Saturday, May 30, 2009

Back Again

It's good to be back online again, but I have filled out my time usefully by reading lots more. I've also discovered that I have no time for badly written books anymore.

In the past two weeks I have read two new books, both Science-Fiction, one by a newish author and one by an established author.

The new author was Stephen Hunt and his book was 'Kingdom Beyond the Waves'. I was initially cold towards it, but it grew on me. There are still parts of the book where I think he tries too hard to be original by giving obvious things different names (a key is not a key for example), but the story was original, well written and the characters well rounded and believable.

The established author was Iain M Banks and the book was 'Against A Dark Background'. I don't often put books down without reading them fully, but there was nothing here that, to me at least, was new or interesting. Even when I jumped from page 80ish to the final chapter I wasn't that interested in how the story ended, or even what happened to the main characters.

Thinking back over the past few books I've read, it seems that the more established authors become, the weaker the books become. It's not always the case, and many authors recover to write great books in the latter parts of their careers, but the third to fifth books seem to be hit and miss.

Why would that be? Publishers wanting to get 'anything' out by the author? The author not having the right editor? The author themselves taking things for granted?

Some authors know when to change tack. Alastair Reynolds' first books are set in a galaxy overshadowed by the Inhibitors, but after five books on that subject and with the same characters, he changed tack. His 'world' remains the same, but with 'Century Rain' he went off at a tangent and it worked brilliantly. It's still a story I recall with clarity and smile when I think of the characters and the events.

In the music business there is a phrase: 'The difficult second album'. Do writers have 'the difficult third book'?


Lady Glamis said...

I think it only makes sense that later books get sloppy if the writer is caring mostly about money and not as much on the craft. Of course, deadlines and life can get in the way too. I sure hope I don't do this if I ever make it as a published author.

Martin Willoughby said...

We'd all like to think that we would be better. I just wonder if sometimes authors and publishers shoot themselves in the foot by hurrying something out to cash in on popularity.

Boudica said...

Hey, welcome back. Hope the move went ok. I loved Against a Dark Background - it's my favourite Iain M Banks. I re-read it a couple of years ago and was still blown away by the quality of his writing.

I do have time for badly written books. If it's bad, then I can focus on why and work what could be done to make it better. The good ones distract me too much!

Martin Willoughby said...

The quality of the writing wasn't the problem, it was the story and the characters. Nothing grabbed me.

I am looking forward to reading the next one of his books (Feersum Endjin) once I finish a couple of others.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Martin!!
I hope you feel settled into your new home and it is nice to have the move behind you. Congrats on using offline time wisely and reading!

Your post is interesting because I had not thought about authors losing quality in their writing after time. In fact, I think I've been under the assumption that writers would naturally improve with practice. Perhaps they are not aware that any quality it lost? Or maybe they run out of ideas and can't get inspired enough to make magic again?

Authors must get a "loll" around the third or fourth book and may not even know it. Then I think the editor or agent should slap 'em out of it and give them a rousing win-another-for-the-team pep talk ...

We all need to remember your post when we get ready to write our third and fourth published books ;)

Martin Willoughby said...

I'm hoping to be continually slapped as I write my eight, ninth, tenth books and far beyond.

Anonymous said...

maybe smelling salts will work better by nine and ten.