When is a “Great Story” NOT about The Writing (Part III: Books I LOVE for the “Story” but the writing’s NOT bad!)

Illustration from 1819 edition of
Illustration from 1819 edition of “The Comic Adventures of Old Mother Hubbard and her Dog”
NOTE: We at T..A.A. don’t promote or endorse smoking. 
(Still, it fits, and it’s funny!)-Taurean Watkins, Editor-in-Chief, Founder and literary rat of  Talking Animal Addicts (T.A.A.)


If you haven’t read part 1, click here!

If you haven’t read part 2, click here!


Hi All!

I had a nice break, and a better than normal Mother’s Day, and a restful birthday yesterday, and it’s great to be back at T.A.A. again.



In part 2 of my series on Storytelling, I was honored that fellow middle grade author, Janice Hardy, was kind to let me share some of her points on storytelling that we discussed in private this time last year, little did she or I know at the time it would be great fodder for a more broad conversation, and if you’re a brave reader of moral-bending fiction, check out her “Healing Wars” Trilogy at: http://www.janicehardy.com


Today, I’ll share some of my own favorite books that while may not have the level of writing I personally strive toward, are still fun stories, and don’t worry, just because these books excel at story over prose, it’s not “bad” from a technical standpoint.


In other words, no out of place punctuation or nonsensical tense shifts, at least none I could read and pick up on.


Before I go into my picks, here’s another nugget of wisdom Janice gave me in the vein of part 2-


“I think to read like a reader you have to pay attention to what you love about the stories that isn’t about the writing. Focus on the parts that keep you up at night and make you recommend a book to everyone you know. If you can identify those aspects, and then get them into your own work (or read your own work with those ideas in mind), then there’s a good chance the book will become a more reader-friendly book overall.”


Again, I agree with Janice, but that said, I know from personal experience this is not easy to re-learn if you’ve been writing a LONG time, because writers really do read differently than readers (Who don’t write to publish) do, and because of this, it took me a LONG time to get back in touch with what she meant.


I still struggle here, but it’s not the “esoteric fortune cookie babble” it sounded to me when I first read it last year.


With those points above in mind, let’s get to it-


Remember, I’m not an agent or trained editor, so your millage may vary, but hey, if I thought the books were boring (Minor flaws and preference aside) I wouldn’t recommend it here.



Taurean’s Top 3 Book Recommendations for books where “Story Trumps Prose”

(In no particular order)


“The Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye” by Geronimo Stilton

I’ve kept my love of this series a secret for years; this was my guilty pleasure, my “Wimpy Kid” if you will. But of the many books I’ve read and loved in recent years, this is by far the most obvious example for me where character and story rise above the writing, that said, it’s not horridly written, even though the high use of adverbs in dialogue tags irks me a little.


While I can’t recommend this series to reluctant readers like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” with certain words and sentence structures more challenging compared to the aforementioned series, this is a great series to recommend readers who think animal stories for this age group are limited to Shiloh or Charlotte’s Web, and while both are fine books, tug at the heartstrings more than the need for a fast paced read.


That said, if you’re willing to invest in the audiobooks, they’re well produced and engage like those ‘ol school radio plays of yesteryear. (I have so much more to say about this book, but you’ll have to wait for my review in the near future.) But moving on-



“A Summer in the South” by James Marshall

A charming mystery story that’s almost more about the zany antics than the mystery, though that’s there, too. How this guy make simplicity not read boring is beyond me, and more power to him.


“Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat” by Lynne Jonell

This is a bit of a misfit pick in terms of the context of “Story trumps writing” books, because I do this is smartly written, but it’s not flowery, but it’s really the cheeky wit (Particularly of the Rat in this book) and Dahl-esque story that you remember most. With quirky illustrations by Jonathan Bean to round it off.


There you go, three books I love where story trumps the writing, but the writing still isn’t horrid, in my opinion.


Next time, my series on Storytelling continues with more authors sharing their thoughts on this often debated and dividing subject, what they did for their books, and more.


Please share your thought in the comments below. It’s great to hear from you, and now that I’m on WordPress, if you avoided commenting during my Blogger days because you hated entering those Caiaphas (I do too, believe me), you don’t have to deal with that anymore.


Special Thanks to Janice Hardy for allowing use of her opinions in this blog post.

When is a “Great Story” is NOT About The Writing?

