by Andrea Lundgren (originally posted on ryanlanz.com)
I’ve discussed reading habits before and why you really want to read good books, but how, as a writer, you may have to read professionally some books you don’t enjoy.
But today, I want to urge you to not forget the values of a bad book.
I’m not meaning a book that’s grammatically-cringe-worthy, that has typos and spelling errors and that sort of thing. No, I mean one where the characters are strong, but the plot goes off course. Or where the romance feels fake. Or the mystery’s resolution just doesn’t make sense. The illogical, the contrived, and the exasperating.
And here are three reasons why these books can be a good read for writers.
Instant Imagination Exercise. As you throw the book across the room, you’ll experience your creative processes on turbo-drive. “This is why this didn’t work,” you may tell a friend, outlining all the reasons the book is (or should be) considered a failure. And all this flexes your imagination. You picture to yourself how the book could’ve been, taking over the writer’s “seat” in the process, and you gain great mental practice at creating, plotting, and rewriting. Sure, you may not get to published your revised “how it should’ve been written/ended” ideas, but at least you are becoming a better writer through overhauling the other person’s work. (It makes up for the money you spent on the “one-star disaster”…right?)
Opportunity for Tact. You just finished the sloppy, amateurish story and you’re ready to write a book review, tearing the writing to ribbons…right? Wrong. It might feel great, showing how amazing a writer you are by how many errors you can find, but remember, you’re talking about someone else’s novel. Recall how upset you get when someone slams your work? This is where you get to be professional and “classy,” and develop discreet, tactful ways of expressing your opinion that things “might have been better” this way, how a character “seemed to be the sort of person who would do X instead of Y.” And who knows? You might one day meet the other author, and you wouldn’t want them to say, “Oh, I remember you…”
Motivation to Write. There’s nothing like seeing how much trash is out there, being read by people, to make one eager to give them something else. To produce a well-written alternative. To show them that “they haven’t seen anything yet.” So, after you’ve discarded the novel in disgust, go and write your own. Finish that manuscript. Unleash an amazing novel on the world (we badly need it).
So there you are. Three reasons to occasionally read a less-than-stellar novel. It’ll help make you a better writer and a better person…even if it does help support someone who may (or may not) deserve your hard earned money.
Guest post contributed by Andrea Lundgren. When she isn’t helping authors bring their stories to life as a book and blurb writing coach, Andrea enjoys writing book reviews and exploring life from a writer’s point of view at her blog.