Saturday, April 13, 2013

Test Time!

What makes books good or bad? Oftentimes, even we (writers) can’t really tell exactly what makes a book a winner. Sure, we know if there is an exciting plot, excellent imagery, or beautiful, poetic writing. But sometimes we can’t tell exactly what made this book appealing to us—and why it appealed to the people who published it. And if we can’t tell that for ourselves, how will we know how to make our own books or stories winners? I’m the type of girl who has a hard time putting down a book—even if it’s really mundane. I just can’t stand the thought of not finishing something. That has been to my determent, because I haven’t come to realize what it is in the book that makes me not want to keep reading. I just read on, no matter what. So I’ve started an exercise. When I go to the library, I head to my favorite section (definitely the Christian Historical Fiction) and I pick out three books. Two of them are books that I definitely want to read (usually ones that friends recommend or that I have a steadfast trust in the author). Then, for the third one, I pick a random book that I’ve never heard of. I read this book until 45 pages (I found out that this is usually the farthest point a bored reader will read to until they finally put it down). After that, I stop, and I write a paragraph in a designated notebook about why or why not I want to continue with this book. Is it a successful plot? Has the story engaged me from the beginning? Have the characters’ voices engaged me from the beginning? After I write my paragraph, I can use the pros I found in my own stories, and I can make sure not to use any of the cons I found, too. It’s a great exercise—and I’ve even found a few new favorite authors!

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