Originally posted on January 30, 2012
I don’t like to be hypercritical of other writers, because I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end. However, I know that once your stuff is published, you’re a target, whether you want to be or not. I also know that, at that point, everyone becomes a critic of your work.
The point is you can never make everyone happy. I guess you can try, though, and there are things I do and don’t do in an effort to keep readers happy. Well, maybe not happy, but at least not annoyed, because there are certain techniques, for lack of a better word, that I avoid because I don’t like when I read them elsewhere. Usually, those techniques are just small things that irritate like a gnat, but once in a while…well, let’s just say sometimes I’ll read a book that drives me bonkers.
A while back, a friend of mine gave me a book to read. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call it Historical Romance by Jane D. Author. I love Kindle, but I still read lots of print books (can’t help it—I love ‘em). My friend knew that. So, she gave me this book and said, “It’s one of my favorites. I love it, and I think you’ll like it too.” She has good taste, and I know some of the books she’s read, so I figured I’d appreciate her suggestion.
I finally started that book today, and I can tell already it’s going to be a long, hard read. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it. I mean, the author knows how to construct a basic sentence (subject-verb-object), and even though I tend to forgive heavy reliance on adverbs (because I tend to overuse them from time to time myself), she was going overboard: people looked at the narrator hideously, and someone else smiled at her merrily, and she told her story truthfully. This was just on the first page, mind you, and I’m being kind. It was worse than what I’m telling you here. After a while, it felt like a nursery rhyme what with the cadence of the lees (-lys).
But I told myself, “Come on, Jade. This is a book just for fun. Relax.” So I kept reading.
By this point, I was a couple of pages in. Again, I don’t want to give too much away (don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings), but the book is set five hundred years in the past. No problem. Except for one. I find it hard to swallow when writers project modern-day thoughts, feelings, and ideals upon characters set in another time and place. Worse yet, this character is supposed to be royalty, and yet her tone and mindset are middle class.
I know this book has lots of fans. Trust me—it has lots of fans. It’s a best-selling book. But I was having a hard time making it through the first five pages. And now I have a dilemma. Do I give it back to my friend unread? I feel like I should see it through to the bitter end. Maybe once I get through the drivel at the beginning, there’s a great story there and the writing will get better. Maybe as I progress, I’ll understand what my friend loved so much about the book.
Here’s my biggest problem, though. I’m often afraid that if I read something that I feel is poorly written, I worry that those things I dislike will rub off on me. Silly, I know, but it’s a concern. The only thing, I think, that could save me is my awareness of the potential.
But I’m also afraid I’ll start to hate the book, hate the character, and hate the writer. And I don’t want to do that. I figure there’s a book for everyone out there. If we all liked the same things, what a boring place this planet would be. So I hate being judgmental about something that quite obviously wasn’t written for me.
But…since I’m probably going to force myself to finish reading it, I just had to get it off my chest. Guess I need to go back and read about how desperately the character is feeling.