Monday, February 19, 2007

When I Stop Reading...

I might have talked about this topic before. I'm too lazy...I mean, I don't have time to go back and check. :) If this is too redundant, I apologize.

A couple of people have been talking lately about why they put a book down and don't pick it up again. Last year I did that with 31 titles. Already this year I've done it with 16 and I expect to do it with a lot more, because I'm reading from the top down of my TBR pile and I am not interested in a large number of those books.

Why do I have books on my TBR pile I don't want to read? Some were free and sounded interesting, or were a way to stretch my reading range, but my enthusiasm waned. Some were gifts or suggested reading by family members or friends and not books I would have chosen myself. Some I bought to support someone in some way and I'm afraid they'll be bad.

But let me back up. What makes me put a book down and not pick it up again? I've mentioned that I don't like first person present tense, so that's a first strike, but it won't make me stop reading. Two books in FPPT that I did stop reading recently had other "problems." One was boooooring. I don't want to read about LA traffic, thank you. The other was just farrrr too tragic. Loving another woman not his fiancée, okay. Blood in his urine=possible bladder cancer, fine. But a whole chapter describing his best friend's bloody, drawn-out, horrifying death was too much for me. It was well written, but I am not in a place where I want to read about that much tragedy.

Another book was in third person, but the penile description in the first line, plus the extra-strong ethnic slang, plus the incredibly self-involved heroine stopped me by page two.

One of the bloggers I mentioned analyzed her reasons for putting down a book to try to improve her own writing, but I take a different lesson from mine.

You're never going to please everyone.

It's only been in the last five to seven years that I've stopped reading something I was not enjoying. I always pushed through, for a bunch of reasons. Mainly, if I'd spent money on the book, it felt wasteful not to read it (you can tell I grew up poor *g*). Then, there was the assertion made by many writers that you learn more about writing from the "bad" ones than the "good" ones.

But at some point, I decided a few things.

One: Life's too short to do things you don't enjoy when you don't have to. As I added kids and responsibilities to my household and my leisure time decreased, I came to value my reading time too much. I still read more for pleasure than for business, and I'm not giving that up for anything.

Two: A book can be well written and you can still hate it. Even if you think it's NOT well written, someone did, or at least thought it was good enough to publish. I do think the advice is good, but at some point, you've learned it or you never will. If I exposit too much, reading books with boring exposition is not going to make me stop doing it or it already would have.

Three: Back to "you're never going to please everyone." Some people love to worry about apprehensive, sheltered, repressed heroines who are breaking out. I don't. It doesn't mean the book is bad.

Also, no advice works for every reader. For everyone that doesn't want to know something up front, there is another who doesn't like surprises. One person wants more setting description, another wants less. I can try to emulate the authors whose books I love, but there are books that have been hugely successful that are embodiments of everything a writer can do wrong, and if I tried to emulate those books, I'd surely fail.

So what the heck am I trying to say?

I suppose it goes back to the underlying theme of everything in life: Balance. Learn from a book you don't like if you can, but don't waste time on it, either.

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