Friday, June 10, 2011

What I've learned

Hi all!
I know it seems like I've been gone forever. Yeah, I kinda have. Maybe you're wondering what I've been up to these last days. Well... mainly this.
Goodbye Hogwarts!

And this

I look so smug, I know you want to slap me!

And now I'm just looking forward to a degree exam and college is officially over. Unfortunately, I still have a ton to study, so I might be MIA for a while.

I also wanted to discuss some writing stuff today. Can you believe that?
Remember that I mentioned getting a ton of books and reading for fun again. Well, it appears I can no longer read without at least attempting to crit. So I did some learning from my reading experience.
I've been reading The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare - I've only read City of Bones and City of Ashes as those are the only ones available in my country. And I read them in Romanian, so I haven't learned anything word-wise (which was a bummer). This is going to turn out to be a mini-review as well.

So here is what I've learned.

1. World building rocks! 

Honestly, I loved the world building in this book - the demon - Shadowhunter thing, the whole Downlanders (or how ever they were called (again, read this in Romanian)) legends and the new take on vampires and werewolves made  me dig the series. I came to the conclusion that it's one of the most important part of Paranormal and fantasy novels.

2. Your characters don't have to be very likable.

I don't know about you guys, but I couldn't give a damn about Clary as much as I tried and Jace was so annoying, with not knowing when to shut the hell up. And the whole relationship between them... I suspect they're not actually brother and sister and will hook up, but Jace wanting to hook up with Clary even if he thought they were siblings (saying no one had to find out) completely put me off him.
Clary was a bit too blank as a character - I think she's supposed to be a readers' surrogate (and if so, she's much better done than Bella Swan), but I like my MCs with a tad more personality. I can't tell you anything about her, except that she drinks coffee at 15, which I find quite wrong.
The only characters I can say I truly liked are Luke and Magnus Bane - they're fun :D

3. Description kills

And I don't  mean this in a good way. Honestly, the first volume was fine, but the second (seeing as I read it right after the first) was so repetitive it took me almost 2 weeks to read it (whereas I read the first book in 2 days). If I heard about how angel-like and golden Jace was one more time, I was gonna puke!
I know I'm a minimalist when it comes to description, but I think this took it to another level. It was just too much - Clary couldn't even think for 2 sentences before getting distracted by a crack in the wall.

4. Moderation is the key

When it comes to plot twists as well. These books gave me a headache - okay, just the last one - the first was pretty easy to follow. But the second book comes to destroy everything that the first settled. Whoa! Slow down! I want to get time to get used to the changes - and I don't like not trust anything the author says - even the real stuff. And the whole he's dead - oh, wait, no he isn't- oh, wait, yes he is - oh, wait, no he isn't thing really got on my nerves.
I did like Clary's super power, though. That was nifty. Though I can't believe no on bothered to train her.

5. Adverbs aren't that bad

Yes, there are adverbs in this book - and I think they were used well. Honestly, too much show is draggy and kinda boring (there was that in the books too). Why go through a whole phrase that slows the action when just a word can do it? Who cares if it ends in -ly?

6. Chapter length is not an issue

Not for me, at least. The chapters of these books are huge (including the chapter length epilogues, which kinda pissed me off - why not make them chapter n+1?). I've been worried about my own chapters, trying to keep them under 5000 words, but not anymore. And I suspect the Hunger Games are the same. I'll just say what I have to say in my chapters, even if it will make them longer.

7. Plot?

Okay, this plot is like... ultra simple with some background things thrown in to make it interesting. It's not a Wow! plot. Bad guy looking for stuff, good guys trying to stop him, other good guys are actually assholes. It's been done to death (including by me, but I usually come up with a twist in which I turn everything upside down - maybe she does too). I can't say the plot impressed me. It was interesting enough to keep me going, but not keep me on the edge of my seat. This might have been different if I was 14-15 rather than 22, so this could be me. ;)

8. Ending

Like there's another chapter following, only there's not. Which leads me to the conclusion that these books should be read in quick succession. Agreed. Then don't repeat all the descriptions a million times! (Sorry, had to get that off my chest)

So this was my reading experience. I'm currently reading Salem's Lot (hoping to get spooked). I'll probably learn something from this too ;)

Do you guys pick up writing tips from the books you read?


  1. I do pick up things from books I've read. As writers, you have to be readers first. When I read published stories, I find myself critiquing, too!

    I was turned off by The Mortal Instruments series after Book 1. The author overkilled the similes on every page, and the characters were just kind of there.

    I can't wait to see what you think of The Hunger Games!

  2. Congratulations! :)

    I try not to analyze some of the books I read. I find some can be quite helpful in learning what works and what doesn't, but sometimes I prefer to just relax with a good story.

    I definitely agree with reading The Mortal Instruments in succession, close together. They're kind of set up to be read that way.

  3. Do tell me what you thought of Salem's Lot. Note that I was a teenager at the time when I read it, so if I read it now, I might just be mildly sleepless :)

    If I book is really good, I find myself critiquing it less, but if there are weak spots, I see them easier now that I've been writing and critiquing for a while. Love it when a story pulls me in and I just have fun reading it!

  4. I've already ranted enough on my own blog about some of my recent reading experiences :D Glad you're finding time to read for pleasure, even if that sneaky little inner editor is hard to silence.

    And YAY Stefanie -- graduated at last. What a lot of work that was. Now what will you do with your time?

  5. Hey Steph :D You're so pretty :) Congrats on graduating!

    I think I definitely pick up tips from what I read, especially when I was younger. I can't think of any off the top of my head, though :P

  6. Hi guys! Thanks for all the comments and the love.
    Unfortunately, I'm panicking because of my degree exam, so I don't have a lot of time on my hands just yet. One can only dream of such time :)
    I'll blog more when I have the time and something intelligent to say (THAT might take a while)


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