I’d like you to go back and re-read the post title again—The Joy of a Great Story. You’ll notice I didn’t say a great book. There’s a reason. Sometimes the best stories are in books that, for whatever reason, aren’t judged by the literati to be “great.” (As an aside, I’d like to go on record as saying that I think the literati don’t know shit from shinola when it comes to which books are “great” or not.) And sometimes a book will have certain elements that does make it fall short of great,but not for people who like to read for the sake of reading, unlike the literati who like to be seen reading to make themselves look important. (Man, it must be National Bash the Literati Day, or something! 😁) But despite mistakes, real or imagined, there is always joy to be found in a great story.
If you’re a subscriber to my newsletter (and if you’re not, you really should be, you know. Subscribe now to get yourself in the loop.) you’ll already know that my second book, Athena’s Daughter, has a beautiful new cover. When I was reformatting the text of the paperback edition to match my other standalone novels, I caught myself doing more reading than formatting. So I finally just gave up and re-read the book first. And you know what? That is a great story! I’m not going to hem and haw and espouse any false modesty here. I flat tore the rag off the bush with that story. (And no, I have no idea where the phrase “tore the rag off the bush” came from, but my late aunt said it and it meant doing a stupendous job. Plus, it just sounds neat, right?)
When Carey On Publishing re-published Crimson and Clover, I re-edited the book to remove newbie writing mistakes (it was my first book, after all) and to change and clarify things my former publisher made me put in the text when it was originally published. It needed to be done because those things diluted the story. But I made the choice not to re-edit Athena’s Daughter. Yes, it has kind-of-still-newbie mistakes in it, but they’re not awful mistakes. There are no spelling or grammar errors, no head-hopping between characters, no dangling loose ends. It’s still a good book. And since the story is great, I didn’t even notice those picky little things that could be changed unless I stopped enjoying the story and started looking for things to find wrong. And that’s the joy of a great story—it pulls you in until you forget you’re reading a book. That’s what I did with Athena’s Daughter, and I don’t mind telling you that’s what I’ve done with all my books, and that includes Crimson and Clover now that it’s been re-edited. There may be things that bother the nit-picky, but the stories are great. They pull you into their world and don’t let you go until you see the words “The End.” They give the reader joy in reading.
The early works of other authors bear this out. Look at Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. If you read it with an editor’s hat you’ll find instances of telling instead of showing, lots of -ly adverbs, times when passive voice was used. But the story! It’s so stupendously awesome that a reader doesn’t notice any of that unless he or she is purposely looking for something to pick apart. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read that book, and I’ll continue to re-read it until I die. And every single time that great story pulls me right in, clutches me tight, and doesn’t let me go. Reading that story brings me joy, and that’s what reading should be about.
I’ll admit that since my first book was published, and since I’ve taken writing classes and read blogs and and listened to agents and editors, my joy in books started to diminish. All I saw were things that could have been changed. For someone who loves books as much as I do, that cast a huge, dreary pall over me. I didn’t enjoy reading anymore because I was told to focus on the words and not the story. Screw that, y’all. That isn’t what books are about. They’re not about the words. They’re about the story.
So the next time you read a book, even if you’re reading it for a review or something, if the story is great let it pull you in and enjoy the experience. Unless the book is so riddled with errors that it yanks you out of the moment every third paragraph, ignore the occasional bit of telling, a few -ly adverbs sprinkled throughout, one or two dialogue tags that are probably unnecessary, and a little passive voice every now and again. If the story is great, let it bring you joy. And you might begin with Athena’s Daughter, because that is a great story. 😁
Speaking of great stories, Heart of Gold hits the digital and literal shelves in just under two weeks, on October 24! It wraps up Rhys and Rhett’s story that began in Sister Golden Hair. You can pre-order Heart of Gold now, and pick up Sister Golden Hair for your e-reader for just 99¢.
Again, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter, because there’s always good, fun, happy things in it just for you. And if you’d like to be notified when a new blog post goes up, you can be notified by email by just signing up for that, too. The link to sign up is over to your right on the sidebar. I’d love to have all of y’all along for the ride, because it’s a fun one!
Until next time, enjoy those stories!