This week, a popular publication made the claim that if one wants to write a book, one must write every single
day or else one should just give up and be pathetic. That is, of course, pompous elite BS. Writers across the internet reacted to the article with fury and humor. I even wrote up a big thing about it, which was going to be today's Reader's Room. But honestly the whole thing is so dumb and depressing I'd rather not even credit it with a rant. I'm not even linking it. You can Google it if you must.
Over the years, I have developed my own rules for writing. They're not, perhaps ironically, written down, but I think about them a lot, revise them when I need to. They're based on my preferences as a reader, and skills as a writer. For example (and this is just my opinion, you might disagree and that's good) I don't write dreams. They're almost always just a wordy and confusing way to see a character's anxiety that could be done more intrinsically to the text. Or, more often, just done away with entirely. (Seriously, next time you're reading a dream sequence, skip over it and see if you missed anything important.)
Yet rules are made to be broken. I did write a dream in Faults of Perception
. But it wasn't really
a dream, it was an early indication that Benjamin Taylor's mind was being invaded by someone else's thoughts. It was important to the story. (And it was short.)
Another personal rule is to not tell the story with documents, like emails, memos, or news articles. Those things aren't written to be slotted in to a running narrative, they're not purpose-made documents to tell the specific story. And when they are
purposely crafted to tell the story, they suddenly stop sounding like a real email, memo, or article.
But I'm learning some things about that rule. A few weeks ago I recommended the short "Regarding Your Future With The Futures Planning Consortium
" which was told entirely as a series of office emails. This week I read Sylvain Neuvel's Sleeping Giants
which is told entirely through a collection of journal entries and transcripts. It's tricky way to tell a story, and it doesn't always
work for me. World War Z
used the same device but only told a series of vignettes, not a sustained, novel-length story. A while it sold a zillion books, I had a hard time appreciating it.
But Sleeping Giants
worked for me. At least it succeeds far more often than it fails, and manages to create a tense narrative full of action, intrigue, and a bit of romance, without the traditional narrative framework. The collection of documents even serves the story. Pieces of a giant, ancient robot have started appearing around the world, and as a special team try to piece it together into its final form, the reader does the same with the assembled documents.
is the first of two books in the Themis Files series. The second is out now, and I'll be reading it soon. The first book raises a lot of interesting questions that I can't wait to get to the bottom of.