As a boost to my writing I've been reading authors who write outside the historical fiction zone thinking that I shouldn't get in a rut. Which is why at the weekend I brought home The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown.
The only other book of his I have read is, inevitably, the Da Vinci Code. I remember it had fast pacing and numerous short chapters. Well, his style has not changed. In 53 pages I have reached chapter 14. The plot set up is fine, but I find I am weary of bad guys who appear to have every attribute - fine physique, brains, confidence - you name it, they've got it, but they use them for world domination. In other words, a typical James Bond villain. Of course, I may be wrong. 53 pages is not an awful lot to judge by when the whole thing is 500 odd pages.
I have nothing to complain of in his actual writing. It flows by with ease and nothing stands out as awkward. I hardly notice it as my eyes travel the page seeking the story. It is very similar to Lee Child's style - straightforward, correct, short sentences.
At the same time I'm reading Ian Rankin's The Black Book on Kindle. Before that it was Peter James, the House on Cold Hill., Adele Parks Stranger in my Home. All very different, all very readable. Will I come out of this splurge a better writer? I doubt it, but it cannot do me any harm, and subconsciously it may do some good. A lifetime of reading has got me this far and I shall continue to read widely. I tried Val MacDermid's Skeleton Road, made no conscious decision to leave it and go onto Rankin, but that is what happened. I shall probably go back to it at some point. She must have something to offer me!
I've written reviews over the last couple of years for the Historical Novel Society and that has introduced me to many different styles, some of which I liked and some I didn't. What has it taught me? In no particular order, that the story line is as important as the style, adverbs are usually not required, that voice can be many things; pacing is important and a good, sensible conclusion is a must. It has taught me that I dislike what I call the the grab and snag style of writing where every verb is racked up to maximum; no one ever "takes" anything, they "grab" or "snag" it. They don't kiss, but "devour" each other, don't walk but "sashay," "tramp" or "traipse" across a room. Sometimes plain English is good, if not best!
PS - I got myself in the picture this time!