When Reading Something Not-So-Good is Very, Very Good

This past Sunday found me restless as Sundays often do.  Sunday is the day when I inevitably look around and see everything I’d intended to accomplish not being accomplished.  But hey, I’m not going to spend my last day of freedom before the work week begins cleaning out my closet, dusting my bookshelves, or sewing buttons on stuff that’s missing buttons. So I spend the day being restless thinking about everything I should do, but not doing it.  And I know that if I’d just do it, it would only take a couple of hours and then I could spend the rest of the day enjoying the day, but that’s just not how I roll.

So there I was, flipping back and forth between the History Channel, the Travel Channel, and HGTV because Sunday is also the day I relearn what a Civil War era pocket watch is worth, that testicles are chewy, and that home renovations never go as planned. But this time I decided that I wanted to occupy my mind, if only with a little brain candy, and my Kindle is generally where I turn for such things.  I logged on to my Amazon account and started browsing books perfect for a Sunday afternoon of sloth.

Let me be clear.  I wasn’t looking for the Great American Novel.  I wasn’t looking for spiritual enlightenment.  I was looking for some fiction within my genre of choice (dark fiction) to suck me in for an enjoyable while.

It proved to be harder than I thought, because I wasn’t looking for any ol’ dark fiction, but I had a very clear picture in my mind of what I wanted to read; the setting, the hero/heroine, etc.  After a bit, I let out a sigh that my husband, who was sitting beside me at the time, knows all too well.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Nothing.  I’m just looking for a book to read.”  I didn’t have to look at him to know that he was raising an eyebrow.  I’m in the middle of a couple of books right now and have many left on my must read list.  “I’m in the mood for something specific,” I told him.  “I’ll know it when I see it.” And maybe it was just my imagination, or maybe it was my own guilty conscience, but I could swear I sensed something else my husband wanted to say, and I could swear I knew what it was too, so I continued, “I know, I know.  If I can’t find the book I want to read, maybe I should write that book. I get it.”

My husband is one of my biggest cheerleaders, but lately that translates into the person who—metaphorically speaking—smacks my knuckles with a ruler in an attempt to keep me on task.

He smiled knowingly and went back to his computer game.  I continued my Amazon search.  Finally I came across a book that looked promising. I’ll admit that it was the cover that caught my attention. And oddly, it didn’t catch my attention in a good way.  My first thought was, Somebody’s trying to look like Fifty Shades of Grey.  But upon reading the description, it sounded nothing like the Fifty Shades books and sounded like precisely what I was in the mood to read.  However, I learned that it was a sequel, so I directed my attention to the first book…and its Amazon reviews.

Reviews ranged from raves about how people couldn’t put it down, to slams on how the book should be used in creative writing classes as an example of what not to do. For the low e-book price, I considered it worth the gamble, especially because the synopsis looked interesting.

Honestly, I agree with both of the above examples.  I’m refraining from doing a proper review of this book here because, well, what credentials do I have?  I’d feel a little guilty making some of the comments I’d make about this author, who truly does have great potential, while I’ve yet to accomplish what she has accomplished.  Not only is her book out there, but people are buying it. Hell, I bought it.  And truthfully, I’ll probably buy the second book because she does tell a good story, but its faults are pretty glaring.

And I’m guilty of the exact same literary sins.

Some of my own work came to mind as I was sitting there reading and thinking, It’s such a shame that I keep getting pulled from such a great story by poor word choices and questionable grammar.  I’ve made the same word choices. I’ve been that repetitious. I’ve made the same grammatical errors.

And I’ve been too close to the work to see it.  And I know that’s what beta readers and editors are there to catch, but I personally want to submit the most polished piece I can. And I know nothing about this author’s writing process, but I’ve got to wonder who read her work and didn’t catch this stuff.

But as it turns out, this book was a very good purchase.  Not only did I get to read a good story, but I learned lessons that will carry over into the telling of my own stories.

Any writers out there have a similar experience?

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5 thoughts on “When Reading Something Not-So-Good is Very, Very Good

  1. I’d rather read a book that has a few errors remaining than never see it published at all. The little errors reassure me that the author is human, not just some small part of a huge literary processing machine.

    • That’s a very good point. It makes publishing feel more like a real thing that actual people do than some magical, unattainable thing. It can be encouraging.

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