How Reading a Horrible Book Encouraged Me To Write

Indie authors will often do something called a review exchange. It means you both exchange your manuscripts and review them for each other. A lot of times this turns into a great experience that ends with a new writer friend. Other times though, it can be disastrous. The latest exchange I joined has been more of the latter, but that’s ok. Why though? I’ve gotten a two star review on a book that otherwise has great reviews. Also, I’ve had to read through a horrible book. I don’t mean that the content was poor, but that the writing was less than mediocre. I kept making myself read further, and everything in me that loves reading and writing revolted. No, stop reading this. You’re wasting part of your favorite reading month of the year on this book. Read something—anything else—because life is too short.

Photo by Markus Clemens on Unsplash

The Worst Part

You know what offended me the most? Is that the book could have been good. It was about an interesting topic. The story had some problems, but they also could have been fixed with just a bit more effort. The whole thing was what my reading and writing friends call ‘lazy writing’… it’s the sort of thing that happens when the writer doesn’t put any effort into their writing. Using the same word three times in one sentence because you couldn’t be bothered to use a thesaurus? Lazy. Jumping from present to past tense as if there isn’t a difference because using the correct tense sucks brain power? Lazy. Using a cliche every other paragraph? Lazy! Writing is an art. It takes a lot of effort and constant education to increase one’s skill. It isn’t easy. If you want to do something easy, don’t write. As my favorite writing quote says

“Easy reading is terribly hard writing.” -Richard Brinsley Sheridan

No thanks, I’m ok being rubbish at my job.

But don’t be discouraged. I am also a stubborn believer that anyone that wants to can learn to be a writer. Because of that, I emailed the author and asked if she would like me walk her through why I would give her book one star if I did review it. Her response: “I would appreciate if you didn’t review it.” No, “Sure, I would love to hear your constructive criticism!” It makes me sad.

A few years ago I would have made a list of examples of why her writing was so difficult to get through (including the use of cliches, many grammatical errors, and lack of creativity when choosing words)… but now I ask first because usually I received a reply like, “Thanks for your email, but my readers don’t seem to mind the things you pointed out, so I’m just going to keep writing like I write now.” Why would you be ok being bad at something you supposedly love? I don’t get it. Sure, it takes time to learn how to be a better writer, but isn’t the time investment worth it? Because money. These authors don’t care if their books are good or not because their books still sell, and contribute to the idea that self-published books can’t be held to the same standards of other books… forget literature.

Photo by Jonas Svidras on Unsplash

Over the summer a writerly friend read two of my books. The first one I ever wrote, and the most recent (book number five). She said, “You can definitely see a difference in the quality of writing between the two.” THAT! That is what I want. Thank you, friend. That was the best compliment to me you could have paid.

After reading that horrible book I’m encouraged. Now I know what I don’t want to do, and I realize more than ever how much I care about the written word. I want to get better and write amazing books. Maybe I won’t be able to convince anyone they should read my books anytime soon. But either I’m going to do it right, or I won’t do it at all. Let me close with this quote:

“What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.” -Samuel Johnson

Happy reading,

Kristin

A Note To The Weary NaNo Participant

I remember before I went through the organized insanity that was my first National Novel Writing Month (now you know why we abbreviate) I thought I wouldn’t finish all 50,000 words. In retrospect I realize how stupid that was because I’m very goal oriented, and I would have rather died than not finished. I have a very supportive husband that made sure when I needed to write, “Just 2,000 more words today…” that my children didn’t starve or my undone laundry pile reach Matterhorn like heights.

Don’t Quit Before You Start

If you’re expecting a pep talk along the lines of, “I have three kids, a full time job, and I still did it. What’s your excuse?” you are obviously new to my blog. Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here. Also, I’m not mean like that. What I will say is that you shouldn’t be afraid to start because you think you won’t finish. So, so many people ‘lose’ NaNoWriMo every year. But you know what? They have more words than when they started. That’s the whole point, to add more words to the words you already have. Maybe you have zero. Even one sentence should be considered a victory.

Go-on Girl. Do Your Thing. (Or Boy)

I mean, we all know that the first few pages are the hardest to write. “But I have to fit the very soul of my work into the first few lines or the reader will get bored and return my book!” I’m not opposed to a stunning opening line, ok? But give we readers some credit. Tell me a story from your heart. Find a good editor so that I don’t get lost in a swamp of mistakes (post-NaNo), avoid having the protagonist say the same three things over and again as inner dialogue (a current peeve of mine), and I promise I will make it all the way through your book.

