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.)

 

 

TV Research and Writing

file511249349101I read something recently about millennials and TV and their viewing habits but what struck me most was the number of hours they were watching daily. I think the average was around four hours. Four hours! That seems like a lot of TV.

Even though I work at home, I don’t have the TV on during the day unless it’s a weekend afternoon and there’s football. Or baseball. Or golf. But even then, I’m not watching so much as pacing. Getting stuff done and checking scores. Because if I sit to watch, it gets a little scary. Not for me so much, but Mister Man has been known to run screaming from the room when I get worked up.

But in the evenings, I watch a little TV for relaxation purposes. I have specific programs I like so I’ll watch for an hour or so and I’m done. Which is a long way to go to get to The Voice and how I love it. And how it inspired my latest post over at The Muffin called “Turning An Agent’s Chair.”

The writing of that post was downright zippy, but the research? That took hours.

Why Are You Reading?

Goodreads pic close upI know most people ask what are you reading. But I often choose books because I have a specific need in mind.

That’s not to say I don’t read for the pure joy of it; I do. But I also read to learn a little something something. And I don’t mean the non-fiction books on writing (though I certainly learn a little something something from those pages, too). I’m talking about the stacks of kidlit fiction I read and what I glean from those pages. Today on The Muffin, I explain The Business of Reading and why I read the books I read.

But I’m afraid you’ll have to read just a bit more to get your answers.