Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Book Behavior

Sempre Cover
I ordered Sempre on Amazon today! I'm so stinking excited. One of the exams I whined about was on human trafficking, which is a big part of what Sempre is about. Getting that exam turned in yesterday made me that much more eager to read this.

The Husbinator thought I was crazy for ordering both the Kindle edition and the paperback, but what does he know? It's just so much easier to carry the tablet in my purse than it is to lug around a 500+ page novel. Not, you know, that I don't do that, because I do.

And then I flail and whine like the world is ending when the pages get crinkled by all the other crap (read: ten things of lip gloss, a full sized bottle of perfume, a hairbrush, toothbrush and mouthwash, deodorant... don't judge me. I'm a girl.) I think I need to take with me any time I leave the house.

Seriously though, ebooks are just so much more portable. Between working two jobs, volunteering, and helping care for my nephew, I'm on the move a lot. I don't have time to keep up with eighty different things (and I suck at keeping track of anything), so the easier something is to keep track of, the better it is for me. Not to mention, I can do about fifty million other things on the tablet in addition to reading, thus requiring me to tote around a whole lot less.

After the obligatory round of meetings tomorrow, I plan to spend the rest of the day reading this novel, and probably crying like a baby. Again. I don't mind though.

I judge a book by the associated emotion. If it makes me cry or laugh or rage, or kicks up a flurry of butterflies in my stomach, it's a good one. If I don't feel at least one of those things while reading though, I probably won't pick the book up a second time. I'm not picky - I enjoy a lot of really diverse stuff and for a lot of different reasons - but if I can't relate to it or get emotionally invested in it, I just don't feel the love.

I also judge a book by its relationship. Stories where the author has the hero/heroine with one specific character throughout the novel or series, only to have h/h end up with someone completely different at the end make me rage. Sometimes, this is for the best, I admit that. But when it feels rushed, or forced, there's not enough development of that character, or I'm invested in the other character, I cannot tell you enough how much I hate it! It's just such a complete let-down!

Poor editing is my other huge reading turn-off. My grammar is far from perfect, I know this. But there's just something so frustrating about opening a book (or a newspaper, magazine, news website, etc) and spotting error after error. I can handle a few, but when it's one after another, it just feels sloppy and so unprofessional. That probably makes me a hypocrite, but it's true.

I've been a tutor and teaching assistant for a long time now, and this is something I see a lot with students. They will attempt to turn their papers in with the most blatantly obvious mistakes, and then get angry when I refuse to fix it for them.

I've even had a few instances where I've told a student specifically what needed to be corrected and how to go about doing so. They didn't fix the mistakes, and then got mad at me when they failed because I didn't do the work for them. I just want to shake them when that happens, because that's not what I get paid to do. If I point out to you what needs to be fixed, it's your responsibility as a student to fix it! If you don't fix it, don't expect me feel any sympathy for you when the professor grades the paper accordingly.

The same is true with novels, etc. If you want me to take the time to read your work, I expect you to take the time to make me want to read it. It just makes me sad when that effort isn't put into it. If I expect more than shoddy editing from my students; you bet I expect more from something I've paid to read!

I had to put aside Poughkeepsie for this reason. I will finish it because the story itself is great, but I just can't get past the sloppy editing at the moment. I'm hoping it gets better as the story progresses, but honestly, I have several other stories waiting to be read. I'm not going to waste my time with one that frustrates me when those others are sitting there, too. This isn't the only novel I've set aside for this reason. I do it more often than I should have to.

Obviously, this isn't solely the fault of the editors, and I don't want anyone walking away from this post thinking that's what I'm saying. It's not. An editor's primary job isn't fixing an author's grammatical mistakes; it's making the story stronger all the way through. Strengthening skills and correcting errors is part of the writing process. If an author or student isn't willing to do their part by learning where their weaknesses are, and then making every effort to correct them, why should their editors, publishers (or TA's and professors) be willing to do it for them?

Think of it this way: There are thousands of restaurants out there. Would you go to one with horrible service, crappy food, and a poor selection when you can pick another and get better service, better food, and a better selection for the same price? Probably not. So why should a publisher (or reader) pick your novel? They have other options that they could just as easily choose. Unless you're willing to give them a reason to chose yours, they probably aren't going to do so. And for a lot of us (see below), grammar is a very good reason for walking away from a novel.

I asked my Twitter followers about their biggest novel turn-offs, and a few of them also cited poor grammar as the biggest reason they walk away from a novel, so it's not just me saying this for no reason. It's a genuine concern for readers. Maybe not all of them, or even half of them. But it is definitely on the radar for many of them. As an author, that's reason enough for me to pay attention. As a reader, I feel it's definitely enough of a reason for an author to pay attention.

It boils down to that old adage, "You've got to give a little to get a little.". No one is entitled to a publishing contract, a stellar review, or an "A" grade. If you're not willing to do the work to earn it, don't expect someone to walk up and hand it out either. There are plenty of others to choose from. Make me want to read yours. If you aren't invested enough in your story to make it shine, I'm not going to invest the time to put it at the top of my reading list.

And who knows? Maybe with a little work, yours might have been the next Sempre for me or someone else like me. :)

What about you? What makes you put a story down without finishing it? 

Skipping joyously off to read Sempre,
A.K.M.

*Other reasons readers cited (in my not-very-scientific-at-all-Twitter-query) for walking away from a novel were: poor character or plot development, being overloaded with too much uninteresting information ("info dump"), and being forced to wait forever between novels in a series.


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