A lot of people are responding to the Guardian’s awesome collection of novelists offering novel-writing advice, but Laura Miller at Salon has flipped that on its head and offered novel writing advice to novelists from readers.
A lot of the advice focuses on practice (work every day, keep a diary, stop while you’re still interested, etc.), and almost as much strives — gently or not — to inform aspirants that they shouldn’t expect much (or, really, any) money or fame from a literary career. It soon struck me, though, that the perspectives offered are limited. What makes Leonard’s advice so refreshing, after all, is that none of it fusses over the writer’s own process and delicate ego. His tips ruthlessly focus on the creation of better fiction.
Readers are what every novelist really wants, so isn’t it about time that a reader offered them some advice? I’ve never written a novel, and don’t expect to ever do so, but I’ve read thousands. More to the point, I’ve started 10 times the number of books that I’ve finished. Much of the time, I’m sampling brand-new novels that aren’t great — that frequently aren’t even very good — each one written by someone sincerely hoping to make his or her mark. I can tell you why I keep reading, and why I don’t, why I recommend one book to my fellow readers, but not another. I’ve also listened to a lot of other readers explain why they gave up on a book, as well as why they liked it.