I read a really interesting article in the US version of The Guardian this week. In a nutshell, after a year of isolation at home, many authors are struggling to write–for good reasons.
While I did finish The House Guests at the beginning of the pandemic, and just finished my third novella for a new anthology featuring characters from my Shenandoah Album series, I’m one of the strugglers. Concentration is an issue for many of us, as is no refill in sight for our well of creativity. All the things that fill that well, conversations overheard, smells, travel? Gone for the moment.
Instead of writing, I’ve enjoyed reading new authors, many of whom I never had the chance to read before. I told you which books from 2020 I especially liked here.
I’m keeping a list for 2021, too, but I find this year I’m jettisoning books and authors fairly quickly because I don’t like them enough to finish. So many books and so little time is my new motto. But the process of dumping a book for something better brings to mind an important question. What makes a book worth reading?
I love the Read Along With Emilie Richards Facebook Group because I can see first hand what authors readers who probably like my books also enjoy. We don’t always agree, but I value their opinions.
Today, for fun, let’s explore what makes a book worth reading for you. And even more? What makes a book worth keeping?
Here are a few questions to get us started. Comment with your answer if you’re in the mood. There are no right or wrong responses, of course. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my writing career is how different readers are from each other. That’s true for professionals, too. I’ve been the gatekeeper for a group of published novelists who discuss books together for decades now. And the only thing I can say with certainty is that we rarely agree on a book. Some will like it, some will think it’s okay, and others will pick it apart, sentence by sentence.
So give these questions some thought, but mostly let us know what makes a book come alive for you.
- What’s more important to you? Carefully crafted sentences or carefully crafted stories?
- If you had to choose between a novelist who creates great characters or one who creates great plots (you can’t have both for this question) which would you choose?
- What do the authors you most love have in common?
- How are the authors you most love different from each other?
- Which is more important to you, setting or clever dialogue?
- Do you want a book to move quickly or slowly?
- How much detail is too much detail in a story?
- If characters espouse values so different from your own, do you stop reading or continue so you can learn more?
- Does theme matter or isn’t it a priority?
- At this juncture in history are you more interested in books with feel-good stories, or grittier tales that make you think long after “The End?”
You don’t have to answer any or all the questions. I just think it’s fun to think a little about what we love and don’t in the novels and authors we choose. I’ll give you my answer next week or soon. And yes, I’ll have to give some of these questions a lot of thought.