Books, Glorious (and Not So Glorious) Books

pexels-photo-264635Chances are pretty good that if you’re a writer, you’re also a reader. Books are glorious! But chances are also good that you’ve read a not-so-glorious book, one that left you scratching your head. As in “how did an agent, then an editor, THEN a whole acquisitions team at a major publishing house think this was good enough to publish?”

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. I just finished a middle grade novel like this, and yes, I did finish it. I kept reading even though the protagonist was whiny and unlikable. I kept reading even though the plot was something I’d seen a hundred times before. I kept reading even though the other characters were mostly undeveloped and/or stereotypical. I kept reading to the whiny, predictable end.

There was a time when I would let a book like this get the better of me. I’d stew and sulk and possibly–I’m not saying I did this, I’m just saying maybe–throw the book across the room. But not any more. Now, I read those books from start to finish. Because I want to know the why. What did an agent, an editor, and a whole acquisitions team see that I’m not seeing? Why did a book get published?

And while I’m pondering, why are kids reading this book? Because this particular book had a ton of reviews–great reviews! (Except for one which funnily, listed just about everything that had annoyed me.)

Publishing is a subjective business in some ways, but more importantly, it’s a money-making business. So if a publisher sees dollar signs, it’s a book they’ll acquire, in spite of cardboard characters, tired plots, or a boring protagonist. My mission, when I’m reading so-so books, is to see why it sold.

And here’s what I’ve found again and again: concept trumps everything. There are some subjects ( plots) that middle schoolers are always going to read. And there are emotional concepts that are highly relatable to the middle schooler. If I can find that relatable concept in a tried-and-true yet fresh plot, I’m halfway to the shelf.

You can be, too, in whatever you write. But first, you gotta read a lot of books.

(P.S. You might want to check out the Great American Read for more glorious but also head-scratching books. I mean, Fifty Shades of Grey? Seriously? On the other hand, look how much money that book has made…so yeah. I rest my case. Feel free to share your strong opinions.)

 

 

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Books, Glorious (and Not So Glorious) Books

  1. Cathy–I’m always worried that I’ll be accused of doing a “sour grapes” thing when I complain about published books (like I don’t want to snag a book deal if THAT is what they want), but yeah, there are plenty of stinkers.

    I voted for Harper Lee’s first book as my # 1 favorite novel. However, I bought her second book, and hated it. However, I read the whole thing, hoping it would get better. In my opinion, it didn’t.

    Thanks for a post that made me think.

    • I’m leaning toward that one as well, Sioux. I haven’t read the second one…I don’t think Harper Lee intended for that to be published and so I feel like I need to respect those wishes. (Curiosity might’ve got the better of me if I’d heard good things about it; sadly, I haven’t.)

  2. Ah-hahahaa! You crack me up. I’ve gone on those not-so-silent rants myself and for some reason, Nathanael always zones out before I’m done. 🙂 But I’ll keep reading because I do think it’s one of the best ways to become a good writer. I mean, if Avi says that’s the way to do it, that’s good enough for me. Plus, what other job has you do something SO fun for research?

I'm Always Fishing for Compliments. Wait! Comments! I meant Comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s