I opened a carton of ice cream today to dish up some dessert for my girls. The inside of the lid was all sparkly – kind of like a million tiny diamonds, each reflecting the light. Now some might say that the ice cream had been too long in the freezer, but all I could see was the glitter of those tiny little diamonds. It was truly beautiful and quite took my mind off the mountain of dishes, behind me, waiting to be stacked in the dishwasher.
When you read a book and find you aren’t enjoying it, do you remember to look for the diamonds? It is all too easy to take a negative approach to what you’re reading, and in a massive dose of as-yet-unpublished-writer’s-egomania (of which I have been terribly guilty from time to time) you could say, “I can do better than that!” Sound familiar?
The hardest thing to remember when you read something that just doesn’t reflect the sparkles for you is that an editor liked this book enough to believe that others would like it too. The editor bought it, no matter how much you may doubt their judgement !
As writers we need to develop the objectivity required to be able to read even the books we don’t enjoy, and to seek what is within them that made that particular manuscript stand out above all the others (yours and mine included – ouch!) It could very well be that what niggles with you is what makes that book special and gives it its own voice. Look at all the things the author has done well; does the dialogue sparkle? Are the hero and heroine constantly together? Are you left in no doubt that their feelings for one another transcend everything and everyone around them? Do you know from the beginning that these two belong together, forever, but it is going to be one heck of a bumpy ride before they get there?
We’ve heard it before and no doubt we’ll hear it again, “Don’t keep reinventing the wheel.” If a tried and true plotline works, don’t disregard how powerful it will be when told with a fresh new twist – your twist, your sparkle. Focus on what we do right, and we’ll get there – eventually.
And remember to look for the diamonds, they’re everywhere.