Lately I've been thinking a lot about what makes a book readable. And not just readable, but unputdownable. The kind of book you take with you everywhere because the thought of having a spare moment without it at-the-ready is horrifying. The kind of book you hunch over protectively, obsessively, like Gollum over the Ring, desperate to get as close to the words as possible so you can take them in even quicker and more effectively. The kind of book you are ready to re-read the moment your eyes (reluctantly) settle over the words The End on the final page.
The kind of book that might possess you to do a ludicrous thing like this:
This is my brother and I both trying to read The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan at the same time. Probably not an all-time favorite, but still a good book. And clearly, quite readable. (I can only imagine what kind of wrestling match would have ensued had we been reading The Hunger Games or Harry Potter at the same time.)
In less than a month, I am going to the Highlights Foundation's writers conference in Chautauqua, NY. In an effort to make sure I have a printed manuscript on hand while I am there, I have been frantically editing the holy heck out of Ephemeral, my YA fairy tale, trying to make it thoroughly presentable. Trying to make sure it is strong enough to stand up to professional scrutiny. And desperately hoping it is readable.
Which brought me to the point: what makes a thing readable?
Obviously there are certain elements--fluid prose, good character development, engaging plot, etc.--that are staples of the kinds of books that suck readers right in. But the question remains: what nudges acceptable or good writing over into the realm of the Unputdownable? Like so many things in the book world, I think it largely ends up being subjective. Having to do with taste. But I have another theory.
I think it also has something to do with how much fun the author is having.
For example, J.K. Rowling. You know she didn't start Harry Potter (on a train, on a napkin, as a single mom) because she thought it would be wildly successful. She started it because she couldn't help herself. And when you read her writing, you get the distinct impression that she's having just as much fun writing the story as you are reading it. Same with Stephenie Meyer. And Suzanne Collins. Now, granted Suzanne knew the market when she wrote The Hunger Games, so her genius can't necessarily be chalked up to innocent, self-indulgent fun, but it is clear she was enjoying herself enormously while she wrote it.
It's widely established that writers should write what they want, and not what is popular. Toni Morrison famously said, "If there is a book you want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." And we've all heard, "Write what you know." But how about, "Write what brings you alive"?
If we love the books that were written purely out of love, then it follows that we should try and write books with the same motivation. Love. In my last post, I bemoaned a lack of passion born out of an attempt to cater to the needs and wants of publishing professionals. Thank the Muses, I'm back to having fun with my Word Documents. And it's because I'm writing selfishly, out of love for the story I want to read. Sometimes I think that's the best I can do.
Of course, my opinion is subjective. And I'm still a WIP, after all. (*Smile and wink*)
What about you? Do you love what you write? Does your writing bring you alive? What are some books you've found Unputdownable, and what do you think makes them so engaging?