So a few weeks ago my DIYMFA mentor suggested I do an author challenge. In it, I picked an author in my genre (fantasy) and read three of their books. One of their earliest, one of their most recent books, and one that is right in between. This process is to help me see how an author has evolved as a writer from the first book they published, forward by giving a wide sample.
At first I was going to choose Brandon Sanderson (because Brandon Sanderson…), but then I decided I would choose my first favorite fantasy author, Mercedes Lackey. I read her gryffin series (The Black Gryphon, The White Gryphon, The Silver Gryphon) what feels like a million years ago. I didn’t read any of her more famous books about the Companions until much later. I am also such a fan of her Joust books and the 500 Kingdoms. I just love most everything this woman writes (not that I’ve read it all, she has written a lot).
So I went and found a list of her books. Her first book was Arrows of the Queen which was published in 1987. I chose that one. Right in the middle were two books that I already owned. I decided to choose the one I had enjoyed reading more, called Brightly Burning. Her most recent book is part of the Elemental Masters series. I have not read any of that series, but I chose it anyway. It seems pretty stand alone. It is called Steadfast.
So I started off with Arrows of the Queen. I have to say that the plot for this book was rather rough. The story jumped around and didn’t really focus well and when we got to the big bad conflict at the end I was left a little lost. However, I could see the care and detail she put into her characters and her world. Foreshadowing for books she wouldn’t write for years were all in this first book, and the characters were alive and real and I cared about them.
Since it was my second time reading Brightly Burning, I was able to look into it with a bit more detail. What really got to me is I got about a quarter way into the book before the actual plot started. I just felt that there didn’t need to be quite so much back-story. Once the ‘actual’ story started, the story and plot worked well. Again, the characters and world are wonderful.
I am about halfway through Steadfast and so far it is proceeding in standard Mercedes Lackey fare, though I feel like the ending is pretty well-dictated at this point and I’m not anticipating a twist. This doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it.
When I read and immerse myself in a book, unless there’s a major issue, I just read it and enjoy it. Now that I’ve learned to read more like a writer I can see that authors are not gods. They are good at certain things and not as good at others.
The book can be entirely enjoyable without being perfect. That was something I knew logically, but it’s different having read the books and seen the imperfections.
It gives me more confidence in my own writing not needing to be perfect. Now I still have to figure out what my strengths in writing are, but baby steps.