No Writing Sign

No Writing Sign



As a writer, I’ve learned a lot of things about myself, both things I’m proud of, and things I’m not, and one of my biggest disappointments had nothing to do with query letters, learning more about publishing that I at times REALLY didn’t want to know, or even hearing the word “Platform.”

I stopped loving to read.

I know. I became a writer BECAUSE I learned to love reading.

But here’s the thing, when you go from being a lay reader who just wanted a book to entertain (and some times inform you), to a writer, where the realities of the market demand the most error-free manuscript possible just to get READ, never mind an agent or get published, a lot of that love sadly flies out the window.

Sure, I still read as I learned the ins and outs of  writing, but I was so focused on the technical aspects of writing that the notion of “Writer’s Playtime” was Greek to me. How could I care about characters or story when what’s getting picked apart in critiques are things like-



  • You don’t stay in one POV throughout
  • You’re digressing too much in this scene.
  • You write too “Complex” for your intended readers
  • Your prose is too “On the Nose. No real person would say that.”
  • Why don’t you show this conflict instead of
  • This is just too long for X age readers. Period.


The list goes on, but I’ll stop there.

My point is this, how can writers re-engage with reading without putting the needs to study their craft by the wayside?

Some writers say this is just part of the deal and just to live with it. But I can’t accept that. How can I, in good conscience, continue my journey as a writer, when I no longer can read the books I’m TRYING to write in the first place?

That would be like accountant who can’t use decimals points correctly or can calculate percentages. Or firefighters who were never trained to fight fires, or handle other types of emergency scenarios.

How can writers no longer can read what they love, which is what made me want write in the first place, without being a hypocrite?

The books and authors I’m now being annoyingly compared to were once my friends. My escape from the pain at home, and at school (I didn’t start writing until I was 16), and kept me focused on something that was fully in my control, unlike jumping hoops to get my GED after high school didn’t work out, if I didn’t write that day, it’s on me, not a mismanaged and broken system.

(I’m talking about the education system, NOT publishing, but it’s got its own share of problems that aren’t SOLELY the fault of authors, but that’s another blog post…)

Now those friends are my rivals.

Many writers think we have no competition and that we’re better off just to keep writing.

I’m not sure that’s an option anymore.

Whether we like it or not, part of writing is playing this comparison game, and I’m speaking from the business side, not the writer side, and for those of us who don’t have a PhD in marketing, this is the part of the process that hurts even more than form letter rejections.

While I just don’t see books as products like toothpaste or makeup, like those products, books need to face a lot of scrutiny before we ever get to the desired reader at the end, and this “There’s no competition” mentality a lot of writers,even those I admire and respect, is blind to the fact that when we go from writing to SELLING our writing, that mindset has to change, and for those of us who can’t afford to self-publish right, we HAVE to face this hurdle at some point.

Thankfully, great writers think alike when facing difficulties in their lives and stories. Last year, I had an interesting round of correspondence with author, Janice Hardy, who I first met many years ago on a forum for writers, and while we had our ups and downs, I now consider her a friend, and a solid example of a writer who really practices what she preaches in regards to art and business of writing.

I’ll talk more about what I learned from Janice tomorrow.



What do you think?

Why are some stories able to outshine the writing of them, and others are held back because of the writing?

Is publishing out of touch with this discrepancy?

Are we asking too much of writers in this regard, or not enough?







Write For Yourself: Because YOU matter too!

Inspired by the blog, “The Other Side of the Story” by Janice Hardy, author of The Healing Wars Trilogy.

As writers, we all have times when we just struggle on certain parts of the process, and even though we keeping telling ourselves to be patient and keep trying we’ll one day achieve the results we strive for, and being patient with ourselves can often be harder than waiting to hear an editor or agent wants to buy our book(s).

“I Write For Myself.”

How many times have we heard or been told this same advice from other writers, often those who’ve achieved some level of success that is noticeably greater, if not eons beyond, what we have experienced so far, and I believe while many of you, like myself, really want to believe it, it simply may not be easy to achieve, simple as it is to say. 

Does that mean we’re pathetically lazy or impatient? 

I don’t think so. 

Contrary what I hear from some writers, some of us don’t find adopting this mindset an easy, or straightway thing, and here’s why-

We just lost our way. Nothing else to it.

