Why We Should Read Drivel

We’ve talked before about the important of quality writing. David Farland has done many fabulous posts in his Daily Kick e-blog on the importance of quality over quantity.

So when we pick up that book that makes our skin crawl, every fiber of our writing soul screaming in agony, why should we read on? I mean, we don’t ever want to write like that! We’ve all heard before, read the slush so you know the difference between good and bad work, but what are we trying to really learn? Won’t we end up subconsciously assimilating the writing style?

Not if we pay attention.

I recently read a YA book by an author with a fascinating concept that promised an interesting, innovative journey. The writing was okay, but….not really. At least in my opinion.

Why I valued the reading experience:

  1. I took notice of specific constructs, dialogue, and plot jumps that made the book uncomfortable for me to read so I could make sure I’m not writing my own works in the ways I was silently disparaging.
  2. I searched for the elements of the book that made it appealing to the editor, publisher (well-known top six), and fans. Those elements were good enough to catch people’s attention.
  3. I analyzed what audience the book was targeted for, why it worked as well as it did, and what I could learn from their relative success. Quite a bit, actually.

Will I read the sequel? Not on your life. Will I read anything else written by that author? Not likely. But I’ve learned a lot about my own writing, my goals, the hold some publishers still have in book selling, and the importance of good advertising, especially with a middle-grade/teen audience.

9 responses on “Why We Should Read Drivel

  1. Brandon M Lindsay

    I agree. It’s important to read what NOT to do. Critically examining an author’s work, even if it’s one that you like, can only improve your own writing, especially if you can put a name to what you like or don’t like. I try not to be masochistic about it though. I recently read an author who had been compared to other authors I really like, but his book was absolutely horrible. I had to fight the urge to cast it into the fireplace and torch it. Sometimes the knowledge just isn’t worth the cost (grin).

  2. Colette Vernon

    Brandon: You’re right. There have been times when the torture is too much.
    Demian: I actually picked drivvle because the slang usage seemed in keeping with my meaning more than Meriam-Webster. I probably should have stuck with the familiar. There’s also a decent chance my slang source was unreliable. If so…call it a typo. 🙂

  3. KylieQ

    I wish I could better critically read something I don’t like. I’m reading a book at the moment which has been very successful and has received a lot of type. It doesn’t do much for me and, personally, I think it’s quite badly written. But I have a lot of difficulty figuring out why. I can point to an individual sentence and tell you what doesn’t work within that but I can’t seem to do it for anything longer than a sentence.

  4. Frank Morin

    This kind of critical reading is something I need to improve myself. When I read, I get sucked into a story and it’s hard to maintain the distance I need to analyze as I read. I just read a book by a very good author that hooked me in, even though it’s not the type of book I normally read. I think I’ll go back and dig into that one a bit to see why it appealed to me.

  5. Colette Vernon

    Kylie: Maybe the individual sentences are the reason you don’t like the book. Some people can pass over poorly written or uncomfortable sentences if the plot pacing works for them. I recently picked up another YA in which most of my problem with the book was the individual sentences, not the overall structure. I had to wonder if they read any of it out loud because it sounded awkward enough in my head let alone if I’d tried an oral reading.
    Frank: I have the same problem with the good books. Sometimes I go back and re-read a chapter or section to analyze so I can look at the writing instead of the story.

  6. KDAlex

    I find it much easier to pick the bad out of a book than the good. For me, when something is done right, it almost connects on a subconscious level. But the bad is kind of like that speed bump that you missed the thirteen warnings for before you hit it at 40 mph.

    Then again, I’m a firm believer that really bad books belong in the bathroom.

    For reasons best left to your own imaginations =D

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