Monday, April 4, 2011

RE: Not Finishing A Book

The first book I didn't finish reading was Judy Blume's, Starring Sally J. Freeman As Herself. I was so annoyed by this book that even though it horrified me not to finish a book, it was a relief to stop. I was about 11.

Obviously there were no grammatical, structural, or newbie errors. I simply didn't like the character, Sally. To this day, I rarely quit a book--it still feels like a dirty, low-down thing to do. My inner optimist cheers, Give it a chance! It could improve! But now that time is my tightest commodity (tighter than even my income), I find it hard to bother moving forward if the story isn't working.

And that brings me to today. I started reading my first indie, self-published novel written by an author unknown to me. I won it in a book giveaway.  

I've been debating how to approach my review. Part of my pondering resulted in my post Dear Reviewer. Despite my encouragement to reviewers to inform the reading public what doesn't work in a novel, I've decided not to write a review about this novel for two reasons: 1) I didn't finish the book, and 2) I'd rather write the author directly. I will rarely do this, but frankly, this novel is a rough, rough draft.

I gave it another chance today, forcing myself to read further. Once again, I got angry. That's not a useful response for an author. I don't want to write a review from an angry place, but let me say, if I turned on track changes in word, it would be a blood bath.

There were no real grammatical issues. One sentence had extra, irrelevant words that caused me to shake my head like a dog. That's not really okay in a final draft, but I could ignore such minor issues. No, the problem was simply that the story is too rough.

Authors have many responsibilities. At least two of them are: don't beat the reader over the head with the obvious and paint a vivid picture so the reader can fully imagine the story. These are both important factors in the show don't tell mantra all novelists should know. A script for a movie or play does little showing. Stage direction and dialogue without emotional cues are standard. In a novel, this is called stranding the reader without a clue.

It would be unfair, even unethical, to review the story here on my blog. To do so would be me trying to be witty at the expense of another. However, I wrote this post because as a writer, a reader, and now a mediocre reviewer, I'm frustrated. It's a cold, gray Monday and I must write a proud author my thoughts as gently but as clearly as possible. I hate this part.