From a writer’s perspective, how do you decide if you should continue reading a book?
If you’re like me, you’ve started books that no matter how hard you tried, the story or information couldn’t hold your attention. You’ve likely picked up some where you had to read the first 100 pages before reaching the point of no return, while others hook you in the first few sentences and compel you to keep on reading.
As an aspiring writer, you may hope for the latter scenario, yet the truth of the matter is the first two situations will more likely become reality at least once before we succeed. (After all, John Grisham received 25 rejections before he was successful in finding someone to publish his first novel.) The point here is not to discuss rejection, but to discover what makes a book worthy of reading it to the end in order to reduce time spent in the learning curve and number of returned manuscripts.
The criteria for continuing to read will be different for each person, but an analysis may prove to be an enlightening assignment. Good writers can learn from their own reactions to another author’s work. Unless it is self-published, you recognize at least one editor liked it. The publisher hopes others will also. What makes it read-worthy then becomes critical to prospective writers.
It might be helpful to keep a log of the books you’ve read and list what you liked or disliked about them. This way you can determine what worked well – genre, pace, characters, authenticity, clarity … – as well as what to avoid when you work on your next piece. Writing is like any other skill. You need to use the right tool for the job, and learning from other craftsmen can speed up the process. So before you bury the next volume, keep plowing long enough to see what insight you can gain.
You’ve heard the old adage, “Leaders are readers,” well, so are writers. In fact, I would venture to say writers who are avid readers, are also likely to be leaders.
One of the best ways to hone your writing skills is to read what other people write. Your goal is not to plagiarize their work or mimic their style. You want to be authentic and legal. You can learn a lot from applying journalism’s 5 W’s and an H – who, what, where, when, why and how – to whatever you read, both fiction and non-fiction. This sounds easy enough, and it is, unless you are engaged and forget your mission. Try using these questions for starters.
Who wrote it?
Is this person renowned or unknown?
Is s/he credible, i.e., a subject matter expert in the field?
What biographical information do you know about the author that might help you to identify with their circumstances, situation or style?
What type of piece is it?
Is it fiction or non-fiction?
Would you classify it as romance, science fiction, trade article, etc.?
Who is the target audience and is it being hit?
Wheredoes the author publish?
Does s/he use print or electric (e-book, online, etc.)
Does s/he self publish?
Does s/he publish through an agent and publishing house?
What period (fiction) does the author write about? Is the work true to the era?
Is it current (non-fiction)?
Why does the author write?
Does s/he tell a story, have a point to make or an agenda?
Is s/he trying to provide instructions?
How well does s/he accomplish the mission?
How does the author achieve results?
How engaging is the work?
What techniques does s/he employ? Are they successful?
Want to curl up with a good book? You can. It will make you a better writer.