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Sunday, 1 March 2015

Novel Reading Bailout

I actually gave up on an indie ebook I'd downloaded, consciously deciding not to finish reading it. This was a case of a gifted writer needing to learn a few things about storytelling. I won't name the author or the book. I have no desire to pen a smear but I will state, in a general way, what I think is wrong with the book to the point I read, because there are lessons an aspiring novelist should be aware of. I will not be sending this information to the author in question privately because I was not asked to review the book. I like to be helpful but ripping someone's book even privately without invitation can create enemies. I've met writers like the one I was reading that are very touchy. Very talented but unwilling to listen. I won't take that risk.

So where was the problem. I found the opening chapter to be superbly written, but it should have ended up on the cutting room floor. Pieces of it could have been used to good effect as back story, but it shouldn't have been the opening chapter of the story. 

My reasons for feeling that way have to do with how one tells a story. At the basic level a story needs a beginning, middle and end. The first two chapters read like a false beginning. It starts out as a crime novel. The hero loses his partner in a stakeout/drug raid gone wrong. If you got past the clicheness, it was well done. As a reader I wanted to know how the bad guys foiled the cops. In chapter two, our hero with the help of his unwanted new partner, take down the bad guys. The way it went down was totally unbelievable and none of my questions from chapter one were answered. It all just got swept aside. The next step in the story sends our two cops clear across the continent, where they get swept up in some kind of time vortex, that deposits them in the eighteen hundreds. There was no foreshadowing no continuity. It was random to the point of again being unbelievable. That's when I decided to close the book.

In my opinion as a storyteller, you have to introduce, not only some of the characters, but the story itself in the first chapter. It's painful to cut a great first chapter. Had to do it with my first published novel. If it isn't introducing the story, it's gotta go. I don't think mixing genres is bad. I don't think a couple of time travelling police investigators is a bad storyline. This just wasn't the way to do it.