Ben Marcus, Lance Olsen, Paul Kingsnorth, Eimear McBride, David Mitchell, Marlon James, Brian Evenson, Catherynne M. Valente, George Perec, Peter Turchi, Claire Dederer, Jack Driscoll, Yan Ge
This is fantastic, Matt, thanks so much for all you write!
Can I recommend one more "book to rule them all" that not only hits every single type of difficulty you went into detail on, but also is one that I get something more from every time I reread it? Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun is probably the most "difficult" SFF book I've ever read, but also the one that I've reread the most because it's so enjoyable pondering its various mysteries and luxuriating in the prose. I think most of Wolfe's oeuvre would fall into the "difficult" bucket, but he also rewards close reading so effectively and powerfully that his books also always manage to be engrossing and thought-provoking instead of tiring. Highly recommended!
Holy crap was that helpful! And just what I needed to hear this morning. I am writing my first novel and often worry it's too complex. It's dystopian with elements of fantasy, magical realism, sci-fi, and absurdism. It's a freaking weird book, I'll be honest. But my goal is to understand the plot and story mechanics well enough that I can tell the story as simply as possible because I know I'm asking a lot of the reader in other ways. I'm writing in first person, primarily in scene (which is itself a very formulaic, and mundane structure) and even though the protagonist goes on a crazy journey through her mind, I'm making an huge effort to ensure *she* is always moving forward, her plot is linear, and the language is clear. Who knows, maybe I've bitten off more than I can chew but, more and more I think it's totally possible to pull this off! Especially if I allow some elements to remain mundane.
Thank you, thank you!
Thanks, Matt! Super helpful. This has a ton of relevance when a person is writing for young readers, too. I'm working on a middle grade project (8-12 year olds), and I'm constantly trying to balance "reaches" in terms of word choice, structure play, sense of humor / references, with softer landings. Related: some content made with good intentions for "reluctant readers" -- i.e. kids who might not readily pick up a book -- is so safe that I fear it doesn't actually draw kids in. It's a tricky calculus!
This was wonderful. Although I make my living writing television, my degree was in journalism and so clarity was always at the top of the list (usually utilizing the 5Ws: who, what, when, where, and why). Even in television, you’ll get someone suggesting: We need another wide shot here to reestablish where we are.
So helpful! Thank you!
The pressure to reinvent every kind of wheel is so real! I think it also is exacerbated by (at least in my experience) an allergy to the whiff of formula in plot/structure/tropes in many MFAs
Thank you! This arrived just in time for me and some of the problems I'm facing in my writing. Also, thank you for pointing the universal request in workshops to "say more." It's a lazy response (I speak as someone who has given it, rather than do the hard work of identifying how I am struggling as a reader) and rarely the right advice.
Proust has nothing on Robert Jordan, his Wheel
Of Time saga clocks in at 10,173 pages in hardcover.
Love this Matt. Your blogs and Refuse To Be Done have changed so much for me (in a good way!)
As always, you pack lots of information to guide and encourage us. I laughed when I reached the paragraph that mentions Proust. I read the series at a time when nothing was going on in my life. I remember thinking: how can I read a page, a paragraph, much less seven volumes when every sentence takes such effort? And yet, his prose kept reeling me in. At the end, I experienced time’s passing in a way that altered my perception. However, I appreciate your tips for choosing difficulties wisely by taking readers into account. Thank you! One last thought: how do you accomplish so much? Writing, reading, teaching, and living? Your example inspires commitment to sustained effort.