Books

What Does It Take To Write A Good Book?

The answer to this question is not so straightforward. Fiction covers a wide variety of genres and so there are books to cater for all needs. I like easy-to-read and light-hearted novels, with the odd mystery story thrown in. I read at night, by which time I am usually very tired, so if I have to concentrate too much, I just cannot do it.

I admit then, that you won’t find me reading anything too taxing. It is not as though I am not academically capable, it is just that I have enough going on in my brain and I do not require it to be stretched any more (sad but true).

Other people will of course enjoy a novel that stretches their way of thinking, forcing them to look at the way they view the world. That’s fine. Like I said, there is something to suit everyone out there. That’s why it is so difficult to answer the question of what a good book is.

I am renowned as one who will not persevere with a book to the bitter end if I am not enjoying it. My reading time is precious and I do not want to waste it on something I cannot get in to. I have a list of unfinished books (most of which are on my Kindle). I am going to run through them and explain why I can’t read them. You may think ‘why, that is my favourite book of all time’ and I will be fine with that. The point is, these are books that I have personally not managed to get in to and it merely illustrates the point that what works for some people does not work for others.

A Song of Fire and Ice – George R.R. Martin
I sailed through the first three Game of Thrones books and loved them. I absorbed myself in this fantasy world and all the colourful characters in it. Then I started book four and I lost it. There are a lot of characters in these books and I mean lots. I started to lose track of who was who and with so much jumping about between kingdoms, it all started to become a bit too much. In addition, lots of characters were killed off (no spoilers) and I started to wonder if anyone would be left.

Then I watched the TV adaptation and I caught up on what I had read. I think it helps to have read the books if you watch the series on TV and I have considered starting book four again so that I can catch up before the new series is aired. I don’t know if I will get around to it though. It feels like a big challenge and one that I am not sure I am up for at the moment.

Vampire Diaries – L.J.Smith
I read many genres, especially young adult because I write for this age group. It is important to see what other people are writing. I managed all four Twilight books and apart from book three, which was a struggle (but I managed to get through it), I did enjoy them. I was not expecting to like these books, as Vampires aren’t particularly my thing. So following on, I thought I would try another Vampire book and picked the first of the Vampire Diaries series. I know these books are hugely popular and have been adapted for television, but I could not get in to it. I think for me it was one Vampire too many and a case of been there done that and need to move on now.

Dead Girls Detective Agency – Suzy Cox
This young adult book is about a girl who dies when pushed in front of a subway train. As a ghost, she has to find out who her killer is. I picked this book because it has a similar theme to my own story and I wanted to check it out. I was relieved to find that it is very different to mine though. This story is very tongue and cheek and written in and exaggerated teenage manner. For me it has no depth, as the main character does not feel believable: there is no emotion shown relating to the fact that she has just died. The story has a light hearted jokey feel, which may very well suit the teenage audience it is aimed at, but not for me thank you very much.

Liam’s List – Haleigh Lovell
Many new adult books have one or both of the main characters as damaged individuals with colourful pasts. Most follow the same theme. The two get together and there is an extremely strong attraction, bordering on obsession with each other. This makes for some explosive scenes, which are often sexually explicit. When done properly, this can work very well and I have to say I would find it very difficult to write those scenes myself. When done badly, you find yourself cringing at the wording, laughing even. What works, is when you do not even notice the wording used because it flows so well. Frequency is also an issue. When it comes to the point that every time you turn the page, they are at it again, you start to lose interest. A good story, with two strong and interesting characters, is essential to back up all the sex bits. You need to feel the attraction between the two of them oozing out of the pages. A good author can do this without any explicit scenes.

New adult books often have an ex-war hero in them. Tackling post-traumatic stress disorder is quite a delicate subject and I feel I have read enough of these now. In Liam’s list, Liam comes back from Iraq having seen some terrible things and thinking that it is his entire fault. He pushes his girlfriend away and she starts to wonder if their relationship is finished. Then she comes up with the idea of a sexual bucket list to get him through his troubles (yes really). Therefore, her answer to PTSD is to have a lot of sex in a lot of different ways. You can see where I am going with this one.

The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer
I know how popular this book is and so I wanted to read it for myself. Unfortunately, it did not hold my interest. The reason for this is that it is written from the point of view of someone with a mental health disorder. I understand the book is highly acclaimed for the way it tackles mental health issues. However, as far as bedtime reading is concerned, it was not for me. This is one of those examples of a book that isn’t light-hearted enough and is too deep for my liking. I realise how shallow that makes me sound, but I’m being honest here.

