Not long ago I put out a call to a bunch of friends asking for their favourite books. I wanted something un-put-down-able. I needed both distraction and inspiration (ie I was looking for further procrastination and ultimately its cure with regard to my own writing). It was a great success, and I got a heap of suggestions which I am slowly working my way through.
Now without giving away what I have read, so far I have been amazed by the difference in my reaction to these much-loved books of my friends. One I enjoyed in parts, one was as much fun as a visit to the dentist, and one I devoured, not wanting to put it down when the clock rolled around to midnight and I had to be up by 7 the next morning.
This got me thinking about the different aspects to a novel and how unique combinations make the perfect mix for each of us. It might be the story itself which grabs you, or the characters, the writing style, the moral, the originality or one of a million other things within the book. None of us are exactly alike, and probably what is going on in our lives when we first read the novel also plays a part, so even we are not a constant. There cannot be a perfect book!
I’m going to keep this in mind when I get my next rejection. An editor needs to love your story to print it, and if among my own friends (where we have similar interests and experiences) we have such differences in opinion about what is good, then I should keep faith that soon I will find the editor who shares my mix of ‘what makes a good story’ and will pick up my manuscript.
For the record, the book I always recommend is Markus Zusak’s novel The Book Thief which isn’t really even spec fic. For me it was a beautiful novel which got the mix just right, well my mix anyway.