From the blog of literary agent Rachel Gardner:
Q:Do you think agents are more likely to take on work that has a great plot with writing that needs work, or great writing with a plot that needs work?
A: Great writing with a weak plot - for sure. I can help a good writer improve their plot. But teaching an average writer to be a good writer is not my job.
Just finished Joe Hill's Horns. In his author's notes at the end, he says that the book went through five drafts.
Review of Horns:
Ignatius Perrish wakes one morning to find he's grown horns overnight on his head. The previous night was the one year anniversary of his girlfriend's gruesome rape and murder, and he's not quite sure what he might've done. He's hungover as hell, and there's some other really freaky shit going on as well.
The opening chapter, brief as it was: best opener ever. Wish I'd written it, which is my usual highest praise.
But then the book sort of meandered, and while I would've been fine with following Ig around as he attempted, gracelessly, to understand what's happened and what is happening, I found it difficult to connect or like Ig. He's classic slacker, and his personality resembles most a wet sock on a gym room floor.
But still, Hill's pacing and wit kept me reading. I was enjoying it. Not loving it, but enjoying it.
And then, halfway through the book, a lot of pieces came together, and I realized we'd been standing with Ig at the top of the Evil Knievel hill (read it -- you'll get it), and we were about to go flying down it in a grocery cart.
And what a fucking ride it was.
I stayed up into the wee hours to finish this one, and I got that familiar feeling of dread about 2/3 of the way through. You know the feeling -- there's not a lot of book left, and it's got to come to an end, and you don't want it to.
I won't spoil it for you, but I will say that it was worth the set-up, and it's got enough quirky references and inside jokes that you'll be rolling your eyes and laughing for most of the way. That's a talent that Hill's got: he makes you feel like you're in on the joke with him. He's not a writer who's showing off how witty he is, how intelligent, what a fabulous writer he is. Nope. He's just telling stories to his friend, and that's you.
I also get the distinct impression that Hill sits at his keyboard, laughing his ass off and banging the keys like a monkey as he rips out these stories. I hope he's having as damned good of a time as I think he is.
Sure, this isn't the great horror story that Heart-Shaped Box is. And I didn't fall for Ig like I fell for Jude (unf). But it's clever and fun and comes together reasonably well. Something else it's got? An original story. I can't think of anything to compare this to.
It does have its weak points. I never cared all too much for Merrin, the dead girlfriend, even though I could see why Ig did. And the hints and clues were a bit obvious, but since you never have a lot of time to dwell on them, it doesn't seem to matter much. And Hill seemed like he tried to cram every reference to the devil, good and evil, the Bible, theology, you got it, he tried to cram it all in there. And maybe the ending was a bit too tidy, but then, who can really complain about that?
Read it. It's a helluva ride, one you won't regret. I actually look forward to reading this again, which tells you something.
Last thing: Ig's the son of a fairly wealthy, well-known person. Joe Hill... Yeah, you get where I'm going with this. I did wonder if Hill was drawing on actual experience when I read the parts where Ig talks to people and they confess what they think of him, and inevitably say something about his rich daddy, etc. Or do people really keep that to themselves, and Hill thinks that everyone is thinking that? Either way, it's got me thinking.