Reading Woes: Breaking my own rules
Posted by AJ Beamish
I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. And exercising, I’m down to 165 lbs., and fit as a fiddle!
I’ve had this long standing rule when it comes to reading of always finishing a book I start. It’s what forced to me to struggle through Homer’s The Odyssey. Three pages of action followed by sixteen pages of Greeks eating mutton. Seriously, that book sucked in an epic way.
The rule was also what got me through one of the greatest Sci-Fi series I’ve ever read: Issac Asimov’s Foundation. A great story that I found hard to read at times because it was a little too bogged down in technological and political detail for my ever wandering mind. It didn’t help that Asimov wrote much of it early in his career and as short stories which were pieced together for the novels. A writer’s early days are a time when we are full of inexperience and great ideas. It is a time when the words do not flow as poetically from the pen as we would like and the struggle between blank page and full is readily apparent. Read the Foundation Trilogy and then read Prelude to Foundation to see what I mean. Foundation was almost awkward to read, while Prelude—which was written towards the end of Asimov’s career—danced like a ballet of words, plot, character and ideas.
With the purchase of our Galaxy Tab a few months back I was able to start reading more. My main problem with digital publishing is I find it unconscionable that a digital copy of a book (especially by mainstream authors) costs as much as a printed hard cover. The industry needs to rethink its sales angle. Given that I’m not obliged to contribute money to established publishing houses that are obviously stuck in the publishing days of yore I’ve been searching for others to believe in. New writers.
So I payed 99 cents for a book and quickly realized I had wasted my money. After that I decided to look for free offerings from intrepid new writers before investing in them. Aspiring authors would do well to consider their first publishing effort as a trilogy and give away the first book for free (just remember, each book needs to have a beginning, a middle, and AN END). The “competition” is thick in more ways than one. It costs people nothing but time to publish a book these days; evidenced by the sheer amount of unfinished books in my Kindle library.
Yes, I’ve broken my long standing rule of late.
From basic grammatical and spelling errors on the first page, sometimes even in the first paragraph, to a complete lack of structure and an obvious ignorance of basic plot elements and devices, the list of shortcomings I’ve seen in the free offerings on the Amazon store would take far too long for me to compile. The one thing new authors (and some mildly successful ones) can’t seem to grasp in their fervor to publish is it’s the little things you ignore as a writer that tell the reader you either just don’t give a shit or believe the reader is too stupid to notice.
For the love of all that is holy, take the time to edit. This includes shelving the book for a month or two so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. A lot of the mistakes I see are simple oversights that a vacation from the material will alleviate. Something happens in the writer’s mind when he or she has been poring over the same pages day in and day out for weeks at a time. The writer will no longer see the words as they are written. The writer will begin to see the words as they appear in his or her head. The mind, especially a tired one, can be a fickle prankster all too willing to play tricks on you in your time of need.
And what’s with all the stories in first-person? First person is only good for deep and engaging character explorations of deep and engaging characters and then only if it’s a short story. A lot of aspiring authors are using first person as a cheap and easy way to keep plot hidden from the reader. It’s a terrible concept and a bad habit to fall into. Almost as bad as killing a TV family’s dog and using time travel to bring him back to life again. C-H-E-E-S-Y.
I feel bad I have so many books unfinished. I really do. I feel I am betraying the writing community. But I’m sorry, some of the crap out there simply can not be read. At least not without a little more care and attention to detail being paid.
What say you?