This is what happened to me, AGAIN, and it’s a strong part of why I’ve been MIA from the blog so long, and I really missed those of you who are T.A.A. faithfuls, and I continue to appreciate the support my fellow bloggers and writers have been gracious to give me during this time, and I hope I can return the favor someday. 

While I’m still in recovery mode, and even if my updates remain inconsistent for the foreseeable future, I will keep it going, because I love doing it, and hope sharing my journey as a writer and reader will ease some of the pain of writers who feel or have felt similar frustrations.

If I can help one writer among you feel less alone and hopeless, I consider that a special kind of success, and you can’t measure it with money or stock charts, but that also means we all have an equal chance to give it, and maybe get some back ourselves, because at day’s end, we need community and understanding now more than ever.

Even in those times when we must stand alone to face our fears and right our wrongs, we need to remember the community who got us to this point, I believe we all need some amount of it, this just varies from writer to writer, no different than books that work for some readers versus others.

We spend so much time thinking of our readers needs, and I’m in no way saying this is a bad thing, all writers and readers who don’t write need to stretch their horizons, but we can’t let allow it to devalue and neglect our own personal feelings and taste in books, and that’s not fair or healthy to us, because we’re readers too. 

Tomorrow, I will talk about what’s helping me climb out of the new hole I fell into this year, and share what’s helping me fight back, and I promise an update tomorrow, and here’s some encouraging proof, I’ll give the first two replies to Friday’s post the following prizes-

Reply Prize #1:  $20 Barnes and Noble E-Gift Card*
Reply Prize #2: $10 iTunes gift card*

(*Prizes can only be awarded to residents in U.S. or Canada)
2nd Note: Hawaii and Alaska are eligible! I hate contests and giveaways that leave them out They’re part of America too.)

Check back tomorrow, I look forward to lots more discussion, and if you’ve got questions or would like to comment on your personal battle with this subject, feel free to share in the comments, or if it’s more personal or intricate, but would help writer’s morale, e-mail me, and you can chose to be anonymous, but give me an alias so my responses can read natural on the blog. I’ll update my new contact info later today.

Until then, May The Fantastic Fauna be with you,

Editor-in Chief
Resident Frazzled yet Unflappable Literary Rat

P.S. If you’re interested, read the post on Janice’s blog that sparked this topic here.

Career Themes and You!

Inspired the blog, “The Other Side of the Story” by Janice Hardy, author of The Healing Wars Trilogy.

Note: If you haven’t read it yet, click here to check it out before reading this further. 

I don’t follow a lot of blogs on a regular basis, but the ones I do are either extremely helpful to me as a writer, or they’re just plain fun, but nearly all of them are inspirational and deeply empathetic. 

In the case of writing blogs, one of the most helpful ones I discovered last year was The Other Side of the Story, by the author of the well loved Healing Wars Trilogy by Janice Hardy.

While I’ve never met her in person, both Janice, and her blog, have been integral to my meltdown recovery. Her blog is full of practical, useful advice, even if it’s not as easy to follow as it is to explain.

So many good writing blogs are hindered from being great because they usually (But not always) focus on the facts without taking personal feelings and setbacks into account. 

Recently she wrote a post about something I’ve never given great thought to before. Our career theme.

We all know most writing contains or address a specific theme, but did you know your writing career in and of itself can be theme oriented? I didn’t. At least not to extent in which Janice talked about  on her blog. 

When you really think about it, not all bakers, banks, and businessmen and women have the same ideas about what the job means to them, outside of making money or being a nonprofit charity. The same is definitely true of writers, even those who write the same genre or type of story.

Think about all those books about plucky redhead girls: Pippi Longstocking, Anne of Green Gables, and Judy Moody. (Judy might be a carrot-top, but I’m not sure, her color covers and doll’s hair looks reddish to me) All of these girls were written by different authors from different eras, connected only by their gender, and their heroine’s hair color, and their heroines are unique and distinctive in their own way.

All stories have a theme, or themes, of some sort, whether fiction or nonfiction. Every writer has their own career theme too, things you like to explore or talk about in your stories no matter what you write, be it fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.

For example, not all love stories are straight romance, and not all romances are sex-driven, just like not all Women’s fiction involves dating or relationships. 

