Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reading Whitneys

I haven't done much blogging this month, I'm mostly avoiding Face Book, and the amount of writing I've done is zilch. I've been busy reading. I'm not reading just anything; I haven't even spent much time with the newspaper. It's the Whitneys. At some insane moment in the past I agreed to be one of those people who reads nominees in an effort to whittle down their numbers to a managable five finalists. And I'm doing this in more than one category. I won't say which categories, but one has some really great nominees and one has . . . well, let me say . . . a few really good ones.

I've made some observations during my reading: 1) copy editing is a lost art at most publishing houses, 2) some writers have more friends than talent, 3) when LDS writers are good, they're really good, 4) realistic dialog improves a story while course, vulgar language detracts, 5) LDS writers run the full gamut from silly, sappy, boring, negative, sloppy research, to funny, realistic, great research, thought provoking, and enlightening. Some write the same old boring drivel over and over and some have keen imaginations and powerful messages to deliver, and 6) sometimes within a single book some writers write brilliantly for awhile and childishly in other sections.

Over the many years I've been writing, I've discovered readers vary as widely as writers do. There are some who like the predictable Barbara Cartland type romance; some will only read novels if they're closely linked to Church history; some consider fictionalized novels loosely based on a scriptural event or time period sacrilegious, some want lowest denominator novels that dwell on Church members weaknesses and shortcomings, complete with raw vocabulary; some want stories that are strictly imaginative with no direct reference to the church---but with the language cleaned up; some don't care whether there's a Church link or not as long as the book is entertaining; some like social issues; some want mystery and adventure, some consider genre fiction beneath them and seek what they consider literary only; some like to mull over a novel for weeks on end, and others prefer quick reads.

Fortunately I like to read and find it interesting to sample so many different styles and topics. So far I've only found one book that was so lacking in appeal that I only read the first sixty pages, then touched briefly on subsequent chapters and read the final one. I liked one I expected to dislike and was bored by one by an author I usually enjoy a great deal. Some are pretty much what I expected, good or bad. I have five and a half books left to go---then there are the new books I need to read and review for my Meridian column and one I agreed to edit for one of my daughters. Perhaps one day, I'll find time to write again.

The winner for the previous contest never claimed her prize, so I will draw two winners this time, one from followers and commenters and one just from commenters.

9 comments:

Britt said...

The copyediting thing is a killer. It's driving me nuts!! Seems like published books are getting worse and worse in that regard...

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

hilarious! 'some writers have more friends than talent.' yes! You are right!

I can't seem to pick up a book anymore without finding tons of typos.It worries me. I was a copyeditor for BYU-television, so I know how to do it, but finding your own mistakes is HARD. You really rely on a copy-editor at your publisher's house!

Daron D. Fraley said...

Great post. Thanks for some inside peeks into the judging process.

Robin said...

I'm glad i'm not a writer but I do read a lot of books and am constantly finding errors. Some are quite funny. I know there are days that words come easy and other times the words just don't look right.

I enjoy a wide variety of books but one thing I look for is, does it leave me thinking?

Elizabeth Morgan said...

That sounds like quite the task you have taken on to help narrow down the finalists for the whitney awards. I am sure you will be able to do a wonderful job as choosing.

Traci Hunter Abramson said...

Loved this post, Jennie! I wish you luck on this undertaking. I can't begin to imagine how much time it must be taking you, even considering how many novels you have already read and reviewed this year.

While I probably can fall into many of the different categories of writers you mention, I at least hope I catch most of my typos and I don't ever bore you!

Jolynn_Reads said...

That's alot of reading. I really like to read, but I'm not a very fast reader. My husband is just the opposite.
Reading that many books, in that short of time, would be confusing for me. The LDS fiction has Great talent.
Good Luck.

KarenG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KarenG said...

Every LDS writer and publisher, LDS or not, should have those two middle paragraphs of this honest analysis posted up in the editorial office and look at it every day.