Tuesday, October 30, 2007

At Least ...

Sometimes I read a book by some amazing author and I’m left more than a little depressed. My stomach starts doing this ... churning thing and my jaw tightens.

Then comes the I must write better.

By that I don’t mean better than that author, but better than I currently am. It’s inevitable that we compare ourselves, that we look at ourselves with a jaundiced eye.

It’s important that we seek out authors whose writing is so much better than us that they kick our ass or punch us in the stomach. So good you’re left beaten, down for the count, none of this giggle and just tripped, is all.

As I lay there, I start planning how I’m going to write more, read more, study how novels are constructed more, push myself to sharpen my voice more ...

And as I wonder if I have the talent or the smarts or the ability, I’m only left with one consolation.

At least I can work harder, longer, smarter.


You ever feel sucker-punched by someone else’s great book? How do you get up?

18 bonus scribbles:

Karen Olson 10/30/2007 02:10:00 PM  

Right now I'm reading BROTHERS by Da Chen. I found out I'm on a panel with him at a writers workshop. This unnerves me, because this is an amazingly beautifully written book, and I fear my little mysteries just don't do it like this.


Kate S 10/30/2007 02:34:00 PM  

Ack! Yes, I hate it when that happens. I start to feel like I should just quit.

That's when I go find a really awful book and say, "Well, okay...THIS got published, and I can at least do as well as that." :)

I just finished "A Sudden Wild Magic" by Diana Wynn Jones last night, and there were some paragraphs that gave me that old "I should just quit now" feeling. It wasn't a book along the "hauntingly beautiful" lines, just fun and well written.

Sigh... Must go find some crappy stuff besides my own. :)

spyscribbler 10/30/2007 05:56:00 PM  

Karen, I haven't heard of that book. Should I check that out? I can relate to the unnerved feeling, for sure!

You know, there's nothing "better" about a beautifully written book as opposed to your mystery.

Can you imagine if Janet Evanovich had written the Plum series beautifully? It would have destroyed the series, not to mention DH and I wouldn't be spending all our time, lately, belly-laughing in the car as we listen to it.

Your mysteries may not do what Da Chen's book does, BUT don't forget that his book doesn't do what your book does. :-)

spyscribbler 10/30/2007 05:59:00 PM  

Me, too, Kate. But then it inspires me, too. For some reason, getting pummeled makes me more excited to get up and work harder. Weird, I know.

I just read a crappy novel the other day. That made me mad, too, but mostly mad that I wasted my time! She was mostly doing well because she was writing in an underrepresented niche.

You know, niches are really good things, aren't they?

Susan Helene Gottfried 10/30/2007 06:38:00 PM  

Niches are only good things when they're well filled.

And yes, I feel like that. For a second. Then my competitive side kicks in and away I go.

Kate S 10/30/2007 06:39:00 PM  

Ah. The crap novels that also make us angry.

The ones that make me the angriest are the multi-million deals to celebrities who've never written a book in their lives.

I also tried to read a novel by Deepok Chopra recently and nearly threw it across the room I was so furious. I couldn't even finish it. Nothing against the man--I own several of his other works--but he should stick to non-fiction.

If anyone else had written that piece of crap, it would never have been printed. I'm sure it was just his name that got the deal.

No, I'm not bitter. :)

julia 10/30/2007 07:28:00 PM  

I don't usually feel bad when I read good stuff. But with poetry in particular, I'm often humbled by how fantasticly that poet put things together to weave magic. It does make me feel nervous to post the next poem. But then I go ahead and post and all is well. Just standing-at-the-edge-of-the-diving-board stuff.

spyscribbler 10/30/2007 08:00:00 PM  

LOL, Susan ... I'm competitive that way, too. It does fuel the fire.

LOL, Kate. I hate that I wasted the time. But I suppose there's something to learn. (Do not repeat how the character feels over and over and over!)

Aimless Writer 10/30/2007 08:21:00 PM  

I disect. I take highlighters in different colors and go through the book trying to figure out what made it so great. I take it apart to, hopefully, learn something.
I do this to bad books too so I can learn to recognise when the flow just isn't there.
Can ya tell I'm a virgo???

spyscribbler 10/30/2007 08:33:00 PM  

Oh, Julia, poetry is a whole 'nother ballgame. I am in total awe of poets.

Magic is a good word for it!

spyscribbler 10/30/2007 08:35:00 PM  

LOL, aimless! I dated a Virgo once. :-) I keep saying I should do that sometime, but ...

I love dissecting, though. Oh heck, I love story.

Karen Olson 10/30/2007 08:56:00 PM  

Thanks for the kind words, Spy! And you should most definitely get this book. Set in China during the Cultural Revolution and afterward, it tells the tales of two brothers who don't know about each other and the paths their lives take (written from both brothers' first person POV, alternate chapters).

Yes, this is written differently than my books. And no, Da Chen does not use nearly as many four-letter words :) Our panel is on dialog...that should be interesting.

Erica Orloff 10/30/2007 09:43:00 PM  

Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman leave me suckerpunched all the time.

spyscribbler 10/30/2007 09:47:00 PM  

Erica, I've never read Margaret Atwood. Okay, tomorrow I check out Da Chen and Atwood. Must remember.

Neil Gaiman, on the other hand, blows me away. Stuns me. I'm not sure what emotion I feel, except, "holy shit, wow!"

Ello 10/30/2007 10:22:00 PM  

The Kite Runner did it to me. I was so depressed because I thought there was no way I could possibly have written a story anywhere near as compelling at I thought it was. But after the initial depression, I reacted just like you did, i had to let it challenge me and make me try harder.

Bernita 10/31/2007 07:22:00 AM  

I remind myself of the slop-crap I've read and that there's room for all sorts of styles.

Edie 10/31/2007 10:14:00 AM  

OMG! Spy, Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and the nonfiction book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert both left me feeling that way. Then like you, they uplifted me, making me want to write better. And I am!

spyscribbler 10/31/2007 12:35:00 PM  

Ello, The Kite Runner is WAY up there on books I really want to read. I have no idea why I haven't, yet.

LOL, Bernita. It struck me the other day: readers are far less picky than writers are.

Edie, I haven't read that book yet. People keep talking about it; I really need to try it!