Monday, August 25, 2008

To Read or Not to Read - Part 2

In an earlier post I confessed that I don't read much historical YA out of fear and frustration - fear that I'd subconsciously incorporate something into my own writing and frustration with the quality of some of what is published. In the comments that you all wrote, you explained how you read childrens' literature as writers, studying plot development, characters' voices, structure, and what makes a successful setting. I took your words to heart and I've been reading!

I just finished BLUE by Joyce Moyer Hostetter. It is an historical novel set in 1944 with a 13-year-old protagonist. (It was recommended to me by Carolyn Yoder when I was working on that project I recently gave up because I found it so frustrating.) I'd tried reading it two years ago and I couldn't get past the first chapter. The character's voice was so strong and real, I was terrified that she would creep into my character's voice. This time when I picked it up the character's voice was still strong and real, but I was able to look beyond that to the structure, the plot, the way the author moved the story forward, how every chapter took me closer to the story's end. I noticed that the author made jumps in time, a month or two at a time, she finished a scene and moved on without then describing something unnecessary to the story - which is something I KNOW I am guilty of, as if I have to explain, for example, that the character washed their face and brushed their teeth before going to bed when NONE OF THAT MATTERS. There was nothing unnecessary in the story. It was wonderful.

So, thank you fellow writers, critiquers and friends for your words of wisdom. This is yet another example of why critique groups are valuable. I now understand the value of reading in my genre. It's about time!


  1. To me, one of the hardest things is leaving out unnecessary details
    if they're descriptions I've worked hard on. They become FAVORITE words!

    And then I have to kill them.

  2. Hey Meg, you're welcome! Next suggestion: Read every book twice. Once for the pure enjoyment of it. A second time with a critical eye. Truth be told, I wish I could do this. I can't read kid just for fun anymore. My analytic side always gets in the way. Now that's the downside of reading in your genre! ;-p

  3. I love to read so much it's hard for me to analyze anything. I just power through, living in another world for a few hours at a time.

    I do think it would help me to really study structure in published works. Well, next week is back to school. Perhaps I'll teach myself a thing or two.

  4. Meg, Thanks so much for sharing this exciting follow up to your initial post. How wonderful it is to know "the rest of the story" (and our blog's positive influence)!

    I second Janice's recommendation to read books twice. I did that recently with Jay Asher's "Thirteen Reasons Why". The first time through I was so engrossed as a reader, I just had to know what came next. The second time through, I was equally engrossed as a writer. I wanted to analyze how he had managed to tell this story in a way that captured me from start to finish.