Monday, August 10, 2009

the "can't put it down" factor

There are few things in life as satisfying as a book you just can't put down. I'm hearing from readers who say they like that about The Frontiersman's Daughter and it makes me glad. I felt the same way while writing it! Of course these folks are always tempered by the ones who can't pick the book up in the first place! People are asking about a sequel. I posted about writing that particular book some time ago. If you're curious, please go into the archives above left, and find the September 10, 2008 post, "characters and other novelties," and you'll see a girl in a bonnet and find out what happened when I wrote the sequel. You may be as surprised as I was!

As a writer, you may think you're in control of your characters and what happens to them in the course of a novel, but truly, "the book is the boss," as one author succinctly said. You are really just a conduit, the physical hand that writes it down. Often characters surprise you:) That's one of the joys of writing.

A lady recently asked me, "How do you write a book?" I felt decidedly un-eloquent when I said, "I can't tell you how it's done and I'm glad, because if I could explain it, I could take credit for it. I can only tell you it's a gift. I just do it." There are many gifted writing instructors who teach about the craft and I'm not one of them. Like my violin-playing son, I think I write "by ear" like he plays by ear. I don't think a lot about craft while I'm doing it. I just write from the heart. There's magic in that and I'll leave it at that!

What makes a book hard to put down for you? Have you read any books that have this wonderful quality? Bet they have a permanent home on your bookshelf:)

My test of a good novel is dreading to read the last chapter. Anonymous

Books may well be the only true magic. Alice Hoffman


  1. Writing by ear. I like it and can totally relate. My characters often whisper in mine, giving me ideas all their own.

    What grabs me in a book are the characters. If I've grown to care for them, I want to see them reach their HEA.

  2. I knew you'd understand, Keli:) Getting readers to care about characters is a mystery but I love when that happens. I recently read a book where I disliked the female lead. I really wanted to like her but she rubbed me the wrong way and I couldn't finish the book. One heroine I've always loved is Jane Eyre. I also am very fond of Liz Curtis Higg's characters, even the bad ones! That's a gifted writer!

  3. well, you know some of my favorite books that I "couldn't put down".
    The first time I read "Follow the River" i was in high school, and I read that while walking to the bus, while sitting in the hall during lunch break, the 5 minute breaks between classes...

    "Redeeming Love" i stayed up and read until 2 in the morning for 3 nights to finish it. And when 2 am would roll around, i would force myself to put it down!

    I just finished "The Secret" by Beverly Lewis. Very good book. If you like her Amish fiction, this is a good one!!
    it's the first in her Seasons of Grace Series.

  4. oh i forgot to mention, the Left Behind Series: The Kids. my kids and i are reading those right now and some days we can't seem to put it down. at the end of each chapter they beg for me to read more!

  5. Lisa, You've mentioned two of my all-time favorite books - Follow the River and Redeeming Love. I have read Lewis in the past and like "The Postcard" (at least that is the one I remember, hope the title is right). Kudos to reading with your kids! My Wyatt and I read Laura Ingall's Wilder's "Farmer Boy" together a couple of years ago and he rereads it today at almost 13. Some books are timeless:)