I can’t find anything decent to read.
How’s that for a revelation? I’m a book author struggling to find something good to read, something that I really want to read and keep reading, something new and interesting, something that gets my imagination soaring and makes me FEEL something.
And yes, I demand a satisfying ending.
I keep trying. In the past, I’ve read some wonderful books and I will tell you about them in another post. But right now I’m looking for that next great book to read and I am struggling.
One book I tried, a 17th century historical novel (and no, my dear friend M J Logue, this wasn’t one of yours), highly recommended by the critics, and I was bored in minutes. Another, by a renowned writer whose language is just wonderful – this book had the most compelling first 60 pages I’ve read in a very long time, with a really great female character voice set in 1984, a year I know well. And around page 61, suddenly the writer changed to another character for 100+ pages and the whole story sagged like a sorry souffle which I promptly threw across the room. (Drama queen, I know, but I was SO disappointed).
Another book was hyped as Historical Fiction Book of the Year, from a big publishing house, and I read it, enthralled, and it was fascinating, and then the ending was the most dreadful cop-out. So I turned to other genres, and find the characters just not compelling enough to draw me past page 4.
And then I wonder, is it me?
Well looking at reviews, it isn’t just me. There’s a lot of books out there that are very disappointing. Many with wonderful professional reviews and critical acclaim, yet you see readers frequently disappointed. So here’s my rant about this, because – having just been disappointed AGAIN – I need to get this off my chest.
So why are readers so often disappointed? What do you think? Are people reading fewer books because of this? These are my personal ‘top 5’ issues about reading right now, and I am shamelessly going to compare reading with TV viewing:
1) Yes, the public are craving more great stories than ever before, but cable TV shows (especially what is referred to as ‘box set’ TV series) are providing a wealth of new stories, with great character arcs and novelistic narratives. So why spend time and money reading a book that might be disappointing, when you can relax and watch 20+ hours of great TV? You don’t even notice the cost because it’s all part of the subscription. And yes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
2) TV companies – and I’m generalising terribly here – have bigger budgets for promotions and videos etc etc compared to publishing companies, so news about their next great storyline reaches huge global audiences. Viewers can go online and read reviews, watch interviews etc etc, ‘try it and see’, etc – Can the printed word of a publishing house or a self-published author ever compete?
3) Quality Controls – By the time a great story has reached the TV screen, it has gone through so many quality controls, through writers, directors, producers, and in the case of the adaptation, even been market-tested as a book! In contrast, most books I read are produced by one author and the production / publishing house and, yes, that means a lot of people in the case of the big publishing house, but it doesn’t go through the same rigorous market testing as a TV programme. Does this mean books are not as good as TV programmes? Of course not, but as an experienced writer, I am still struggling to find that fantastic source of market research that helps me tell a story that will satisfy large numbers of readers. Publishers themselves will tell you that there is no ‘magic wand solution’ when it comes to great books; that a story can succeed on its own, or fail despite all the quality control and big promotion budgets. Sometimes in books, time is the only effective quality control, which is why we have ‘classics’ beloved over generations.
4) Actors – why struggle to imagine a character when an actor can just be that person for you? This one’s probably contentious, as there’s been arguments over casting popular characters since TV started adaptations. But a great actor – working with a great production – can bring more to a character with an expression than a writer can achieve with language. Again, a picture tells a thousand words.
5) Endings can disappoint in any medium and any genre. But again those quality controls come into play, with TV productions really thinking carefully about endings – particularly in this age of ‘rewatchability’. I’ll do a blog about that in the future, but essentially TV makes it money from people watching shows over and over again – repeats! But also DVD sales etc.
And the ending HAS to work, or viewers won’t watch it again (remember the TV series ‘Lost’? I rest my case.) I think as much effort has to go into the ending of a book, or readers will not recommend it to their friends. A satisfying ending can make or break a book.
So those are my personal views. And in tomorrow’s blog, I will be addressing them, discussing how I am considering these and maybe other issues as I create my new book “The Burning Girl”.
I certainly don’t want readers of “The Burning Girl” throwing the book across the room in frustration!
I’ll see you tomorrow.
Lots of love, Laura x