1. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    A discouraging book for a writer.

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Steerpike, May 8, 2011.

    British author Arnold Bennett wrote, regarding Joseph Conrad's novel Chance, "this is a discouraging book for a writer because he damn well knows he can't write as well as this."

    That's kind of how I feel about Vladimir Nabokov's book Lolita. How about the rest of you? Any books that you love but at the same time think "wow, I'll never reach this level?"

    Not that it stops me writing, of course. I'm content to write my stories well, but there are some books where the author just blows you away and you realize you're in a different league entirely.
     
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nope, because I'm Melzaar the Almighty and I could totally have written it if I'd wanted to :p
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Yeah, Lolita is the book that makes me feel this way more than any other. It's the kind of book you can read four or five times (as I have) and still pick up on new things every time. There are so many layers to his word games and puzzles, but they're all so perfectly constructed, it's hard to imagine holding that many strands at once while writing. That's one of the things I love about Nabokov...a lot of writers just focus on telling a good story and then they're done. Nabokov tells a great story, and once that's out of the way is when his talent really comes through.
     
  4. Cthulhu
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    Cthulhu Member

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    Nope, I may not have the skill to write as good now, But for the amount of experience I have my skills are very good, and I am confident that some day I will be able to.

    Also While my stories are in my head they are [or at least seem] perfect, it's only when I try to record them on paper that they become the quality level they are now.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Unlikely, in my view. And that's not a jab, because I think it applies to almost anyone, myself included. There are a lot of very good writers out there, and here on the forums, but writers the quality of a Nabokov are very rare indeed. Maybe once in a generation, or less, you get someone of that calibre writing.
     
  6. indmoss
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    indmoss New Member

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    I think for writers to succeed, we have to like ourselves and our skills a little bit more than the average person would. Starting out, it gives us the confidence to go forward and convince ourselves that our writing is good and that others will like it and even buy it!

    I'm a fan of Frank Herbert. The plots, subplots, and character are true genius. I don't try to compete with his writing, I just try to draw inspiration
     
  7. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    ^Haha, yes. Absolutely! I go through this with a lot of books. Most recently I read the first installment of Margaret Peterson Haddix's The Missing series and was amazed. Gobsmacked. Her characters, her voice, and the actual scenario - irrefutable. Absolutely. It was one of those books I couldn't put down.

    But this is a good thing. It helps me never to settle for my second-best idea or even my third but the best solution I could ever get while writing my own tales.
     
  8. Chachi Bobinks
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    Chachi Bobinks Senior Member

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    Oh gosh, yes. Memoirs of a Geisha is that book for me. I know that in the literary world, that book really crossed some lines and ticked some people. It was so well written though.

    But with a lot of practice, I bet I could kick his butt.
     
  9. challas
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    challas Member

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    Bleak House by Charles Dickens. 1000 pages to make you want to quit writing and become a critic.
     
  10. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    Vladamir Nabokov is the envy of many poor souls. He's one of my favorite authors and I wish, I wish... oh I wish.

    William Faulkner, now I envy him. He's closer to us earthlings but yet still so far away. He had a way with words that made even his stories seem like poetry. I try... Oh I try.

    J.K Rowling and J.R.R Martin - for their world building. Seriously, imagination at one it's best and I honestly get discouraged with fantasy stories because of the world building. Too much of what i know is from them that it's hard to create something original without it feeling like I'm taking their ideas. But it's what I know and its hard to differentiate your ideas from theirs when you're so engrossed in their world.

    But at least us writers are always comparing ourselves to the very best in everything we do. It pushes us so much more and makes the whole writing experience that much more fun.
     
  11. Dandroid
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    Dandroid Senior Member

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    2666 by Roberto Bolano and Midnight's Children by Rushdie...i just kept thinking, "how am i supposed to produce anything near this?"
     
  12. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    It rather depends on my mood. If I'm feeling intellectually subdued then a happy turn of phrase in the local paper might have me thinking ' Why bother?' If I'm feeling ebullient, well, 'tis a different story.

    Given that I'm never likely to write fiction with any serious intent, I'm slightly intimidated by those non-fiction writers who are enthusiastic and who, in a word, know a lot of stuff.
     
