Sunday, February 21, 2016

Should We Care?

"Beauregard Barker was in hell. He was positive no place on earth could be any worse than where he was. He bit through his lip and turned his head, holding back a scream when jagged agony ripped through his shoulder. Something, a deep, primitive sense of danger, strangled his cry."~~Phantom's Rest by Anny Cook

Over the years since I became a published writer, I've talked a lot about how much I treasure a book that captures my interest from the beginning. Captures and holds it in the author's clenched fist right to the end. Publishing is in the throes of chaos and disorder. It might even be on the brink of extinction. If so, a large part will be borne by the authors who don't care. They don't care to craft a story. They don't care to spend the necessary time to shape an arresting beginning, an interesting middle, or an amazing, satisfying conclusion. 


Instead, they're banging out a book-of-the-month, bragging about how quickly they write, how many zillion words they write a day. To what purpose?

In the last few weeks, I've read a bunch of books. I admit I'm a very fast reader, voraciously devouring books at such a rate that I usually read over 500 books a year--in addition to the other responsibilities that make up my life. Unfortunately, only a minuscule number of those books are new.

When I was younger, I took pride in finishing every book I started, certain to do less was a failure. But now, from the increased wisdom of hardwon years, I know finishing a terrible book is a waste of precious time and effort. So. I don't read them. 

Make no mistake. I'm not talking about a book I find uninteresting. No, the books I reject commit the worst of sins. They're so boring I don't care to read past the first paragraph. I usually persevere to the end of the chapter, but no more. If the author cares so little to capture my interest that they can't write an engaging first chapter, then I feel no guilt in setting that book on the reject pile. 

I suspect some authors believe the genre will make or break their book. Not so. An accomplished writer can make anything interesting from math texts to geography to rocket science. One of the best books I've ever read was a history of the Mayflower. Some of the worst I've read were romances. I reiterate it wasn't the subject matter. It's the delivery.

Dammit. Take the time to write. Pounding the keyboard is not necessarily writing. Any cat or dog or toddler can do that. When you finish the first paragraph, read it and ask yourself, "Do I care?" If not, then walk away and find some other occupation. Please.

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