Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why I don't read much these days

If I carve my writing-related activities into writing (including revising), critiquing, blogging, and reading, I find I usually have time for maybe one-and-a-half of these in any given week. But not much more than that.

In the last two weeks, I've managed a reasonable amount of critiquing, a bit of revising to get my next chapter ready for Critique Circle, and read a novel. So I think I've been doing quite well.

Apart from the blog neglect, for which I apologise.

But, to get back to the point of the title, no, the reason for not reading much these days is not lack of time.

I got this book from the library. It is a fairly recently-written prequel to one of the classic greats of sci-fi. I was looking forward to more of the magic that entranced me many years ago.

But...

Infodump! my inner editor kept screaming at me. Show, don't tell. Clunky sentence structure. There were whole paragraphs that could do with serious tightening up. Stop beating the point to death and get on with the freakin' story!

The story didn't seem to start until about a third of the way into the book. Most of the early chapters felt like a history lecture. Some of the details that should have added depth to the story seemed either contrived or comically amateurish, lacking the finesse of the original work. The climax felt a bit Deus ex Machina.

When I finished, I realised there were loose ends unaccounted for. That, on it's own, is not too much of a problem. A few ambiguous threads leave room for sequels, but they should be at least closed off in some way, not just abandoned mid-flow never to resurface. Worse, there was a whole plot line that was utterly disconnected from the story.

If this story had gone through any of the critiquing groups I've belonged to, it wouldn't have lasted five minutes. It would have been shredded mercilessly.

But this was a professional, published novel.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the read. Just not as much as I'd anticipated. Also I enjoyed it more for that fact that it revealed how we arrived at the start of the sci-fi classic of my boyhood, than for the story itself.

This is why I don't read too much these days.

6 comments:

  1. Yep, you've officially been ruined like the rest of us. I have the same problem.

    Before I started seriously buffing up my writing/editing/critting skills, I would read anything all the way through simply because I bought it and it would be a waste not to. Now, I'm lucky if I make it past the first few chapters. I skim, my eyes glaze over and I get really annoyed when I spot all the stuff you mentioned. Then the book goes flying. Bye bye book.

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  2. I usually put each new book I'm thinking of purchasing and reading through a serious vetting process, including both professional and reader reviews (among other things). Through all of this I can glean beforehand whether the book is worth my time or not. Like you, I have very little of that going around to devote to all the things I need to get done.

    But, so far at least, every single book I've read in the last two years have been stellar gems. The type of works that make me so envious!

    So, sorry to hear about your frustrations. While I can't say I've been having the same experience, such a book as you've described would have been thrown to the wayside after the first two chapters if it were me.

    Ugh! Sounds horrible, Ian. My condolences.

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  3. I just had the same problem with a YA novel. It was written by an author of several novels, so you'd think she would have been practiced in the art of writing...but no. The concept is great, the writing makes it hard to read.

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  4. Well, Jean and Elena, I'm glad it's not just me going mad!

    David, I'm glad your prior research pays off. Not sure I'd have the patience for that approach, or the trust in other people's opinions. I usually go by the first few paragraphs...hey where have I heard that idea before?

    As I said in my post, it wasn't too bad all told. The sad thing is, though, that I really persevered with it only for the backstory, not for the novel in its own right. It wasn't until the last hundred pages or so that it took off to the point where I actually had trouble putting it down.

    I reckon I've just got cranky and hard to please in my old age :D

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  5. I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. It is even starting to affect my TV watching. I will be lazing about on the couch, watching along, and turn to my wife and tell her, "that dialog isn't natural." or " Why did he do that? It's out of character for him."

    I find myself complaining about the writing of shows more frequently lately.

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  6. Hi Andrew, luckily I don't watch too much TV so reflexive criticism hasn't invaded that corner of my life. Yet.

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