You can do this!

Whether this is the first time you’ve ever written something or you are a weathered, tenured author challenging yourself to do something for the first time, welcome. Insanity will ensue. Yes. But the crazy people are all in this with you. Let’s make more words, worlds, and characters that will get stuck in someone else’s brain forever. Shall we?

Whether you are a planner, pantser, plantser, or don’t know what any of those are, what plan do you have to help you beat discouragement into a bloody stump this November? Comment below. If you don’t have a plan, may I invite you to participate in my #nanopropel2017 challenge? Check it out. It’s easy and helpful. I promise.

Without further ado… let the battle for your right to write begin!

Almost naively optimistic,

Kristin

Why Kerfuffle?

This week Kerfuffle, the third book of the Desires & Decisions series comes out! June 1st to be exact. And since the release is only a few days away, I thought I would share with you why I wrote Kerfuffle.

Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me?

Retrospective thoughts are so powerful, aren’t they? Now that I’m an adult I often look back on my adolescence and think, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” As a YA author, I read a lot of books in my own genre, and I’ve noticed a pattern. Though many of the secular YA authors are brave enough to talk about the tough stuff, not many Christian authors go after the real world difficulties that face our young people. The passage of time constantly rips through generations creating new problems and situations. The world that my children are growing up in is very different from what I experienced, and the challenges that they face as Christians are also different. The Desires & Decisions series was born out of the need for me to able to address these controversial topics with my own children. Olive, a teenage girl growing up in Southern California, serves as the lens of perspective as we see almost everything from her point of view. Her world provides a safe, fictional place for Christians to flesh out these thoughts and think through what the Bible teaches about topics like racism, bullying, loving one’s neighbor, what real love is, and addiction.

Why Kerfuffle?

Kerfuffle specifically explores the complex emotions associated with the Church and the temptation of same sex attraction. We get to experience the conflict Olive feels and also witness the varied reactions from different generations through Olive’s parents and other members of Revive Church. This issue isn’t going away, and as a Church we must be able to talk about it without alienating ourselves from those that struggle with this temptation. There is hope for every person through the blood of Jesus Christ, whether you struggle to love those who experience same sex attraction or you struggle with that temptation yourself. I hope Kerfuffle encourages you as you seek to walk closer to Christ.

Happy reading,

Kristin

That Special Feeling

When you’re a writer, you always want to write well. Each time I start a new project (I’m a planner, don’t judge me), the first step is to think about why I want to write this particular work. One thing that sets my novels apart is the nature of the topics I choose. For some reason I always have a new controversial idea I want to express. The readers have noticed, and that makes me happy. But I don’t just want to write books that deal with controversial issues. I want to write amazing books that make people think, feel, and question their preconceived ideas. “Writing to Transverse the Bubble” is my author tag line. I write every book with this goal in mind, and sometimes I get the feeling I’ve done it, but the book still isn’t where I want it to be on a scale of one to amazing. Four-star reviews make me happy, but I’m not satisfied. I want to earn five-star reviews.

That Special Feeling

Lately I’ve had that special feeling, the one you get when you know you’ve made something unique and wonderful. Maybe it’s a quilt or a painting. Maybe you’ve helped someone do something they couldn’t do before. You know the feeling I’m talking about, right? It’s a rush of adrenaline coupled with satisfaction and calm at the same time. Though you’re sitting or standing still, your skin dithers and the back of your eyelids feel electric. You know that this is the beginning of something special. Something amazing.

Kerfuffle, my new novel, comes out on June 1st. The feedback I’ve received so far has been thrilling. I don’t know how else to describe it. You see, Kerfuffle is the book I wanted to write from the beginning. I love Newfangled and Flummoxed. They each hold a special place in my heart, and their plots and themes are important. But Kerfuffle is the book I’ve been waiting to write. I feel like that shows. I almost wrote Kerfuffle right after Newfangled but my husband convinced me that Flummoxed needed to happen. He said it would be too disjointed if I introduced Olive to junior high and jumped straight into high school for the next book. She needed some time for things to seem normal before another big transition. He was right. I am very happy with how Flummoxed turned out. But Kerfuffle… there’s just something about the story.

Some people will probably be annoyed by it (and I can’t say why without spoilers), but I really don’t care. I love it. A piece of my heart is in this book, and I hope you will give it a chance.

When was the last time you had that special feeling?

Happy reading,

Kristin