Monday, January 16, 2012

Defining a good reading experience

"A book should never contain more than 100.000 words!"

Recently an English Professor hit a fellow author, L.E.Fitzpatrick, with this review. Though it wasn´t any of my own work beeing careened and hung to dry it still made my blood boil. Who is anyone to state such obvious nonsense about creative businesses such as writing books or music, painting or sculpturing?

That´s why I decided to write this post on my blog trying to define a good read.

Authoring is hard work!
To give your readers a good reading experience is hard work. You have to make an effort, so that your reader finds it worth the trouble to turn the page and read on. This truth has made some people think it´s like rocket science. Well, let me tell you: it´s not! Still, a lot can be done to give readers alike a better reading experience, ´cause let´s face it: we need higher standards when it comes to books - especially since recent years developments in the area of ebook publishing has made it possible for any bum visiting a public library to publish inaddequite scribblings - and believe me, they do! Just open your favorite ereader and download the first 5 free ebooks by Indie Authors. Chances are you will know exactly what I mean as soon as you´ve read the first three of them. And now that we´re at it: there´s a reason why so many Indie ebooks are free!

We need rules - to be broken
So, basically, we need rules, but we also need to understand that rules in creative fields are meant to be broken, if it´s called for.

My music teacher in college used to put it somewhat like this:
"The rules are there to help you improve. By applying the rules, you stand on the shoulders of those who came before you learning from their experience. But the rules are not there to deprive you of creativeness. If the music works, it´s good music, end of story. However, if you choose to not apply the rules, the music better be good or I´ll slap you in the face with bad grades!"
Defining a good reading experience
Let´s begin by defining a good reading experience by stating this simple fact:
If your target reader in general likes your work and turns the pages with little difficulty, you have given them a good reading experience.

But how do you do that?

Here is a few basic tips:

1. Shape your book like a fish (my apologies for the poor quality of this drawing - I am, after all, an Author, not an illustrator:)
By shaping your story like a fish you have the basic model of a good story. The elements in my model are:

a. Starters! The first two or three words are perhaps the most important part of your readers experience. This beginning determines if your reader starts reading with excitement or confusement. Make them count!

b. Introducing the basics is one of the most hidden secrets to writing. When you read a book you like, you probably won´t notice the effort the author has put into giving you these basics. But if they are not there, you will! And you probably won´t even get to the bottom of the first page before giving up.

c. The beginning. If you are just as impatient an author as I am, beginning to tell the story is the part you hate the most. This is the part where you give your readers back ground info to enable them to understand the rest of the story, so if you don´t get it right, they won´t read the rest of the story and you will have a hard time convincing them to buy your newest book, if the first part of a previous book was not worth the while.

d. Main body of the story the part you, as an author would most likely find to be the easy part, because this is where your idea comes to life. Still, you need to work hard to tell the story right, but I´ll get into that in another post.

e. Concluding the story can be an exciting endeavour, but to be honest, it can also be a drag. But again, if you can´t conclude the story, your readers will feel cheated. Depraving your readers of the conclusion is like waving candy at the eyes of a child only to put in back in your pocket. Even if your book is brilliant up to this point, a bad conclusion can ruin the entire reading experience for your readers and they´ll never come back.

d. Tying up loose ends means answering unanswered questions. In any story there will be questions that are never answered, but still you need to at least address these questions. The interesting thing is this: if your readers loved your book up to his point all you have to do is address unanswered questions with something like:
"How Mrs. Landry ever got the information never came to the surface, but it was on her account that the firm upgraded their security."

With this you haven´t answered the question, but you still addressed it and your readers will accept it.

e. Making room for more is not really a necessity, but it is often what separates a good book from a very good book. The reason is simple: nothing in every day life really ends and by making room for more you make the story credible.

Making room for more posts
In the coming week I´ll be diving deeper into the above mentioned, but for now I´ll just ask you this one question: do you apply all of these elements in your story and in which ways?