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Archive for August, 2011

Hi, everyone! I’ve created a new “author” page , and I hope you’ll stop by and “like” me!

This is the spot where I’ll be posting all the latest news about books, writing, reading–and, of course, contests!

In fact, I’ll start a new one right now. THE RULES HAVE CHANGED HERE, as I try to make sense of FB’s contest rules!

Over the next week, anyone who comes by this website and leaves a comment on this blog entry will be entered in a drawing to win a $25.00 gift certificate from Amazon.com! Remember, this contest is run by me, and not by Facebook, and you’re giving your information to me, not to them! 🙂 (This is me trying very hard to comply with their rules, because I believe in following rules!) You do NOT, repeat, do NOT have to “like” my page in order to be entered. Just leave a comment here and let me know what you think of the page!

I love to hear from my readers, and I always value–and USE–your comments and advice! It’s wonderful to have an ongoing dialogue about what makes a good book, and which books you’re loving right now! I hope you’ll come join the fun!

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I think maybe being a writer has made me a bad reader.

I still love to read, of course—nothing short of a brain transplant will ever change that. But I don’t read the same way I used to. I’m afraid I no longer read the way “normal” readers do.

First of all, some insecure part of my psyche is always weighing the book I’m reading against the books I write. Deep inside, I’m whining something like, “Rats…I couldn’t ever think of something this clever!” or “Arghghghgh! Why can’t I write like this?”

But every writer I know does that. We learn to tune that annoying little voice right out.

What really worries me is that, because of my years as a writer, I focus on all the wrong things in a book. I am afraid that I’ve forgotten how to just sit back and enjoy the magic.

Here’s what makes me think so: The other night, my daughter and I went to see Agatha Christie’s play, “The Mousetrap.” My son-in-law had a role—he was terrific in the part of silly Mr. Paravicini—and we had a wonderful time.

But on the way home, I began thinking about the plot, and I began saying things like, “Didn’t Christie use too much coincidence, though? Why was she staying in the hotel, in the first place? Why was he there, too? I just can’t buy that much coincidence!”

Was I wrong in my criticism? Maybe not, technically. The play does rely heavily on coincidence, something all writing teachers, editors and contest judges tell us is a huge no-no.

But does that mean the play isn’t well written? Does that mean the play isn’t good? Obviously not! As Agatha Christie’s own site tells us, this is the longest-running play in the world. In the world! Since it opened on the West End in 1952, it has never been out of production.

Clearly something powerful happens when audiences watch this play. They are entranced, and they don’t give a darn about whether Christie followed the so-called writing “rules.”

The same is true, for instance, with J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It’s filled with adverbs, what the writing teachers like to call “LY” words. “LY” words are lazy writing. “LY” words are literary dead weight. “LY” words must be hunted down like zombies and have their heads lopped off.

And yet, all the “LY” dead weight in the world can’t sink a Harry Potter book. I bet most readers don’t even notice them, and if they do, they couldn’t care less.

So, bottom line is…I’m afraid I might have worked so hard to learn the “craft” of my profession that I’ve forgotten how to enjoy the magic of it. No one jumps onto Amazon, eager to post a review that let you know “This book has perfect punctuation!!!!” No one calls up a friend and says, “OMG! This writer hasn’t used a single LY word!!!!”

It’s a lot easier to pick apart a book and see where it might have broken some rules than it is to pinpoint what the author did right. And, in truth, it’s easier to weed out your “LY” words than it is to seed in some enchantment.

What about you? Do Rowling’s “ly” words bother you? What about Christie’s coincidences? Do your bookshelves (or Kindle lists) hold some story that is mocked by snobs but still warms your heart? Have you ever had to defend a beloved book from the naysayers?

I have a feeling that, in a duel between the rule-maker and the magic-maker, the magician wins every time!

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