I mentioned yesterday that now as a novelist I read differently than I did before I starting writing fiction. I am aware of POV changes (subtle and not), plot devices, foreshadowing, pacing, and more. Noticing these things often makes me stop and think, “Why did the author do that?” I am also extremely busy and have to make time to read, so if a book doesn’t grab me—or makes me stop too often to think about the author—I put it in the giveaway pile and move on. Consequently, I only finish one out of every three or four novels I start. (Which is why I almost never buy hardback books, but that’s another subject.) I don’t mean to imply that all these books are bad or unreadable, they just weren’t right for me.
Also as a novelist, I’m trying to get to know and network with other writers. I’ve made many friends online, and I look forward to meeting all these nice/funny/interesting people in person at conferences. But here’s the sticky part: What do I say if they ask me if I liked their novel and it was one of those I put down? Social training tells me to tell a little white lie and quickly change the subject: “Great writing. What are you working on now?” Let me point out that this causes me great anxiety. I want to like the work of everyone I know. (And I have taken a vow to never ask anyone that question about my own work.)
Here’s the trickier part. I’m a member of several mystery discussion groups, the point of which is to discuss books we’ve read. Other novelists are also members of these groups. How do I discuss a novel I didn’t really care for without offending or alienating the author who may be reading my posts? And what if I signed up to be the moderator for the discussion (before I read the book)? Which means I can’t just sit back and be quiet. I face this dilemma today. I’m supposed to discuss a book I haven’t finished. Technically, there’s nothing wrong with it. The writing is good and many people would find the character compelling. I just don’t care for gun-toting, hard-drinking, wise-ass men. Or stories about the mob. Being the kind of person who can be counted on to follow through, I’ll finish the book, post intelligent questions, and try to be as diplomatic as possible with my own opinions.
But I won’t volunteer to moderate any more discussions unless I’ve already read the book and loved it. Or the author is no longer living.