I love the cozy mystery genre, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple books being my all time favorite and what I judge all the others by. (too bad for them, very few measure up, I'm still waiting for another cozy mystery series to satisfy my Miss Marple craving)
So I picked up a new possibliity at the library the other day, Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson, the latest in a long series about a caterer (yes, food!) who solves mysteries. This author apparently has been on the bestseller list with her cozy caterer mysteries, so I thought I'd give it a try. It's okay, the first few chapters are intriguing, very tight with an appealing narrator voice, but then it's like the editor took a vacation. Here's a sample of what I'm talking about (keep in mind, this character, Jack, is her godfather who appears in her stories regularly and is not a suspect at all):
"As we stepped into the gray-walled foyer that still showed the rectangular outlines of the previous owner's pictures, it was clear Jack hadn't made much progress. He'd gutted the first floor, so that instead of having a parlor, dining room, and who-knew-what-all victorian-type rooms, he now had a big, open space. In the far-left corner, he'd put state-of-the-art appliances into what was going to be an open-plan kitchen....but he still had no cabinets or counter tops. My feet gritted across the hardwood floors that Jack had uncovered when he'd torn up the old green-and-brown shag carpeting. As far as I knew, Jack had not made a move to refinish the floors, or even to call someone to get an estimate to have them done."
"'Thanks for coming over.'" He was trying to sound cheerful, but his voice was as forlorn as the long, high-ceilinged room that, he'd told me, would eventually double as both living and dining room."
Now, dear readers, please be honest. How many of you made it to the end of those two paragraphs? (The second one I deliberately shortened because I felt sorry for all of you having to read two such paragraphs.)
A long, dull, meaningless description of a house that doesn't enter into the plot. It's simply the main character walking into her godfather's house and describing it-- with a vast array of hypenated words, numerous run-on sentences and boring phrases. Too many words. Period.
On the other hand, here's a sample from the master of the genre, Agatha Christie, in A Caribbean Mystery:
"Outside the hotel grounds, in one of a row of shanty cabins beside a creek, the girl Victoria Johnson rolled over and sat up in bed. The St. Honore girl was a magnificent creature with a torso of black marble such as a sculptor would have enjoyed. She ran her fingers through her dark, tightly curling hair. With her foot she nudged her sleeping companion in the ribs."
"'Wake up, man.'"
Ahhh, what a breath of fresh air this is, especially after reading the first example! Aren't you already intrigued?
Fewer words means greater intensity. Multiplying words waters down your writing. These two examples say it all (but I'll still add my two bits, since it is my blog lol!): Make every word count! Don't keep the fluff, the stuff that does not contribute to plot or character development. In the first book, the author had given enough information previous to this paragraph to show that Jack lived in an unfinished home needing remodeling, and he wasn't in a hurry to get it done. This would have been sufficient without going on and on about it. Respect your readers and don't hammer them over the head with too many words.
When I'm reading a new author and find myself skipping paragraphs at a time, because the words are dull and don't matter, I'm done. I don't finish the book. It may be harsh, but my time is too valuable. I've got other books to read, a lot to do, I won't waste my time.
With Fatally Flaky, I am continuing on, at least for now, because there's enough good in there to outweigh the boring paragraphs. I want it to be good. I want to find books I love, and new authors I can follow indefinitely. I'm an author, but I'm also a reader, and I'm looking for fantastic books! Well-written, well-crafted and edited, with words that count and that thrill me and keep me reading long into the night, when I should have turned off the light and gone to sleep. That's what I'm looking for. Aren't you?
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown
"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart
"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf