Thursday, August 23, 2012

What's the goal?

While writing my review of The Magnolia League yesterday, I came across an interesting article that was linked on Good Reads.  It was an article written by Katie Crouch about writing young adult books.  Click here for the full text.

Basically, Katie says how hard it is to write YA books because the schedule is so shortened and readers just want the next book RIGHT NOW!  So, writers basically fly through drafts to get the new book out there.

Many people on Good Reads thought this was a demeaning article, and I do agree to an extent, but I think what Crouch was trying to say (although she could have found a better way to say it if she would have spent more time on the article) is that YA lit works on a tight schedule, and the really good YA series authors thrive under that kind of pressure.  Katie Crouch is not one of those authors.  My review of the Magnolia League wasn't glowing (it's not a terrible book, but I don't recommend reading it), but it's not the worst YA book that I've read by far.

Now, some YA series authors still manage to put out very good books under pressure.  Anna Godbersen works on a tight schedule, yet her period series, The Luxe and Bright Young Things, are very good, not just for plot but also for setting.  Meg Cabot publishes like a crazy person, and her novels often have very engaging characters.  Laura Dessen can be relied upon to publish a book a year, and while she's not my cup of tea, readers love her.  I can go on and on about authors that make that tight schedule work, but it's not for everyone.

In the Slate article, Crouch mentions that she used to write literary fiction.  The type of book that gets critical buzz but that only award committees (and my book club apparently) read.  You're not going to become the next big thing by writing the next great American novel.  I think that Crouch needs to go back to that territory.  Obviously she needed more time on The Magnolia League because the city of Savannah should never come off as just another city, or just another boring city at that.

But this isn't another review of The Magnolia League.  Let's circle back to the title of this post.  What's the goal?  When an author sets out to write a book, they have a goal in mind.  Some want to write the next great American novel, some want  a Pulitzer, some want a Newbery, some just want to pay this month's rent.

Here's my point (I think, this thing has been a bit of a ramble), writers like J. K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer didn't set out to win you with their lyric prose.  So all of you snobs that say they are poor writers just need to stop.  They wanted people to read and relax and enjoy themselves.  Jeff Kinney of Wimpy Kid fame probably never said to himself, wow that joke about farts was Newbery material.  No, he wanted kids to read and laugh.  Mission accomplished!  I think that instead of comparing one book to an entire library of fiction, compare it to its goal.  Does it live up to its goal?  If yes, then great, if no, then you have a problem.

I think the reason why this is an issue for me is because, I'm not writer.  I have never published a novel, maybe someday but not today.  I'm annoyed at all those that judge someone for something that they themselves have never done.  And yes, fine, you can probably write a better literary book than Stephanie Meyer, but can you sell more books?  Probably not.  Give the woman some props for getting lucky and jumping on the vampire train at just the right time.

So, the next time you are evaluating a book, all I ask it that you think about this:  Does the book accomplish it's goal?  How does it compare to other books with similar elements?  Was the book engaging?  Those are the more important questions for the causal reader, or the causal reviewer like myself.

That's it.  That's all.  In the words of Thumper, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.  Or, if you really don't like the book, all you need to say about the author is bless her heart (you can thank Miranda Lambert for that piece of Southern charm).

Bless your little heart, Katie Crouch.  You tried.

Happy Reading!

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