Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spotting the Flaws

I'm currently reading a novel by a favorite author (who shall remain nameless for reasons that will become apparent). Though I'm near the end of the book and have decided to finish it, I've been quite disappointed, overall. Things like awkward pacing, poor dialogue, overuse of adverbs (I counted five in one small paragraph!) have left me scratching my head. This is the author's sixth novel, so the quite-obvious flaws in it make me wonder if she was in a hurry to complete a deadline.

An example of something that (I thought) needed to be re-edited: In an attempt to create suspense, the author withheld key information from the reader for about a hundred pages, so that when the details did come to light, it felt like the author re-wrote history. Either that, or the author was purposely manipulating the reader to believe one thing, while an entirely different thing was actually true. Sometimes that technique works -- but in this case, for me, it did not.

Still, even through my disappointment of these "weak spots," I'm able to gain some value in them. Reading any work through a writer's eye can always be a positive experience. Being able to spot weaknesses actually makes me a better writer. Because hopefully, by recognizing flaws in someone else's work, I can learn to spot the weaknesses in my own.

In fact, reading is such a vital learning experience that, whenever I'm consumed with grading freshman essays and don't have the creative energy to write, I always make time to READ. Because as much as I learn from well-written work (I like to study the craft, to see how they "do it"), I can also learn from poorly-written work (what not to do, which is equally important to know).


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