  13. Jessica_312
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    Jessica_312 Contributing Member

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    Yes, there are quite a few authors I "envy" that I know are stronger writers than me, have better imaginations, a keener feel for dialogue/humor etc etc (JK Rowling and Douglas Adams are two that come to mind). However, for every author I feel I can't compete with, there are other successful authors that make me feel better about my writing (eg Stephenie Meyer - no offense meant, but despite the success of Twilight and the concept, she is not the strongest of writers). Plus, I've seen a lot of stuff out there that's published - not necessarily successful, but published - that I read it thinking, "Wow, I know I can do better". So, I guess it balances out LOL
     
  14. cretinhop
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    cretinhop Member

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    I agree with this, although it doesn't really take away from the feeling of inadequacy compared to the great, great writers. A more contemporary author who comes to mind is Mark Z. Danielewski. He's practically a genius. His storytelling is impeccable, and he's certainly come up with new ways to show a story by playing with the very syntax of words themselves. Even songwriters come to mind, even though I'm no lyricist, and artists, though I can't draw. Will anyone ever be able to create something like Dante's Inferno again? Dante himself thought he was inadequate! So, there's that to consider too. I guess it's just about confidence. Believe in yourself as a writer, and maybe you can become that great. Something I've noticed in my own writing, having other people read it, is that they notice layers and symbolism I've unconsciously planted. And that's definitely an important start to become a layered author.
     
  15. Vintage
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    Vintage Member

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    I used to feel this way with Lovecraft's works. Then I tried evoking his style. Again and again. Eventually, I came close enough that I thought "Alright, if I keep on going this way, I'm pretty sure that I can do as well, if not better than him some day". So while this might seem arrogant of me, no. No, I think I have enough talent that I can write a really, really good book some day, and I do not think that there are any authors whose level I cannot reach. As I said, probably arrogant beyond my abilities, but I think getting discouraged is worse.
     
  16. Dithnir
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    Dithnir Member

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    A bit like the favourite author's thread, but Annie Proulx, Eco and Colin Thubron have all made me sit back and realise that I'll only ever be a Salieri.

    @Vintage, it's nice that you think you could equal somebody like Shakespeare, but you might be better off just trying to focus on improving yourself day by day and letting other people make the call on how good you are.

    Eliot's foreword to The Waste Land was 'Il migglior fabrio' (sp?) to Ezra Pound, 'the better craftsman'.

    I don't think he was, though both kept a rarified company in terms of literary merit. It shows only that great writers don't really believe they're ever good enough.
     
  17. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    For world building, Tolkien and Herbert can discourage most wannabe writers (Paolini and Salvatore would encourage them!), for sheer style I think Melville and Conrad. For ideas...I'd say Lovecraft.
     
  18. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    "il miglior fabbro"... ;)

    Although fabbro is italian for blacksmith, in this case I assume it alludes to the skill of "forging" words.
     
  19. theemeraldskull
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    theemeraldskull New Member

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    Graceling by Kristin Cashore... One of the most original fantasy novels I have ever read, excellently written. I feel so unoriginal even just thinking about it... LOL One of those "I wish I'd thought of it first" sort of things...

    Beauty by Robin McKinley, or really anything she writes. I wish I had her poetic way with words and amazing characterization...
     
  20. Chachi Bobinks
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    Chachi Bobinks Senior Member

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    Jane Austen. Done.
     
  21. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Have you read "Fire," by Cashore? Even better, imo, though I thought Graceling was excellent.
     
  22. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    What I do is remind myself, "Hey, this is my story and I alone can make it to the best it can be. I will never be Stephen King, Clive Cussler, or J.K. Rowling because I'm not them just like they aren't me. They didn't come up with my story idea or else they'd have written it."

    With that in mind, I just write. Don't compare yourself to others. That just leads to depression and disappointment.
     
  23. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Be very, very glad you aren't Clive Cussler. I read one of his books back in the 80s and thought he was the worst bestselling writer on Earth. Vomit-wrenching prose. Ugh.
     
  24. AvihooI
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    AvihooI Member

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    Writing isn't a competition between writers. Had authors felt compelled to "beat" the proses that are proposed by their counterparts - we'd be left with nothing but a sea of cliches. Instead, I see writing as a cooperation between writers. Each adding a strand of beauty to his or hers respective culture which in turn inspires another to do the same.
     
  25. cretinhop
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    cretinhop Member

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    Perfect!
     

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