Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I Blame the Editor/Critique Group/Beta Readers

Many of you already know that I recently finished a novel by Neil Gaiman called Neverwhere, which I felt was incredible. As mentioned in my own review of the book, I stated that I was so impressed with Gaiman's writing that I was compelled to pickup another book by him, SOLELY on the fact that I felt his writing was good enough to impress me, no matter what the story was about. My choice: American Gods.

Let me first start out by saying that the characters in this story are great. The writing style is still nothing shy of awesome and the main plot line was intriguing. Here's where I have beef though, I never actually finished the book. I got about 400 pages into the nearly 600 page novel and felt like I was reading WAY too much unnecessary stuff. While it was still very well written, it was still unnecessary. I found myself skipping parts saying to myself, "does this really matter?" I skipped so many little sections, hoping to get back to the main plot and story, that I felt like it was distracting from my enjoyment of the book. Eventually, I closed it and decided I wouldn't finish it.

I blame the editors. In my opinion, an author has to tell a story. They use every skill possible and every trick to give us as best a picture of the story as we can imagine. Many times though, in our pursuit to tell the story, we give more information that really doesn't HAVE to be there. That's where the beta readers, critique groups and ultimately editor(s) come in. It's their job to find that unnecessary stuff and shave it until the best story is told without wasting any one's time. I feel like the editor banked on the fact that Gaiman's previous success was enough and that his story needed to be there in its entirety to achieve success.

Who knows... Maybe his original was 800 pages and the editor did cut it down, but if you ask me, I feel like the same story could have been told by cutting out 200 pages or so and it would have been so much more than what it is.

In the end, Gaiman's success as a writer cannot be denied. He has multiple novels and stories published, some of which have great literary awards attached, and I have nothing but respect for the guy. He definitely inspires me. If I could write half as well as him and sell even half as many novels, I'd consider myself a huge success, but I cannot give American Gods the recommendation that I gave Neverwhere. I blame those people involved in not catching Gaiman's over use of the human language! :P


David J. West said...

That's my biggest problem with Robert Jordan. I love the Wheel of Time series but as it progressed the big chunkc of "nothing really happens" or "dress shopping" got to be too much for me. I may some day reread the first 5 books in the series but there is no way I will ever reread those that come after.

Summer said...

I felt the same way, and I didn't finish American Gods either!

You should definitely try his other books, though--much better editing. :-)

Voidwalker said...

David: I hear ya on that!

Summer: Yeah, I am really impressed with his writing, so I will probably pickup his other works, but mostly for the learning aspect. I learn a lot of cool stuff that helps me be a better writer when I read good works.

Sophie Playle said...

I don't think Gaiman should get of scott-free. If he's such a good writer, HE should also recognise when he's writing too much fluff that gets in the way of the plot.

Charles Gramlich said...

My response to "American Gods" was much like yours. Perhaps unfortunately it was the first Gaiman book I read, and I thought it dragged so badly that I've not tried any Gaimen since. It'll be a while before I get the taste of that one out of my mouth.

Voidwalker said...

Sophie: You are right, Gaiman should know better. It's one of the first bits of advice we writers get that says "if it's not building the character or advancing the plot....cut it!" So, yeah he should have been better, but who knows just how long the ORIGINAL was haha. Maybe the editors chunked out 500 other pages and just gave up and let the rest fly :P

Charles: I know the feeling. I've been hearing from several other people that his other stuff is better, but I can only vouch for Neverwhere.