This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
By Anna Bell
When I first start writing a novel I tend to stay away from books. That early point of planning, researching and breaking ground are for me to daydream and let my imagination run away with me. Once I get past the 20,000 word mark – and hit my awful book hump (which always has me thinking that it’s the worst book I’ve ever written) – I turn to other fiction to remind me of what I enjoy as a reader.
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Since starting the third part in my Don’t Tell The series, I’ve read a few books including Me Before You (Jojo Moyes) and I Heart Christmas (Lindsey Kelk), as well as two bestselling novels that I am not going to name and shame. They’ve been four completely different books in terms of content and style, yet they’ve all spurred me on for different reasons.In terms of style, my novel is closest to I Heart Christmas, and reading that particular book made me want to raise my game. I find Lindsey’s style engaging and her prose has me giggling along. It comes across as effortlessly funny and I’d love someone to read my books and think that. It has reminded me of the importance of including warm humour in first person narrative and how it makes you love the character from the very beginning.
I’m probably the last person in the world to have read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Life isn’t always happy, and I like to be reminded of that by reading something that pushes my buttons and stirs my emotions. I write fairly upbeat romantic comedies, but reading something like Me Before You reminds me how powerful sad emotions can be in a book. I realised fairly early on in my manuscript that I was missing a storyline and, after reading this book, I realised that I needed to add an emotional storyline for my characters, which would give the novel some depth.
The two bestsellers, which will remain nameless, were good lessons on how not to write. Whilst they were both engaging with good storylines, both irked me because of the writing style.The first was a thriller set in a foreign city and, at times, I felt like I was reading a travel guide. There were far too many asides to the reader, as if the book was attempting to show off the author’s knowledge and research on the topic. It interrupted the story and slowed the pace. I like it when you can tell an author has done their homework and researched well, peppering their novel with information without it detracting from the story.
I didn’t enjoy the second bestseller because it was a first person narrative with only a few lines of clunky dialogue between the protagonist and the other characters. Even when there was an action scene, the majority of it was narrated, which I found incredibly jarring and rendered the whole book quite dull. It was a classic case of telling not showing, but it was a good reminder to me, as I’m writing a novel in the first person, to show not tell.
Do you find it useful to read when you’re writing or do you have a total book ban for the duration? Do you find it just as useful to read bad books as well as good ones?