You might be thinking, some books are disgusting dumpster fires from which you can smell the trash burning a mile away.
Maybe — that really depends on audience, a whole other topic that we won’t get into right now — but even a dumpster fire down the road can be a great opportunity for a writer to learn how to hone their craft.
No, don’t intentionally read the worst books you can get your hands on. I’m talking about the second half of that novel that you’ve been trying to push through. The one that seemed like it would be mind blowing, but has been anything but. Now you feel like you’ll never get back to those other books on your shelf — the ones you passed up in favour of whatever trash you’re crawling through now. I know the feeling.
But, before finally giving in, and tossing that book aside for another day (RIP), you should make sure you understand one very specific thing. Even if you fucking hate what you’re reading. Power through until you have this figured out.
Why you don’t like it. Why you can’t stand reading another chapter — another page. What was it? Be specific.
You know what, I said we wouldn’t, but let’s dive into audience a little bit here anyways. It fit’s too perfectly not to.
There’s a good chance that your reader’s — your audience’s — likes, and dislikes, are similar to yours. Not perfectly aligned, but similar. That’s why they’re reading your content.
Let’s step back to understanding why again. What was the reason you stopped reading the last book you gave up on? What made you finally put it back on the shelf, unfinished?
Was it the prose? The author’s views? Unlikeable characters? Worse, unbelievable characters?
Hang onto that thought. Now, let’s get even more specific. It’s as simple as being curious — just like your reader would be — and asking why once more.
Why was the character unbelievable? Why was that major plot twist unbelievable? Did the author save the hero arbitrarily?
All right, you have the why identified, and maybe you’re feeling a bit more confident that you and your audience might not be so different after all. Now take all that one step further.
What would you have done differently?
Were there too many loose threads? If you were the author, and this novel was still just a draft, how would you have tied those loose ends up? Were there parts of the story that you enjoyed, despite getting stuck further in? If there were, then how would you have tied those into the parts you’re rewriting?
As a writer, reading is half the job — you’re going to come across a lot of material that you’re not crazy about. You don’t need to finish every chapter, but you should be learning from every book.
Especially the bad ones.