Day 1,315: Craft Trumps All

Day 1,315: Craft Trumps All

Tonight, I finished the book I was reading. It was terrible. Because of that I won’t name names…but it was bad. And this guy has written, like, seven books. SEVEN. How does that happen???

And it’s not like the author made some bad decisions here and there, or, like, some unfortunate character or plot choices…no, the problems with this book we deeply, deeply rooted in craft, and a complete lack of understanding therein. The book was proofread…that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about craft. How one tells a story, how one imparts the necessary information to move that story along, and how one “hooks” a reader in. This author couldn’t do that whatsoever, at least for me. I ripped through it as fast as I could, unfortunately, because I just wanted it to be over so I could mark it down on my list and move on.

What I’m learning during my reads is that I am a reader who *does* care about craft. Not a ton! But enough. There is a certain bare minimum quality of prose I need in my books to get hooked in. I need the authors of the books I read to understand HOW you tell a story in (I guess) more than the most basic of senses: I mean things like how to show and not tell, how to write subtext, how to write dialogue that isn’t exposition, how to foreshadow, how to pace, how to bury details of how the plot will unfold later on without making obvious enough to be seen at the time, but then make sense when the plot finally unravels…

…how to write characters that are likable, how to build suspense, how to be funny and make me laugh, how to be thoughtful and make me think. HOW TO TELL A GOOD STORY.

I doesn’t have to be great. I read “genre” fiction for fuck’s sake — a lot of it in my early days were frankin’ Star Trek tie-in novels. It’s not Hemmingway. It doesn’t need to be. Please, let it not be that. I just want to be entertained and transported away to a fantastic world of the imagination…what I’m realizing I need is “professionalism.” That’s my bare minimum in order to actually enjoy a story.

Otherwise…it’s just ideas. And ideas are dime a dozen, man. It pains me as an author myself to realize that, but it’s true; even the best ideas. Craft is supreme in that department, and it trumps every time.

I have to say that Stephen King was right when he said that “you’ll learn as much from the bad ones as you will from the good.” I learned a TON from reading this latest book. It was mostly pitfalls about my own work that I need to avoid…particularly that I can have all the good ideas in the world for a book, but I have to make sure that the story itself is well crafted.

This book I read had ideas. Ideas in spades. But no craft, and therefor no investment by me as the reader. They were just facts on a page…hundreds of them. Craft is what sucks the reader in. That’s why I learned.

Anywho…onto the next book! I’ve read 15 so far this year! That’s…honestly probably as many books as I’ve read in the past three years combined. Dope. Ness.

The Warriors won today. They set a record for the most consecutive playoff games won, both in a single playoff season and overall. They’re pretty incredible. I hope they go four straight.

Tomorrow…work. I’ve got a novel to outline. Wish me luck!