There’s a great line in The Fault in Our Stars – “Pain demands to be felt.”
What if our writing was like that? What if the novels we wrote demanded to be read? If readers were unable to sleep at night until they read the last page?
I’m in the middle of reading four books right now. FOUR.
The first three did not demand to be read.
I was simply bored with the first. Twenty pages in, it was still the setup for the main plot. The plot that I KNEW was going to take place because I’d READ THE BACK OF THE BOOK! So it was 100% un-suspenseful. You know what I did with that book?
I returned it to the library.
(It was due.)
But wouldn’t that BREAK YOUR HEART as an author if you went through all the trouble of getting a book written, polished, PUBLISHED… and then have someone RETURN IT TO THE LIBRARY after 20 pages?
It would break my heart!
The second book, I’m reading for book club – so I (probably) won’t return it until I’ve read the entire thing. But let me tell you: the first 5 pages are about a boy going to a swamp. LEGIT, that is ALL THAT HAPPENS! The dog chases a squirrel, the boy yells at the dog, and then gets hit by a passer-by for using language. But he’s basically just CHILLING AT A SWAMP. Oh, and there’s some cleverly disguised info-dumps about the world.
The third is okay. I’ll finish it, definitely, but there’s nothing PULLING ME TOWARDS IT.
When I write, I don’t want it to be “okay.” I want it to DEMAND TO BE READ. At this point, I have a solid beginning – no boring setup or disguised info-dumps. And no swamps. But now I’m at a part where one major suspense point has been resolved, and the MC has no major obstacles in front of her. No suspense. No conflict.
It’s so bad that I don’t even want to write it, because there’s no mystery for ME. No raging emotions, nothing EXCITING. If I’m bored writing, that equals the reader ready to return the book to the library.
WHAT DO I DO???
Ashley and Kathleen, two of my favorite authors on the blog CrackinTheWIP, frequently talk about blowing things up when they’re out of ideas. Or just want some more excitement. ie, “Hm, and have you tried making something explode yet? Perhaps a person, or a place, or some sort of fruit cart?”
Maybe I should try that.
Either way, something’s gotta change. Some suspense must be added, some character must turn evil, some fruit cart must explode… something to make the chapter I’m on DEMAND TO BE READ.