Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Leveling Up

by Holly West

When my four year old nephew is ready for dessert (which is pretty much always), he asks what he has to do to level up. Usually, it requires eating a few more bites of salad or whatever vegetable is still on his plate. Beat that boss and you can have a cookie.

As a writer, I think about leveling up a lot. Leveling up is a little different from writing the best book you can. Presumably, we all aim for that with every book we write. But how do I get to the next level as a writer? My current WIP, which I'm now revising, isn't leveling up so much as it's breaking free of the historical mysteries I've published so far. I'm proud of this book and I love it, but the next book I write will be a stab at something more ambitious. A "bigger" book, if that makes sense.

In the mean time, I'm always looking for books that represent what leveling up means to me. Simply put, they are books I wish I'd written myself. Books that make me suspect that no matter how long I do this, I'll never reach that story telling level. Bosses I might never beat but, damn it, I'll die trying.

Over the last couple of years, I've read several books that fall into this category. This doesn't necessarily mean that the book is a leveling up for the particular author. It only means that when I read it, I got a sense of the type of book I'd like to write. A book that inspires me to take more chances with my own writing. A book that reminds me why I want to be an author in the first place.

Here they are, in no particular order:

I'm always looking for more leveling up books, so tell me, what books have you read lately that represent leveling up to you?


Dana King said...

Whichever book of James Ellroy's LA Quartet I've read most recently. Right now that's THE BIG NOWHERE, but LA CONFIDENTIAL calls to me from the bookshelf.

Holly West said...

I need to read more Ellroy. His memoir, MY DARK PLACES, is one of the reasons I wanted to become a crime fiction writer, but the only fiction I've read is THE BLACK DAHLIA. Also one of the reasons I wanted to write crime fiction.

Scott D. Parker said...

This is a good idea. I've seen it for fitness, but haven't seen it for fiction writing. I have multiple franchises, so my leveling up is varied. For westerns, it would be L'amour, Reasoner, or Randisi. For adventure, it comes down to Clive Cussler. I have historical novels that are more thriller/mystery than straight-up either one, so this one is more difficult to pin down. For contemporary mystery, hmm, what I've written so far is a bit hard to pin down. Perhaps Patterson. Actually, that's kind of the intent of what I write: multiple franchises with multiple genres/characters, so James Patterson.