It's been a while since I last blogged. Even though I got my flu shot last September, I came down with a rip roaring case of the flu last week, then I've been reading Whitney nominees. (I have two and a half books to go!) There are twenty-five entries in the category I've been asked to read and they haven't been as much fun as in other years. Only about twenty percent merit consideration for any kind of award. Far too many are unedited or sloppily edited and the writers, many of whom show great potential, need to study the elements of story-telling. A lesson in proof reading and word usage wouldn't hurt either for some.
Some of the things I've found annoying in this year's crop of nominees are crude or dirty language, absurd and far too many comparisons using like or as, unlikable protagonists, shoddy research, an assumption the reader is too stupid to read between the lines of what really goes on when two people without religious convictions share a living space, stupid, unrealistic heroines, weird unpronounceable names, turning relationships into game playing, poor word choices ("turn on the sink" Really?), boring middles where nothing happens, and unappealing, tedious beginnings.
Okay, that's enough complaining about the poor entries. It's the half dozen or so at the top that keep me from throwing up my hands and saying, "I quit." The authors of these books renew my faith in LDS fiction. They're clever, they touch the heart, they understand creating a fiction arc, they make it almost impossible for a reader to set down their books. Their characters are so real the reader feels he/she has a new friend. Some made me laugh, some impressed me with their use of words, a couple brought a tear or two, and at the conclusion of each I was glad I had the experience of reading that particular book.
Overall, I'd say there are some truly talented authors in today's LDS fiction market. There is also a large number of potentially great authors if they'll take the time to study their craft and improve their skills. I'm well aware writers and critics look carefully at each other's writing and we help each other a lot by pointing out flaws and weaknesses as well as applauding a job well done. The Whitney Awards were designed to showcase LDS writers, who in the eyes of their contemporaries, have written something exceptional. To some extent writers learn if they're doing something right when they get their royalty checks, but readers might be surprised how much writers appreciate feedback from readers in the form of letters, emails, and blog comments.
As a Whitney judge, I don't think it would be ethical to list my favorite LDS novels, but I challenge readers of this blog to list in the comment trail which novels you found the most memorable in 2011. It would be interesting, too, to share the things that annoy you about LDS fiction and which things you like most.