My Tombstone: He died doing what he loved, waiting for Kvothe to get to the point.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by the title of this post, I’m reading (listening actually) to The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Before I press on here, I want to make it perfectly clear that this is a disorganized bit of observation by a reader and also a struggling writer. I do not make any claims that I am better at the craft than Mr. Rothfuss. The story isn’t bad, nor is the writing, I just find myself a bit annoyed.

It may be that you loved or are in love with the book. Excellent. I’m glad you connected with this. I’m afraid I’m struggling. Even though some of his language and descriptions are lovely and make me wish my tongue contained a quarter as much silver, I am now on chapter 51 and asking myself, “When the bloody hell is Kvothe going to get to the point here?” Again, the setting is wonderful as are the excellent descriptions. It’s case-study in description in prose for someone attempting to produce a commercially viable work of speculative fiction. Again, though, I say, is this book going anywhere? This alone is a pretty annoying, but what’s more annoying is that a single, very popular and well regarded book can contain so many of the things people tell authors not to do.

I spend a lot of time trying to improve my craft. I do want to get published some day and can’t get there without improvement. It’s also true that I’m incredibly hard on myself and sometimes just find it easier to say, well, that didn’t work, did it? Nobody can tell you your work is a pile of thoroughly unsalvageable garbage quite like you can. However, in listening to this book I’m finding myself faced with virtually every piece of advice I’ve heard being completely ignored. Some of these tidbits of advice, such as the use of dialog tags and adverbs, I’ve come to regard as absolute nonsense advice. I feel that reviewers point to these as problems, but really it’s just the smoke. The real fire is elsewhere in the writing. I also once got advice to the effect of ‘watch out for passive description’ in a short story that used it once. The Name of the Wind use it in near equal measures to more active descriptions.

I’m not really sure what the point of all this is, except to say that I’m struggling as a writer right now. I’ve hit a moment where I’ve convinced myself the work is absolute trash. The only solution for me is to understand how to improve. Then, when I go to examine other writers’ work, I’m presented with this sort of thing – A never ending story, with lovely descriptions that manages to break every damn rule of thumb for good practice I’ve been acquainted with. It brings to mind the question, are there any actual guidelines to follow? Is there really a way to get better or am I just stuck trying different things until I find my voice? Anyhow, I’ve got no answers or even conjecture on the matter. I’m just annoyed.

Also, I’ve been working on the Name of the Wind for days, listening while I drive, cook and even for two days while I worked on one of those metal earth models. There is no end in sight and I really don’t know if I have it in me to finish.

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13 thoughts on “My Tombstone: He died doing what he loved, waiting for Kvothe to get to the point.

  1. I recently finished The Name of the Wind, and while I enjoyed it a great deal, I also 100% understand what you’re saying. You’re right that the story doesn’t push much toward an overarching goal, and in most books that would bother me. I think the reason it didn’t with TNotW is because I was warned of this going in, so my expectations were prepared. Also, I felt so immersed in the world and the character that I sunk into those small day-by-day incidents, and wanted to know how each played out. I wish I could explain what Rothfuss did to absorb me like that, but I can’t.

    As for rules, it’s funny you say that, because I said the exact same thing about TNotW to someone else, except for me it was a positive thing. I liked knowing that uptight rule-shouters and finger-waggers are not always correct, because that gives me the freedom to play against the rules as well. But looking at it from your perspective, I can see how that is frustrating. It’s contradictory and confusing and unhelpful when you’re trying to improve your technique. I get that. I don’t know what to say except what I’ve long believed, which is that rules are guidelines. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Do what you believe is right, get feedback, and adjust along the way. Maybe trial and error until you find your voice, as you said, IS the way to go. I know that’s hard, and I’m truly sorry you’re struggling. *hug*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for that. I’m not finding any of the language off-putting myself either or the rule breaking itself. I’m mostly annoyed for the fact that, well, I’ve got no idea how to fix my own problems. I am certainly intrigued about the pull of this book. I know a lot of people love it, and I wish I could love it the same. In the end I’ll probably finish it and the really think hard about what he did and why and why it worked.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. CymruBoyo says:

    As a reader I don’t care about any so-called rules, good writing is good writing. That said, I completely understand what you’re saying about the lack of direction in Kvothe’s tale and usually it would annoy me too. There’s something about the world Rothfuss has built that is so utterly absorbing that I just don’t care about it though – the writing is beautiful enough that I just want to read and read and read, no matter where it takes me (even if that’s nowhere!)

    I have to ask, are you really so certain that you’re work has problems? Or are you preventing your desired narrative, what comes from your heart, because you’re thinking a little too much about “rules”?

    P.S. Stick with it – both TNoTW and the writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m listening to the book again this morning. And you make a good point, it may be that I’m focusing too hard on rules and causing myself heartburn over that when the focus needs to remain first and foremost on the narrative and characters.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah, I kind of galloped through it, looking for the point. So there was an impoverished hero, and a school for wizards, and this one chick kept showing up…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. scribblings246 says:

    I don’t think I can add too much to this conversation, except to say that every book I’ve ever fallen in love with broke all the established rules and conventions. Importantly, I never got the impression the writer was breaking rules just to break them, they just didn’t let the rules stand in the way of a paragraph they knew was just right. One good piece of advice that I, personally, got from Chuck Wendig is that you have to learn the rules so you can break them effectively( or words to that effect, I’m not quoting him precisely). I think one really is “stuck trying different things until you find your voice.” When you hit on a style that works for you, you’ll know it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kyle Malone says:

    The writing is memorable, some of the scenes are intense and a few of the characters rank among my favourites ever. That being said, I can’t forgive a novel that lacks any sort of plot. Literally nothing happens in this book. We just spend a lot of time looking over Kvothe’s food budget, worrying he’ll damage that damn lute and waiting for him to make a move on Denna. Then he’s whisked off to fight a monster because *shrugs shoulders*. Honestly, this book doesn’t accidentally miss the “do not step on the grass” sign; it purposefully ignores it and uses it to tear up the garden. And contrary to what most people argue, that act is not worthy of praise.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I felt the same and then I read the second novel in the series and just ended up going in ever decreasing circles. Rothfuss creates some beautiful writing, some amazing world building but the lack of direction really becomes an issue for me in The Wise Man’s Fear. I’m not in a hurry to read the 3rd.

    Liked by 1 person

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