monday morning check-in with TWRP and send out a rejection. Sigh~ Hope you are all having an awesome day.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say every writer things their book is boring at some point. I just had this conversation with Alice last week. I was writing a pivotal scene - but - gah! - boooooring. Two characters were doing nothing more than talking. Lots came out in that scene and it was INSTRUMENTAL to the plot, but booooring to me because there was no action to keep things going (in my head). To a reader, I'm not sure it would be so boring because so much is being revealed, but what do I know? Keep in mind that books have high and low points and readers need those low point to regroup after a tense or emotional scene, so while it may be boring to you, the writer, it may be the rest the reader actually needs to keep going.

I think writing the everyday scenes is part of Nora's style. I read Angel's Fall so I know what you're talking about. I will say Nora has a knack for it sometimes though. In AF there's one scene where the hero's (a writer) is cleaning up his house before the heroine comes over for dinner. He straightens up the living room then moves to the kitchen, all the time running through where his book is going. He looks in the sink and sees a pile of dirty dishes and in between plotting murder he thinks, "why the heck do I put the dirty dishes in the sink? I just have to take them back out again." I laughed out loud at that line because I think the same thing! So a very "ordinary", what might be boring moment to someone else struck me as comical and so completely true.

Hope your internet is back up and running when you get home. ;) And I apologize to all that I didn't respond to posts on Friday. I had a crazy day, but hopefully I'll get over and respond to them later today.

Karen Duvall said...

I agree with Alice that what's boring to one person is exciting to someone else. Or at least interesting. For example, I find erotica boring, but fans of the genre would disagree with me. 8^)

What doesn't interest me will bore me. Like military science fiction. But fans love it! To them, it's exciting. Ugh.

Then there's the other kind of boring which I think is what you're talking about, where pacing is slow and exposition is heavy. But some readers really like that because they're into the style of the author, or they admire the beauty of the prose, or whatever. You and I are genre readers so we don't get off on that so much, am I right? 8^)

Then there are the poorly written books that just shouldn't have been published. I just read one of those for the EPPIE contest. It was a hundred and sixty three pages of 2 characters eating, running (they were running away from a threat that made no sense), and making goo-goo eyes at each other. Sheer torture.

Too much of a good thing can be boring, like fast pacing (slow the hell down so I can absorb what's going on), dialogue (would you just shut up and do something already), sex (zzzzzz *cough* anything new happening yet?) and clever similes and metaphors (sometimes a leaf is just a, well, you know, a leaf).

I just passed the middle of my book, Paty, so I know what you mean. What slows me down is keeping track of the details I'd created early on so I have to make a list of all the questions that still need to be answered. I think of the middle as the top of the roller coaster, so you don't hang out there for long. Now you're on the home stretch, zinging your characters down those exciting hills and valleys. Readers won't be bored reading about the new complications and resolutions to previous dilemmas. That's the fun part of the book.

Alice Sharpe said...

Karen, what you said about the middle is true. I forgot you mentioned that sagging middle thing, too, Paty.

I have a friend who writes Intrigues. Delores Fossen is her name and she says she loves the middle of her books. Intrigues are always fast paced and heavy on plot and action, and she says that it's the middle where people can slow down and take a breath, make love, talk, bond -- before as Karen said, the roller coaster starts its downhill plunge.

Alice Sharpe said...

Eli -- Well put! It's absolutely true that a reader needs a little slow down time to absorb what just happened. I'm reading a book now by Clive Cussler where it''s one mad escape/adventure after another and that is boring, too!

Paty Jager said...

All interesting insights! And I'm back up. Who'd a thunk all I had to do was unplug and replug the power box and booster??? Was told if this happens again that's what to do rather than panic! :)

Anyway, Eli, I like that scene too! It felt real. That's what I like- things that glaringly are real, yet, show something of the character, not just the act they are doing.

I like the roller coaster analogy. And I believe that is kind of what is happening at the moment in my book. I'm at the top and kind of catching my breath and now I know the next three big scenes that need to play out before the black moment. It's just a matter of pulling them off and making the ending work.

I had a conversation with a woman today, whose daughter is writing YA fantasy. She was discussing work by someone who is published that they loved all his books, but the endings left you wondering "What?" Anyway, Karen, do you happen to know of an onling organization that this girl could hook up with to learn more about the YA Fantasy genre?

Karen Duvall said...

Paty, the best place for your friend's daughter to visit is

They're a community of fantasty/urban fantasy/YA fantasy authors and she can learn a lot just from the posts. They frequently talk about the publishing business and not long ago each one posted the query letter that got them their agent or publisher. Right now they're talking about their experiences of being chosen from the slush pile. You don't have to write or read UF to benefit from the posts there.

Also, most fantasy fans read both adult and YA fantasy, so there's a huge cross-readership there. One of my favorite books this year is Wicked Lovely, a YA fantasy by Melissa Marr. It's a wonderful story.

Paty Jager said...

Thanks Karen, I'll pass the info along.

Danita Cahill said...

I think we all worry our books are boring. We don't worry about it when we hatch the idea, but we start worrying about it about midstream through the first draft, on into the second draft. We may have a brief love affair with our book and then while we work through the third draft or the final polish -- depending on who you are and how you write -- we start to worry about the boring factor again.

Genene said...

Very good question, Paty! And lots of interesting discussion on what's boring and what's not.

Let me toss in another thought. What appeals to me in a book depends on my mood. Sometimes I want a short, laugh-out-loud-funny comedy. Other times I want to disappear for several hours in drama and history.

I'm not sure one or the other is "boring," I'm just in the mood for a different kind of story. Guess that's kind of along the lines of different styles appeal to different readers.

Paty Jager said...

Thanks for all the great answers, ladies! After writing about my sagging middle/boring feeling in my story, I hit that crest and started down the other side and wrote 2525 words yesterday. Hoping for the same today.