I got my author copies of ECHOES OF PASSION yesterday, and I was pleased. For one reason or another, I didn't see the book after I turned in the manuscript, and so I was in the dark as to whether it had weathered the editing stages. As a rule, after I finish writing a book I don't revisit it (I mean, if it's done, it's done, and I don't see any reason to go back unless it's to look something up), but it had been so long since I had seen it I felt I had to do something. So I did: I sat down and read my book.
As I did, a few memories of the writing process came trickling back, little by little. I remember writing descriptions, piecing together the descriptions of a war that was waged twenty cycles (approximately two and a quarter years) ago, the battles and the outcome. I remember writing the descriptions of a settlement that had seen more than its share of sorrow and mystery, the descriptions of a lover who never was. Sometimes the descriptions came on like a waterfall, while other times ... well, they didn't. (I'm sure you know that feeling.)
Most of all, as I was reading, I remember shaping the people. The green skin of the Neoti and the golden skin of the Vozuan, so close in so many things cultural and physiological but so far in others. And I remembered why I write; shaping those people, the places, the stories can be an amazing experience.
So many other people do articles on craft, so I tend to shy away from them. But something happened a few days ago and I felt compelled to comment. (If I didn't feel compelled I don't know what I'd be doing writing about it. But anyway.)
I work with someone at the Day Job who's not much of a reader. In fact, she jokes (but not really) that she reads one book a year, and she chooses it just before she goes on vacation for a week to the family vacation place beside a lake. The place has no Internet, barely electricity, so reading is the way to go. She's got a dozen books that she's started to read at the lake but never finished. She'll finish them someday, she says.
This year, though, she may finish the book she chooses. Recently, she saw the movie Twilight, and got so curious about the story that she picked up the source novel ... and LOVED IT. She devoured it and had to read the next ... and the next. She can't imagine what those people who disparage these books are thinking, she says. She's never read anything like them!
Now, I have to admit I've never read anything by Stephenie Meyer. Like my coworker, I figure I'll read 'em someday, but they're not really in my bailiwick (I've read enough vampire novels in my day, and I can't imagine that these YA versions are much different from the adult romance version). But my coworker was raving about them, and that makes me curious. I know it's got to be the voice -- and voice is, as we're told, over and over, what makes all the difference.
Two examples. Stephen King. Brilliant writer of short fiction and nonfiction, but his horror novels leave me cold. But I know it's the voice that brings 'em in. I've read two of his novels, and I remember admiring his technique, but while I recognize his craft, it's not something that hits my heart or gut. Will I have nightmares? Eh. I applaud him for everything he's done, but it's not to my taste for the most part. Next.
Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Mertz. My personal favorite. Her voice spoke to me the first time I read Ammie, Come Home, and it has greeted me like an old friend every time since. I've always loved her work, but I know others have only nodded and said, "She's okay."
And that's mostly voice. Does it suck you in? Does it transport you to a land not of your choosing, and do the characters appear in your dreams? If so, damn but the author's done his or her job. And won a convert to boot.
My coworker is afraid that she'll finish the fourth book in Meyer's series before her vacation, but I pointed out that even if she does, there ARE other books out there that she'd probably like just as well. I could suggest a few (more than a few, in fact), but of course, it's her own personal journey to find that voice that speaks to her in quite the same way.
And it's every writer's wish that a reader makes that discovery of his or her own books!