When Is A Book Not A Book? (TCWT)

When Is A Book Not A Book? (TCWT)

I missed my TCWT post this month. I also missed writing my monthly post as Iron Man for YAvengers, for the second month running — I’m really not on top of this whole schedule thing, because moving home for the holidays has totally thrown me off track. But I’m going to write my Teens Can Write Too! post now, because I love you like that.

(I’m only … five days late. Okay. That’s quite a few days. My bad.)

This month’s prompt is:

“What are your thoughts on reading or writing books in non-novel formats? Are there any you’ve particularly enjoyed?”

Literally every post on this blog at the moment is about books and I’m not even going to apologise for that anymore because my life is basically about books now. I like books. Everything should always be about books so that I can justify how many shelves I have.

Now, I’m a novel kind of person. By NaNoWriMo standards, I’ve been writing full-length novels since I was 13 (fifty thousand words or above), although most of them have been considerably longer, with my terrible 2010 NaNo novel Beneath the Branches clocking in at 126,000 words and pretty much every book I’ve written over the last couple of years averaging at about a hundred thousand words.

I don’t get on particularly well with short stories: anthologies don’t suit me because I like to be able to get invested, and it often takes a more sustained narrative to really draw me in. Constantly being acquainted with new characters and situations and being expected to care about them doesn’t suit me. (This did affect my enjoyment of The Silmarillion by Tolkien as every few pages the characters you’ve just begun to like get killed, until by the end you’ve stopped being able to care about any of them.)

The exception to this is short stories that are tied in to a series of novels as companion stories. Maggie Stiefvater wrote a great short story called The Hounds of Ulster as a sort of companion / prequel to her novel Ballad, and I adored it. But wanted it to be a novel, because I needed more. And recently I read The Bane Chronicles, which as you probably know is a companion to The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices. Because they revolved around familiar characters, I was able to enjoy those short stories a lot more.

I do enjoy poetry, and occasionally I’ve come across books that use narrative poetry; I read one when I was in my first year of secondary school that was called something like “What Happened When My Sister Went Crazy” or something — I don’t remember exactly. But it was the first book I’d read that was written entirely in poetry, and back in year seven we had to read aloud from our own reading books occasionally, I guess so they could check our progress. Afterwards we’d discuss what we’d read, and I remember the book contained this line:

the only sum I really understand
is 4 – 1 = 0

(This may not be an exact quote as I’m surprised I can remember it at all after seven years.) I remember it because the teaching assistant I was reading to asked me what I thought it meant and seemed surprised when I interpreted as a comment on how the absence of her sister in the family meant the narrator didn’t feel she had a family at all. I guess she wasn’t expecting that from an eleven-year-old, but it seemed straightforward enough to me.

So yeah, I’ve enjoyed poetry of that kind, and I do like reading some poetry collections, although my enjoyment of them varies hugely from underlining every other phrase to struggling to engage with them. As you all know, I also write poetry collections, so the ‘writing’ part of the prompt is covered there. (I’m definitely not a short story writer. I find them really hard.)

Finally, graphic novels. I have mixed feelings about comics and graphic novels. I’ve enjoyed some: last year I read a couple of Black Widow graphic novels that I did enjoy, and I also read all six Scott Pilgrim graphic novels over the Christmas break because I enjoy how quickly they can be read.

However, I find them really difficult. I’m not very good with that kind of visual storytelling — I struggle to remember who is who, and often get confused as to what’s happening. I need the words to tell me that, though recently I’ve been finding I struggle to visualise scenes where there’s a lot of action, such as fight scenes. It probably relates to my own total lack of coordination and depth perception; maybe my brain’s just not wired that way. But it has been affecting the books I choose to read as I’ve been opting to space out the action-heavy ones with slower-paced ones to let my brain recover.

What I’m basically trying to say is that I suck at visualising stuff, and while you’d think graphic novels would make that easier because they save my imagination the effort, they actually make it harder as I find it difficult to interpret the pictures and rely very much on the dialogue and brief snatches of text to know what’s going on. So they’re not my favourite medium, and I doubt I’d ever write one myself.

The only exception to my visualisation problem is that I can usually visualise scenes from my own books pretty well. I watch them like a movie in my head, and then the hard part is turning that into words. So sometimes when I’m planning scenes I’ll draw them as a storyboard, or I’ll draw a few pictures to represent the plot as a whole, just as reminders.

But basically I’m a novels kind of person, through and through.

Here’s the rest of the chain, which has now finished because I am terribly late to the party. Go check them out if you’ve the inclination:

27th – https://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

2 thoughts on “When Is A Book Not A Book? (TCWT)

  1. I always find it harder to write short stories than novels. I very rarely get an idea that I can confine to just one book, much less a short story. The short stories that I do write tend to be morality pieces. I can write them though. I just have to make sure that the story won’t get too long. At the end of the day, the worst thing that can happen is I end up with another novel.

Leave a Reply to Susannah Ailene Martin Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: