Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Debut authors

It's interesting reading debut novels lately, because I've automatically started to compare my own writing to that of the writer.

Most of the authors I read are well-established authors. Jodi Picoult, Terry Pratchett, Jeffrey Archer, Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer; the one with the fewest novels to her name is Austen.

But The Black Moth (Heyer's debut) is encouraging to read for an unpublished writer. The dialogue is stilted and unrealistic; the hero and heroine are vanilla; and I find myself caring more about the anti-hero's failed romance than the hero's boring-knight-saves-boring-damsel routine.

At the end of the book, I wanted to know what happened to the villain; if he somehow redeemed himself, because Heyer didn't make him wholly evil. At the beginning, I assumed the story was about the villain, because the whole first chapter is all about the villain. (In fact, it's my opinion Heyer later renamed the villain and used him as her hero in These old shades.)

Simple mistakes! Simple mistakes that could easily be fixed! I sometimes read a book now, and at a poorly-phrased paragraph or stilted piece of dialogue I'll think, in disgust, Come on, that sounds like something I would write! And in a way that's encouraging — even if the worst of a debut novel is on the same level as what I write, it shows I'm at least on the right track. A few years ago, I probably wasn't even at that level.

In a way I feel Heyer may have had it easier; she was published a few decades ago, and I've heard the publishing industry has got a lot more cutthroat since then. But I've read debut novels published recently, and again, I notice stilted dialogue, plot holes, character stereotypes, predictable plots... it inspires me with hope. And these are still good books. These are still readable, gripping, exciting books that I can't wait to finish. These are still published, recognised, lauded books.

What does this mean? Well, before I submit anywhere I want to be perfect. I want to edit and revise and polish it to what I feel is perfection. But it's encouraging to know that, while an author can do the best they can, some mistakes in writing don't prevent you from being published. You shouldn't make any mistakes; if you're aware of any, they should be wiped. But... I don't know. It's just encouraging.

1 comment:

Anthony said...

I hear ya. Totally agree. It's better to compare myself to a new writer--someone in my shoes, essentially--than to an already established one. Especially if I know I'm equal in skill, or better.

But I'm an anomaly, I only recently started reading Koontz. Talk about discouraging.

Phew. . .makes me realize how far I've got to go if I'll ever compete.