Friday, July 20, 2012

Experience or Perfection--Why do you read?

I just bought another book about writing. I know. Another one? It's just another opinion about how to do something that is, what I am now realizing, very personal. It was a pretty good book, but I expected more based on the blurb. See what you think:

This guide reveals how writers can utilize cognitive storytelling strategies to craft stories that ignite readers’ brains and captivate them through each plot element.

Imagine knowing what the brain craves from every tale it encounters, what fuels the success of any great story, and what keeps readers transfixed. Wired for Story reveals these cognitive secrets—and it’s a game-changer for anyone who has ever set pen to paper.

The vast majority of writing advice focuses on “writing well” as if it were the same as telling a great story. This is exactly where many aspiring writers fail—they strive for beautiful metaphors, authentic dialogue, and interesting characters, losing sight of the one thing that every engaging story must do: ignite the brain’s hardwired desire to learn what happens next. When writers tap into the evolutionary purpose of story and electrify our curiosity, it triggers a delicious dopamine rush that tells us to pay attention. Without it, even the most perfect prose won’t hold anyone’s interest.

Backed by recent breakthroughs in neuroscience as well as examples from novels, screenplays, and short stories, Wired for Story offers a revolutionary look at story as the brain experiences it. Each chapter zeroes in on an aspect of the brain, its corresponding revelation about story, and the way to apply it to your storytelling right now.

Pretty great, right? Imagine my surprise when, at the end of this book, I learned that this writer has not published a novel. In fact this book is the only published title to her name. Hmm? Credibility anyone?

The idea of this book is fantastic, and the science is intriguing, yet toward the end the author suggests that you have to rewrite-rewrite--and you guessed it--rewrite some more to make your book perfect for the reader to engage. Here's where it all fell apart for me. I was with her when she was giving examples using imagery. I was with her when she had some pretty stellar science to back her claims, yet when I hit her "STORY SECRET: There's no writing; there's only rewriting" I went huh? (This little tidbit is in the index, by the way. Shame on me for not looking there before I scanned the rest of the sample. :))

She proceeded to quote famous authors that tout her mantra. There are plenty of them, but the premise of this book speaks otherwise. Our brains are wired to EXPERIENCE story. We are imperfect beings for heaven's sake. How could any writer possibly write a perfect story? Not to mention the science says we look to story to learn. I have to agree with that hypothesis.

I'm not saying that stories don't need refinement. They do. No author should ever write a first draft and slap that puppy onto Kindle before their keyboard turns cold. We need unbiased minds to tell us where our stories might have glitches before the book is released to readers, but to think that you might have to wade through no less than one hundred drafts before a story is ready is absurd to me.

That being said, I think this book does have merit. I thoroughly enjoyed 80% of this book, but the other 20% left me shaking my head in sadness. Stories come to writers for a reason. If you have a story, you should tell it the best way you know how, polish it the best way you know how, ask trusted readers what they think, then publish it or send out queries if that is your thing.

When a reader goes into a book looking for problems, they will find them (even in the book above I found missing words when I wasn't looking for them); yet, when a reader goes into a novel looking for an experience, guess what? They will find that too if they connect with the story. I found the science absolutely fascinating, and I want to know more. You see, I've been on a mission lately. It's pretty simple: read to feel. That's right. I want to feel while I'm reading. Don't you? Being able to experience a thrilling life without the risk of facing the consequences is pretty appealing.

Finding books that meet my expectation hasn't been as hard as you might think. Just as an aside, I'm still looking for a book to rival what I felt while reading CRUX by Julie Reece. If you haven't read it, and you love YA, go get it Here. The kindle edition is only $4.99. Sorry for the aside, but it was that good.

So on to my process. First of all, where I can, I always sample a book before I buy it. Even if a book has been recommended to me by a trusted friend I follow this process. If the cover captures my attention I'll read the blurb. If that keeps my attention I'll read the sample. If the sample makes me want more, I'm pretty sure I'll have a winner.

I think when we writers focus on the story the writing will follow, but when we focus too much on the writing, the story will suffer. Just my opinion, but from what I've seen, it stands. Who hasn't read a book with beautiful prose that should sweep you in, yet falls flat somehow? Who hasn't looked at a book after thinking the cover was amazing and the blurb wasn't half bad just to find the in between lacking? So there you have it folks. My quest continues to find the real reason we connect with story, but until that happens, I'll stick to my process and HOPE it works.

So, how do you choose your books? Do you have a system? What makes you connect with a story? Do you read for the experience or to find perfection?

Happy reading everyone!~

Oh, and tune in next week for the Blogger Book Fair.

I will be revealing the cover for Genesis, the third book in my Elemental Enmity Series, which I will release July 27th!!!! I'm so thrilled; can you tell?

I'm also interviewing some amazing authors throughout the week and will have some excerpts for you to peruse.

Hope you stop by...


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