Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ten Commandments – Thou Shalt Not Covet (Well Maybe A Little)

I have broken yet another commandment (I will be spending a long time in purgatory the rate I’m going!) I have been coveting my neighbour’s novels. Not my actual neighbour, I don’t think he writes. Maybe I should ask him. No, I have been coveting other people’s work.

Every time I pick up a book that vaguely has anything to do with YA or fantasy I am filled with envy. I see their sparkling prose, their clever plotting their sure hand with characterisation and I burn with jealousy. How did they do that? How can they be so good?

Looking then at my sloppy and saggy draft I want to cry. How can I ever be as good as that? How?

At this point I have been known to fall to my knees, rend my shirt and beat my breast whilst howling ‘WHY???” at the heavens (this could explain why my neighbours don’t talk to me).

And then a tiny voice comes to me… their books have been edited, polished. I am comparing my unfinished and unformed story to one that has been through more processes. I am comparing a child with an adult…

So I have decided that all though I am allowed to covet my neighbours books, I have to dig deep to find what it is that I envy so much. And when I have found that I can apply it to my own work.

Or of course I could just stop reading (would save on those rended shirts)

Whose work do you covet?

Come back on Sunday when Susanne will be chatting.


  1. Oh, I can really relate to this! I just recently finished one of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments books, and happened to read some of my own draft very shortly afterward... and nearly despaired. But you're right - their work has undergone quite a lot of polishing to reach the point at which we're reading it. Hardly fair to compare, at least until ours has gone through that, too. ;)

  2. This 'coveting' thing happens to me a lot too, which is why I try not to read other people's books while I'm working on my own WIP. Buying new shirts all the time can get a bit expensive ...

  3. On the flip side, Christina, after reading a rather poorly written book and returning to my own draft, I find I feel a whole lot more confident about my own WIP. ;)

  4. Good point, Seabrooke! Maybe we should only read badly written ones :D How will we know though?

  5. I'd suggest Amazon reviews might offer a clue, except I find the ratings there often don't agree with my opinion. One that I returned to the library unread after the first chapter is rated 4.5 stars at Amazon, and was nominated for the Carnegie and shortlisted for another. Which is perhaps an interesting reminder that writing quality can be very subjective.

    Returning to the original post topic, I was thinking as I worked on revisions of my WIP yesterday that it would be interesting to read an excerpt of the first draft of one of those books we covet, to see how it compares to the final product.

  6. Argh. I covet all the time and for so many different reasons! Sometimes it's a character that feels so real or a really cool concept or a plot that is so full of twists and turns you have no idea how it will end. My favourite of all for YA is Laurie Halse Anderson--she really knows how to get into the mind of a teen. Speak is my favourite YA book.