Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Write Wednesday -- What Makes Great Literature and How Can We Support It?

Welcome to Write Wednesday!

Even if you don't write, I believe it is beneficial to know what good (or great) writing is -- that way your time isn't wasted by poorly conceived or ill-written books.  I believe readers have a responsibility to encourage and support great literature and to keep standards high so that new writers will (hopefully) feel that their work matters and what they are giving to the world is of value (and should therefore be as polished as possible).

 What do you think great writing is?  Here are some articles that can help you answer that question:

7 Simple Ways to Make a Good Story Great from Writer's Digest

An article about how awesome R.L. Stine (of Goosebumps fame) is -- and how his writing process works

Rachel Aaron's article about Teaching Your Readers Magic (which is about writing fantasy but has some great things to say about writing good stuff in general)

Here's my list of what makes a great book:

1.  Relatable characters -- I can join a character on a spaceship, in a castle, or during a vampire hunt, but if they struggle with the same things I do (identity, redemption, etc.), I can relate.  Their struggles might enlighten me about mine and the story might end up encouraging or teaching me.  I might return to the story again and again because it helps me remember I'm not alone.

2.  Strong theme -- Like I've said before, redemption and identity are themes that click with me.  Watch any of my favorite TV shows (Firefly, Buffy, Dollhouse, Supernatural, Doctor Who, etc.) and you'll understand how powerful these themes are.

3.  Polish -- this is perhaps the lesser-noticed but might-be-most-important part of a great book.  Ensuring your writing is as tight as possible (economy of words, finding the right words), fixing any plot holes, issues with pacing, or grammar mistakes, and generally ensuring that your book is sent out when it is the best it can be -- all those tiny little things that make a good book great.

Of course, I have criteria of what I enjoy in a book (whimsy, parts where I laugh and parts where I cry, laugh-out-loud humor like funny names or one-line zingers), but that doesn't mean books I don't particularly enjoy are bad.  Just not my favorite type to read.  That's a good thing to keep in mind when reviewing or talking about books you didn't enjoy -- just because you didn't doesn't mean someone else won't or that the book doesn't have value.

Since we're talking about great literature and the need to keep reading these stories, how can we show our love and support for the writers we adore?  Below are some ideas.

You can support writers by:

-- Checking out books from the library, online or offline (there are records concerning which books are most read!), or using a service like Amazon Prime

-- writing reviews (of books you've read) on Amazon, Goodreads, or on your own blog (link to Facebook or Twitter!).  Reviews make a big difference as to whether a reader will take a chance on a book.  Believe me -- even the free ones don't get picked up (usually) unless they've got stellar reviews.

-- Read authors' thoughts outside of their books.  I follow Kate DiCamillo on Facebook (Here) and Sharon Creech's lovely photo-and-word blog entries (Here), as well as Rachel Aaron's funny and thought-provoking blog Pretentious Title.  I also read updates from authors on Goodreads.  Leave a comment and encourage them -- sincere compliments or stories about how their books have affected you make a difference.  (You can also send snail-mail to some of them via their publishers.  Who doesn't like fan mail??  Just please don't be creepy.)

-- Attend book signings, if you can.  I haven't been able to yet, but I would love to arrive at a bookstore with a favorite book in hand (or purchase one at the store) so that a favorite author can sign it especially to me!

-- Purchasing books at bookstores (where at least part of the money goes back to the author.  This can be a budgetary issue when you are like me and have no money and would prefer to spend a penny plus shipping on Amazon -- but if you can, do support the author by buying their book straight from a bookstore, whether online or off!)

Want to discuss any (or all) of this?  Leave a note in the comments!

See you on Friday for First Lines!

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