I recommend that all writers, whether you intend to self-publish or publish traditionally, read the excellent and short reviews of self-published books that Jefferson Smith (and occasional guest reviewers) posts at Immerse or Die. Smith maintains that the most important quality of fiction is whether it enables the reader to become immersed in the story, an assertion with which I wholeheartedly agree. This is the elusive quality of suspension of disbelief, that ability to forget you’re reading about made-up places and characters, and to instead actually believe that what you’re reading could have really happened to these real people. This is why we readers want to read.
In his reviews Smith explains exactly why his immersion was broken (or less often, not broken) by the book he is reviewing. His clear and precise explanations have helped me pinpoint exactly what I disliked about the self-published books I have been reviewing. They should be very instructive to writers as what not to do.
Nothing will kill your story faster than grammatical errors and superfluous typos. Believe it!
I saw the third installment of The Hobbit over the holiday, and I have to say that this has not been my favorite book-to-film adaptation. More is not always more, a tough lesson to learn. Anyone else tired of unending superhero movies and uninspired sequels as well? The movies just don’t seem fun anymore.
I did see Birdman over the break too, which I really liked. It pokes a lot of jabs at superhero movies and Hollywood sacred cows. Other than The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman is the only Oscar-nominated movie I’ve seen. I liked them both, so take note: They never give Oscars to movies I like.
Speaking of overblown movie award shows, I loved this joke by Tina Fey at the Golden Globes: “Steve Carell’s Foxcatcher look took two hours to put on, including his hairstyling and make-up. Just for comparison, it took me three hours today to prepare for my role as human woman.”
I didn’t watch the awards, but I did watch Amy and Tina’s monologue and thought it was great.
I just purchased and started reading a beautiful little book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I was struck by this sentence in the section on books: “The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it.”
Hmm. This strikes me as true, as I just cleaned out my books and earmarked for the Little Free Library or book sale donation all of those books I’ve owned for over a year that have gone unread. I figured the moment when I felt the energy to read them has passed me by, and if I ever do feel moved to read them, well, books are very easy for me to get.
But it’s making me re-evaluate the whole idea of reading by categories over a year. While I love being organized and planning my reading ahead, it removes the spontaneity. I think there is a balance to be achieved–still musing on what the right balance is, though.
I added a new review to my virtual library: The Martian by Andy Weir. Mixed reactions.
Here’s just an excerpt from Le Guin’s speech at the National Book Awards, but you should really go read the whole thing–it’s short and completely inspiring:
“I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.”
If you haven’t read any of Ursula K. Le Guin’s books, why not?
I recently came upon this bit of wisdom, from In the Woods by Tana French:
To my mind the defining characteristic of our era is spin, everything tailored to vanishing point by market research, brands and bands manufactured to precise specifications; we are so used to things transmuting into whatever we would like them to be that it comes as a profound outrage to encounter death, stubbornly unspinnable, only and immutably itself.
The marketing, packaging and branding of just about everything is one of the most insidious evils of modern life, I think. I get so tired of absolutely everything I encounter being something I have to purchase and consume. There seems no motivation to do anything anymore, not even make art, without coming up with a way to commodify it. We can’t even just be people anymore. Everyone has to have a personal brand these days, and a presence on Twitter to support it.
No wonder death outrages us. It’s the one thing we haven’t yet figured out how to sell.
PS If you click the link above, you can buy a copy of French’s book and send a few shekels my way. Yes, I appreciate the irony…
Just reviewed in my virtual library: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. It’s an episodic novel spanning 60 years, a genre-bending page turner, about ordinary people whose fates are altered by a war between immortals. Too difficult to summarize–go read the review!