Friday, February 18, 2011

Reading While Writing... "House Rules" by Jodi Picoult

When I read, I read for enjoyment and the craft of writing. In my "Reading While Writing" blog posts, I list and discuss the lessons I feel each book contained for me. Feel free to follow along and add your own lessons learned :)

Wow, what a fantastic book! I almost didn't finish it, knowing from past Jodi Picoult books that she doesn't always end the books the way I'd like them to live on in my mind. She's good for that life's a tragedy bit. However, I pushed on, hoping...praying...and phew! The book ended just as I would have it. I love a good book.

And long. 500 pages... My book started out being 100K like this one. Now I'm starting to think all my editing will benefit my readers as well as the tree population. (Although I'd love to have it printed only on recycled paper. But who knows if I'd have the option to make that choice in the end.) I'm starting to feel a clean cut, conscience story is the way to go. Because, although "House Rules" was 500 pages long, I didn't actually read all 500 pages. There was TONS of extraneous information that could have been deleted.

Take for instance all the back story. Jodi's good for it, but after reading all her work, you'd think she'd come up with a new system for disseminating it. It's always the same. A few paragraphs of the actual story then break - a few pages of back story, then break - a few pages of actual story, then break, a few paragraphs of back story, and so on and so on and so on and so on. It's so broken up - the actual story. But a little deviation from the norm would be nice. I'm just glad the book ended the way I wanted it to after investing so much time in reading it!

So, what did I learn from reading it?

To vary structure.

Jodi can get away with doing the same thing, writing in the same style, the same voice, over and over and over again. She's a bestseller. She's on the list. People know her name. We'll buy books just because we know she's a good story teller.

Yet...her structure. Pick up any three books of hers and they are all the same. Chapters in different character's POV's. Back story breaking up the action and the actual story ALL THE TIME. Yes, it's fun. Yes, it's genius. Yes, it's monotonous.

I've heard it a thousand times - vary, vary, vary. And I get it now. After flipping past pages and pages of bla bla bla that was starting to get on my nerves, I got it. Don't bore your reader. Change it up a little bit. So, you have your voice. Use it. But don't over do it.

Vary sentence structure.
Vary paragraph structure.
Vary chapter structure.
Vary story structure.

Don't get so bogged down in what works for you that you don't see that you're ALWAYS doing it the same way. Try something new. Never know when you might come up with a new winning system.

Vary, Vary, Vary!

Your readers will thank you.