Wednesday, July 06, 2016

IWSG: Comparisons

It's time for the July edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Here are the co-hosts for this month:

Yolanda Renee
Tyrean Martinson

A new feature this month is a question everyone is supposed to answer in their posts. Here's the question: What's the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?

The most memorable compliment I've received came from a reader on Goodreads. She compared my short story "Silver Rain" to an O. Henry story. Considering how I struggle with short stories, that's a huge compliment.

While it's wonderful when a reader compares you to a highly regarded author, comparing your works to other books can make you feel inadequate. For example, I read Naomi Novik's Uprooted this weekend. I found the main character quite sympathetic, the world-building details convincing, and the plot gripping enough to make me take the time to read 400+pages in less than 24 hours. (I can't always take the time to devour books like that anymore.) After reading something like that, the rough draft of my current WIP feels inadequate, with weak verbs and little description.

How do I cope with comparisons? I remind myself that it's not fair to compare a rough draft with a finished work (because for some reason, one always compares your worst against someone else's best). In a first draft, I'm still feeling out the basic plot, so actions and dialogue take priority. Once I have a better sense of the scene, I go back in and layer in description. Oddly enough, it's easier for me not to compare my finished books with someone else's. There will always be things I will think of post-publication, but I'm less tempted to revise those works (probably because I'm in the middle of another project by then.) 

If anything, one should learn from what you read, both what works and what doesn't. Every book is unique, meant to appeal to a different audience. I think that's why it's so hard for me to pick a favorite book. Enjoy them all for what they are, and don't try to force them into being something different.

If you're an author, what's the best thing someone has said about one of your books? What's the best thing you might say about someone else's work? Feel free to share in the comments below. 


N. R. Williams said...

Greetings. My latest review was short and said, "This is the best book of the decade." Made my heart flutter.

For my own reviews I attempt to compliment. Sometimes that's hard. At this point I haven't really found a book I loved in a long time. Perhaps one of yours will inspire me.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

A great book can do that when we're in the middle of writing. As you said, it's the author's best while we're still working on ours.
Although wouldn't it be nice if we could see one of their first drafts?

emaginette said...

I read the masters, the commercially successful, and mysteries of all types. Not only do I love them but I learn something new every time. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Yolanda Renée said...

I've been lucky to have had some great reviews, and to have been told I write like Stephen King, even though it was the reason they chose not to finish my book. I still took it as a compliment, as he's been someone I've always admired. The teacher who told me I had a book in me, or who loved reading my stores out loud to the class, made all the difference though!

Crystal Collier said...

I'm actually usually inspired by really great writing. I'll look at the elements I loved, how they were incorporated, and make an intensive effort to mimic the aspects I love...but with my own voice and in my own way. Granted, there have been times I've read something and felt like I wasn't worthy. *shrugs* I guess it really does all come down to perspective, eh?

Sandra Almazan said...

Nancy, that's a great compliment!

Alex, yes, it would be interesting to see the first drafts of great writers.

Anna, you can learn something from everyone.

Yolanda, teachers can be important influences.

Crystal, glad to hear other works inspire you!

Site Meter