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Friday, June 4, 2010

Learning from Crap Books

I’m reading a book at the moment (I’m sure this surprises you).

I was at first attracted to it, enjoying it, because of the voice. Now, voice is something I find extremely important when reading a book, and it’s something I pride myself on. I feel I have a strong teen writing voice. I think I do them well and I think that is what will set me apart from the rest.

I have read interesting books that have a great plot, but the voice is a bit generic, similarly, I have read books with a great voice but the plot is a bit so-so.

That’s what is happening with this book I am reading, but unfortunately, the fantastic voice hasn’t even lasted. It is just a so-so plot. Because of this, I’m not going to tell you what it’s called, or who it’s by or what it’s about. Because I don’t want to bash someone else’s writing, someone else’s blood, sweat and tears. Because writing takes all of that. Well, not necessarily blood (unless you get really bad anxiety and bite your fingernails too effectively) but sweat and tears for sure.

So, this book. Okay, I could stop reading it, but I’m having such a strong reaction to it that I’m going to continue it because I want to learn from it, learn what not to do.

I as a reader am just not invested in the story and the characters welfare because the plot just seems too implausible. And the MC’s reactions to events are just…no one would react like that.

There are some pretty dire situations going on here, lives are in danger, but the reader is directed to not care about that, we’re supposed to only care about what the main character wants, the boy she wants, the social status she wants.

Personally – I care about the lives in danger. But maybe that’s just me.

As much as you can learn from a well-executed book, as a writer you can learn from a poorly executed one as well. What are those gut feelings you are getting, what is it that is pulling you out of the narrative to sneer at the book in disdain?

You don’t want readers doing that to your book, so work out what it is about books that you don’t like, that makes you dislike them. Learn from the best, sure, but take the time to learn from the worst, too.


  1. I hate when a book starts out strong and then loses its stride. I hope mine doesn't do that ...

    I find that I learn just as much from less-than-great books as I do from books I love, sometimes more.

    What they say is true: reading really IS research! :)

  2. Exactly, you really can! You can often learn MORE from bad books, I say. Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is you LOVE about a book, but if you DON'T love a book, you can usually see why. At least I can.

    I hope my book doesn't lose it's stride too! :)


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