Now if only there were more books “For men” that don’t always involve crime-starved, perverted loners who drink and gamble to the umpteenth degree…

Anyway, back to the point, for Janice, her career theme is “Moral Grey Areas.” Stories that explore characters whose actions and choices are neither all good or all bad, and tough questions don’t always have a clear cut “Right and Wrong” answer. It’s bittersweet, open-ended, and arguably more true to “Real life.” Even if the world, people, and events are entirely made up.

This certainly doesn’t describe me or my writing at all, at least not at large. So what are my career themes?

First and foremost, most of my stories deal with friendship in some form, from making new friends, to keeping old ones, and honoring friends who are either dead or you’re no longer close to.

To me, friendship is vital for every person to experience, second only to family, and loving ourselves despite our flaws and quirks.

What makes friendship especially interesting to me is that unlike families we’re either born into or adopted by, we can choose our friends, and we can change them as we ourselves change throughout life. 

That’s why friendships that last throughout most of your life are very special to me when I read about them, I never got that, so those of you who have a friend or two you’ve known most of your conscious life, treasure them for those of us who have to live much longer to form similar bonds.

But like families (Either by birth or adoption) we hurt when our friends are hurting, and we they die, the feeling of grievance and loss is no different than losing a blood or adoptive relative or family pet.

One of the biggest advantages of having friends, especially friends closer to your actual age, is you can be equals, whereas with  friends older than ourselves or older kids or adults in our family, there’s a distinct, normal, and yet semi-annoying sense of respect and restraint you must have.

Of course you must respect your friends as well, but it’s not the kind of respect you’d give your teachers. sports coaches , and your parents and/or parental figures.

I’ve only recently discovered my second career theme, which for now I’ll call The Reverse Peter Pan Syndrome, or the T.R.P.P. Syndrome for short (Acronyms are fun, if not always easy to say)

One of the hallmarks with Peter Pan is kids never having to grow up. The reverse of this is wanting to grow up, but here’s the twist, you constantly feel frustrated and fearful of how long it’s taking to “Grow up,” at least in the ways we want most.

For me, it’s how long it takes to be more Independent, to not be so dependent on my family for money and transportation, and being so behind an burnt out on education.

I have to admit, there are times I feel I’d be better off as a kid than the depressed, undereducated, temperamental 20 something I am now. But I soon remember the flip side, for all the pain and downright sadness associated with the many milestones and mishaps of adulthood, I learned wonderful and meaningful things about myself that my younger self couldn’t do, or simply not understand. 

I got smarter. I learned to care about others and not just myself, and while I’m not 100% temper tantrum free, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as when I was five since I have better (Mostly)  self-control, and hey, even the uber mature folk slip up sometimes.

While I haven’t written much about this myself yet as I’ve just discovered it, anyone who’s read books by memoirst Kelly Corrigan and about the “Quarterlife Crisis” us 20 somethings go through, you’ll get a general idea of what I mean. Stories, both true and fictional, about feeling like a child trapped in an adult body, and not yet knowing how to make peace with onself, and feeling good about where you are now, versus when you were a kid, and loving yourself in the present as opposed to what you hope to be in the future.

I definitely have problem in this department. It can be hard to “Love the present you” when the thinks you can’t stand about yourself cause you and those around you, and live with, to be miserable.

Now I’m not trying to go all “Hippie Psychoanalyst” on you, but  feelings play more of a part to both the writer’s craft and career, than a lot of Type A by-the-book folks like to admit.

Unless your natural inclination is to see things in a highly pragmatical manner to begin with, trying too hard to be analytical takes all the fun and adventure out of the writing process, believe me, I speak from painful experience. Past and Present.

Often I think writers confuse the word “practical” with “paranoia.” There’s a not-always-fine-line between the two, and leaning too far to either side only brings frustration and heartbreak to the writer, and maybe even greater chaos than they already deal with.

So take some time today to think about your career theme(s). Just remember, these themes don’t just describe a paticular book or story, they describe you as a writer, and what you most value, fear, and/or respect the most about life and the human condition.

With that, here’s a quote by me that I hope I’ll be known for one day-

“Even when the story’s not about us, it’s still about what we, the writers are about, mixed with the blessings of our imagination.”

Hope to hear some feedback from you!

Until Tomorrow,
May the Fantastic Fauna Be With You!


P.S. I’ll update the Future Headlines tomorrow as I return to my typical posts on craft.