Thursday, July 25, 2013

SM Johnson ~ Thursday Afternoon Extra ~ My Reads 2013

Good afternoon my dear, dear darlings. Such a lazy little brat I was for TMC this morning, posting an unedited excerpt and all, that I've decided to add a chattier post for ya'll. Because, um. well, it's my blog, and I can do that if I want to.

I'm going to talk about my 2013 reading list, which is tabbed up top there on the far right, the one that says My Reads 2013.

I've never kept a complete reading list before. Oh, I have lists of authors, and small notebooks filled with books I've read from back in the day when going to the library was a weekly occurrence and I'd bring home books I'd already read and have little kicky-feet fits.... and I have lists of authors I love, and authors I hate, and which books in which series that I OWN, and which ones that I desperately WANT (this, for visiting rummage sales mostly) - but a public list of what I've been reading? - nope, never done that.



It's kind of fun, actually.

The most interesting change I'm noticing in my reading habits is how many DNF (Did Not Finish) notations I've had to add. Does it count as reading if I wasn't able to finish the book? Hmmm.

Well, I'm going to say yeah, it counts, because it's a good resource for reminding myself that I might want to think twice before trying out a particular author again, and especially before buying their work (versus trying something for free).

There are GREAT indie writers out there - and when I say that, I mean fantastic, flip-me-right-the-fuck- into -my-very-happy-place kind of great writers. Intense scenes that break my heart with a whisper, phrasing that pulls my hair and make me scream, talent that does things to the center of my belly that no roller coaster has ever been able to do. Just.... breathtaking.

Yeah. I've run into a few of those. Not a million, not most, and not even a quarter of what I'm reading hits that category, but every once in a while...

These books get links. And usually reviews. And mentions in the blog, or sometimes even whole blog posts devoted to them. (I'm going to add Goodreads links to these titles, as well, because quite a number of people post reviews to Goodreads but not Amazon).

A book that's not quite to this level but the author managed to draw me in and hold me there with story-telling ability for the duration - whether breathtaking or not - also will be listed with links.

Sadly, much of my reading these days has me asking, "Why am I still here?" at 20 to 25 per cent of the text. And when I find myself asking that, I close, list, DNF, and delete from kindle.

In the past, when having a huge pile of TBR materiel required trekking books back and forth from the library, I rarely had a DNF. I read everything, and if the narrative was too slow and started losing me, I'd speed read or skim, or skip whole pages of text.

Somehow I find that harder to do on my kindle. Or it's just that the TBR list on my kindle numbers in the hundreds, rather than say, a dozen from the library trek. It's overwhelming. They're all books I picked for a reason. Trouble is, with such a long a title list, I rarely remember the reason I picked a particular book.

I've started adding the book synopsis and warning tags to my own books after the copy-right page, and setting my kindle file to "start" there - just so other people like me can have a quick refresher about why they wanted to read this book again. It's very helpful.

What I won't add there is pull-quotes and review snippets. Just because Wesley Snipes loved my book (I'm making this up) or Lindsay Lohan hated it (making that up, too) doesn't mean YOU will like it at all. Seriously. The synopsis is just a quick reminder. When I have a pile of paperbacks, I do tend to read the jacket copy again to remind myself what's the jist of what I'm about to read.

So. Back to the list of my reads this year.

Sigh. So many books. So many plodding narrative styles and flat-as-cardboard characters. So much lifeless telling of a story, the sort that makes me feel like I'm watching a stick-figure act out the tale. There's no meat, no flesh, and really, no blood at all. It's rather disheartening.

I want to BE there. I don't want you to tell me all about it later in black and white over a cup of coffee. When I read fiction, I want to LIVE INSIDE A CHARACTER'S HEAD for a while. I want them to be flawed, I want them to have trouble. I want them to let me in on what makes them tick. I want to feel like we could be friends, maybe even best friends.

Yeah, a lot of Indie writers fail at this.

It's not a permanent fail, it's that process by which e-publishing is so easy and everybody thinks their book is great (you should think your book is great - if you think it sucks, why are you subjecting the rest of us to it?) - and it's so easy to type "the end" and then, within a day or so, click the button that says "publish."

Because that's how most of DNF titles seem to me. Like rough drafts. Very drafty rough drafts. Drafts in which characters plot along from bed to shower to breakfast to work to home to supper and back to bed. Sometimes they talk to people along the way. Usually they're thinking (telling) me the background story as they go about their boring day, or telling me what they're thinking of having for supper, and what they hope will be on TV. Meh.

It's tedious. It's boring.

Lifeless, not breathless.

For the writers who are voracious readers, the good stuff will come. They'll get better and better at recognizing what they, themselves, like in a story, and better and better at re-creating something similar in their own work.

Some will give up, finding that the dollars aren't rolling in and this writing thing is just too hard, too time-consuming.... and not terribly validating.

I've visited both words. Published by an e-press and a small press, and then branching out to publish independently. I love having control over everything from content to cover, and especially like to control when I release a book, and to which e-markets. Acceptance letter were great for my ego, a very nice stroke, and working with editors was an amazing learning experience. I will always be grateful.

If one of the Big Six came knocking on my door? (Or Big Three, or however many "big" publishing houses actually exist today).... would I look at a contract? Hell yeah. The promotion alone can't be beat. But man, I'd hate giving up control. I'd have to have the right to veto the cover, the right to refuse content changes that I believe hurt the story... and that two year wait for the book to actually come out in print? Umm.... no thanks, you can do better than that, faster.

My goals have changed. Yeah, I'd like to make a lot of money, I'd like to write full-time. But it's not an expectation anymore, and in the meantime, I fit my writing life around my part-time day job, and I am satisfied.

My goal is no longer to be published, but simply to finish writing this book, and start writing the next.

Inherent in that goal is to keep reading, keep working on my craft, and keep learning how to translate the scenes in my head to words on the page until, one of these days...

I'll leave you breathless.

~SM



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