Thursday, November 30, 2006

Edit and Winnow

Today, I submitted my monthly book review to School Library Journal. I had mixed feelings about my review. The book itself had a narrative that was hard to follow. The text contained a plethora of heavily-wrought descriptions. I recommended the book strictly as an additional purchase. However, I thought the author herself demonstrated a solid understanding of the elements needed for successful fantasy writing, and I said as much.

When I moved to New York, I considered leaving my new library field and attempting to join a publishing house instead. After an entry-level editor friend of mine told me that she earned 5k less than I did, I decided to stay with the library system. I'm glad I did. The few manuscripts for which I did provide feedback were not ready for any sort of professional representation. I would have easily become burnt-out and overwhelmed by the volume of badly written manuscripts.

The book I just reviewed for SLJ was not badly-written. However, I don't believe it was ready for publication. I would probably have thought the same thing about Eragon, had I received a copy of the book for review. Several times I have tried to read Eragon because of patrons' enthusiastic recommendations. I have never been able to get past the first paragraph:

Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world. A tall Shade lifted his head and sniffed the air. He looked human except for his crimson hair and maroon eyes.

Once I read "crimson hair and maroon eyes," I stepped off the boat. When I was an avid child and young adult reader, I finished every book I started. I couldn't help it. I was addicted to the discovery of what-happens-next. As an adult (and parent of a toddler) my attention span has become short and skittery. I have no patience for "vivid imagery" that evokes headaches.

Hey. I spent my grade school years glutting sentences with adjectives from the weekly spelling lists. Now, I'm spending the rest of my life learning to winnow.

10 comments:

galetea said...

I totally agree. Life is too short for bad books. I too used to feel awful if I didn't finish what I started, but now I know that there is no shame in shunning bad literature.

limpy99 said...

That's a terrible opening for "Eragon". I'd stop reading it too.

"He looked human, except for the crimson hair, maroon eyes, cloven feet, vestigal third eye, forked tail, scaly skin and exterior heart."

goddess of clarity said...

"He looked human except for his crimson hair and maroon eyes and vermillion teeth and ruby ears and burgundy neck and magenta nose.

"He was red, is basically what I'm saying."

Nonny said...

I read Eragon. It was OK, not the best book I've ever read. To me it was just too close to Harry Potter with a smidgen of Star Wars thrown in. I mean come on the dragonrider mark on his hand is so similar to Harry's scar that it became ridiculous.

I guess the best gauge on how I like the book is to say I haven't rushed out to by the sequel yet and it's been out for almost a year.

Anonymous said...

In a fit of pique I finished "Eragon", but I also counted how many times each chapter began with the main character waking up. The count went to something like 33.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Fuse: For some reason, the 33 chapters beginning with the main character waking up reminds me of the "Xena: Warrior Princess" episode where every story Gabrielle writes on a magic scroll becomes true. One story began, "Gabrielle woke with a jerk." She wakes up and is lying next to Joxter the buffoon/mensch.

Nonny: That's fair enough. Some people just love this book to pieces, though, and the librarian in me would like to get perspective as to why it's so appealing. I'm sure I wrote as floridly as Paolini when I was a teenager, but I didn't get my work published. Sour grapes? Hah!

Goddess: Maybe he was red. Maybe he was closer to scarlet, though.

Limpy99: If Eragon had opened with your version, I would have kept reading.

Galetea: Amen, sister.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

"skittery" - now that's a nice word if you don't mind me saying but stil not as nice as "gibbous"!

Lone Star Ma said...

I know just what you mean about Eragon!!!! I could never get past the first page even though I really wanted to like such a successful young person's efforts. It read just like it was written by a verbally talented adolescent boy and I just couldn't take it.

galetea said...

lone star ma- Actually, I think it WAS written by a verbally talented adolescent boy. 15 when he wrote Eragon, in fact! 19 when he wrote the sequel.

Lone Star Ma said...

i know and I truly wanted to be a fan, but I just couldn't take it.