I just finished reading Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. I made the mistake of reading it while waiting to get my hands on the final book in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, and my excitement for that book hindered my ability to fully commit to Atwood’s novel. It was still an excellent book and it was completely my fault that I didn’t love it more. It’s not you, Oryx and Crake, it’s me.
But one thing I did notice while reading Atwood’s book is how little I noticed Atwood while reading it. What I mean is there was not a single sentence that stood out among the others. All were weighted equally, all conveyed the precise information they were meant to and nothing more. In most books I will come across a slightly clunky sentence, or an overwrought metaphor, and in that moment I think about the author and see them stumble slightly. This never happened while reading Oryx and Crake. Atwood has succeeded in making herself invisible, leaving her work to stand completely on its own.
I think it’s important as a writer to remember it’s not about you. No one will be impressed by you if they can see you through the pages, trying desperately to be noticed. You don’t want the reader to be thinking about you at all, you want them to be absorbed in the story and the characters.
I know it’s easier said than done. Making something look effortless actually takes an absolute butt-load of effort. But I think invisibility is something worth striving for.
Edit: Oh I forgot to mention, I actually have a signed copy of Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale. I bought it for $7 at a second hand book store and didn’t even notice until I read it months later.