What do you find keeps you turning the pages of a book? Are you like me and give up when you can’t get in to something?

I’m sharing this for this week’s What I’m Writing

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18 thoughts on “What Does It Take To Write A Good Book?

  1. I have to say none of the books you’ve mentioned here would float my boat in the slightest. I enjoy watching The Walking Dead but that’s about it for me with the vampire, zombies and alternative universes go. Might also have more to do with the fact that Andrew Lincoln is such good eye candy… loads of people love this genre though, which reinforces what you’ve said. What works for one doesn’t necessarily for all #whatimwriting

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  2. it very much depends on my mood. I find I have to put a book down sometimes and return to it later on. I might not enjoy it at all initially but then on returning find it much easier to disappear into. I do like to be thoroughly engrossed in my books. It’s my escape.
    Right now I’m reading Donna Tartt’s recent novel and have been instantly hooked. She has such an appealing wiring style for me and I love The Secret History.
    I have eclectic tastes in reading though-will happily read most things 🙂

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  3. I like that you don’t finish books. There’s nothing worse than trying to force yourself to read something you’re not enjoying. The only one on the list I’ve read is The Shock of the Fall. I read it in one day and loved it, however, I completely understand why it would make for hard reading as it jumps about and has very emotionally challenging themes. I think if I’d read it at bed time then I would have struggled as well.
    Thank you for linking up to #whatimwriting

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  4. I agree that in the world of reading there is not a ‘one size fits all’. Which from a writer’s perspective is great because it feels like there’s space for all of us somewhere! I’ve read (and loved) the Shock of the Fall but haven;t read the others. I tend to flit between heavier and lighter reads. Too much ‘fluff’ and I start to yearn for something more meaningful, but the reverse is true too! Thanks for linking to #WhatImWriting

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  5. I think it’s fascinating to find out how people get on with different books. The Shock of the Fall is one I’d like to read, but only because it’s popular and everyone else seems to have read it. Perhaps I shouldn’t follow the herd! I struggled with the Twilight series, I think I managed the first one. I try to read lots of different books in different genres these days, some more heavier going than others. Most of the time I enjoy them but, like you, I will give up on something if it’s not holding my attention. I found 50 Shades of Grey a tedious read and gave up on that. I also have Death comes to Pemberley by PD James sitting indefinitely on my bedside table, sadly her only duff novel I think. The characters are too flat.

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    1. That’s why I tried The Shock of the Fall actually. It was the same with Gone Girl and I did read it all, but my mum gave up on it as she thought it was boring! She reads all the time and as a retiree she does have the time, so it was interesting that she couldn’t get in to that one.

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  6. I’m totally with you here Nikki. I used to plough through a book regardless but nowadays, my time seems more precious and I think “what’s the point?” If im not enjoying a book. I’ve stalled on my current read in fact. I lost the flow and now it’s just sitting there, until its due for renewal or has reached it’s renewal max… #WhatImWriting

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    1. I think once you leave a book for a few days, it gets harder and harder to go back to it. I managed to finish off a few that were on my Kindle when I went on holiday earlier this year. That was only because I ran out of things to read and didn’t have wifi!

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  7. I generally don’t read enough at the moment anyway, but when I do I really need to strike a balance – I don’t like anything too heavy, but I need something to have a bit of clout to it otherwise it feels like a waste of time! Which I realise is ridiculous on some levels – my standards are much lower when it comes to wasting time on TV… I hate abandoning a book halfway through – I have done with a handful over time, but once I’ve started I’m generally pretty determined to persevere! When I’m choosing books I tend to read the first couple of pages, and if I like the voice then I’ll forgive all sorts in terms of plot. If the writing style jars with me then I won’t be able to read on however good other people say it is… Interesting post – and definitely something important to think about as a writer 🙂

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  8. I can’t finish books if I can’t get into them. I find it easy to give up on something if it’s not holding my interest and I don’t really blame anyone, except myself, for this. We all like different books don’t we. I loved the Twilight Saga, read the whole thing (all books) in about 3 weeks. But then I love Michael Crichton too. In particular A State of Fear – not one I’d recommend for you Nicola because it requires a LOT of thought. Not really one to be reading before bed. 🙂

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