Interesting Analysis....

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

For a few days now I've been meaning to blog about my recent haul of books. Not ones I've read (yet)--only thing I've been reading lately is some excellent work from crit partners and some fantastic (and 'un'tastic) GH entries. But I have, shall we say, made a small investment in some books over the past week. An investment that could have easily been funneled through several dummy accounts in the Caribbean before funding the disgruntle guerrillas of some puckerhole principality where the leader tinkles in a diamond encrusted urinal, whilst the populace find a bush.

But I digress.

Hop over to Sari Donati's and read this post. Interesting stuff. And much more useful than what I was going to natter on about.

But I found this line really caught my attention: "My sense is that for the general public, the importance of the three critical areas: story, theme, writing, is ranked pretty much in that exact order." Because my sense is that editors/agents want it in almost the exact opposite order. lol. That is they want good writing, first and foremost. Gone are the days when an editor/agent would hold your hand as you matured as a writer through several mss and/or revisions. They want that mss polished when it crosses their desk. They also want a 'unique and strong' voice (a lot of which is related to writing--prose craft, ect). Then comes the "story" (engaging characters, emotion, marketability...., etc.) And hey, if anyone can tack that mss to a dart board and hit the theme from 10 paces, whoo hoo! gg

I'm aiming for category seven myself-- "Of course, a well written novel that has a great plot is in good shape, as is a well written novel with a theme that interests the public. The ultimate, of course, is category (7): a beautifully written novel with a solid, engaging story that is thematically interesting. That's the holy grail of novel writing. That's the novel that will make the critics sing hosanas,..."

That number '7' keeps coming up with me....
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Sela Carsen said...

*sigh* It is a bit depressing, to know that what the ordinary person wants to read is not at all what a publisher wants to publish. Too funny about the diamond encrusted urinal. You think Clorox'll work on that?

Larissa said...

Interesting post. I guess editors are thinking that if you can write well, then half the battle is won. Coming up with good plots and themes isn't easy, but it's probably easier to write a good plot and them if you are already a good writer.

If you are a sucky writer, then you can't take the most compelling story or theme and make it good.

I guess. *g*

Jaye said...

gg. only with a soft cloth, Susan--gotta be careful with those diamonds. ;-)

Larissa, this is one of those 'which came first, chicken or the egg?' Or in this case, 'which sells first the well written/executed story with so-so plot and okay characters, or the captivating story with characters you love, but workmanlike prose?' Yes, my bias is showing. gg.

For me character is king. Make me love the characters, and give me at least a half-decent plot, and I'm there, even if the prose is 'okay'/not captivating. If I notice the grammer sux, then it's really bad, because I'm not a stickler.

On the other hand, I've read books with absolutely heartwrenching prose. But character and plot? ::yawn, scratching underarms:: gg. I can put the book down and forget about it. Or only remember certain phrases and 'word-pictures'/descriptions, but not have any emotional investment with the characters, or really care about what happens to them 'next'.

I think Sara Donati's analysis is dead on 'for the reader.' They(I) want a good story with great characterization. If there's a 'universal' theme that hits/hooks me in the gut, then I've found a keeper. The 'execution' is last in line -- not that I'm talking really atrocious writing/grammar here-- but if it's done with any artistry, that's the cherry on top.

I'm touching on a bunch of stuff I want to blog on later, so I'll shut up now. :-P

Amie Stuart said...

Jaye...I agree with everything you said. LOL

But what is "thematically interesting?" I think I could pull of #7...maybe? or am I too ambitious? Is smut thematically interesting? LOL

Ok off to Sara's blog...cant wait to see what else you have to say, my wise friend and CP with excellent taste *ggg*

Anna Lucia said...

I agree with what Sara's saying, except for one thing - I think a good story and a solidly constructed plot are not necessarily in the same 'circle'. I think you can have one without the other....

So effectively my version of that little Venn diagram would have four elipses, not three.

Hmmm. Maybe pizza makes me pedantic?

Jaye said...

Good point, Anna. Plot and story are separate (ie a purely character driven story, could/would have very little plot, per say.)

Anna Lucia said...

Yes, absolutely.

But also, a rip-roaring, rollicking story can drag you along with it so well, you don't even CARE about plot holes or improbabilities... suspension of disbelief and all that.

At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.


Jaye said...

this is true too, Anna! With one tiny caution: no matter how 'rip-roaring' the story, if I don't give a fig about the characters, then something is missing from the story as a whole. Feels like I'm skating a bit and *could* still check out at any time. Make me invest emotionally in the characters, and that's the book I *can't* put down, or can't wait to pick up again; and like a rip roaring story, I will willfully, and happily ignore plot holes and inconsistencies, just for the sheer enjoyment of the main protagonists' presence.

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