Stopping a Book Before you Finish

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Photo Credit: Pretty in Fiction

I know more avid readers than I do this several times throughout the year. They pick up a book, whether by an author they know or one that is new to them, and never reach the final page. To me, this is a terrible feeling. Not because I feel bad for the author or the publisher or anyone involved, but because somewhere along the line I read the blurb or a review or something that helped me decide that this was a book I’d like to read. So I become disappointed that I made a wrong turn somewhere.

Let me tell you what typically makes me stop a book before I finish because it has happened a lot more recently than ever before. For the longest time I had only one or two books I’d started and stopped. I just did a quick check and I think that number is five now. Three happened this year! So what makes me stop reading a book? It’s boring. A book by one of my favorite authors that came out last year that was quite a bit different from his previous work had whole chapters of description. Whole 25-35 page chapters! What is that? The protagonist. I don’t think I’ve ever read any books in which I hated the protagonist, but there have been a few that made me just want to throw my book out the window. Not naming any, though. Pace. Now I’ve mentioned before that as a writer I know nothing about pacing. Well as a reader I think I’m more knowledgeable. I shouldn’t be nearly halfway through the work before knowing what the heck is going on. I want to know the conflict and I want to know it early on.

There is one other reason I might stop a book. If I’m just trying out a new author and I’m not hooked by the first 50-100 pages, then I might stop and grab something off my shelf by an author I know I like.

I think there have been five or six books I’ve started and never finished, and I still haven’t gone back to any of them.

So tell me, what makes you stop a book before finishing? And how often would you say it happens to you? I’m sure your reasons may be similar to mine, but maybe you have more.

Recommending Books

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I’ve written posts about all things books. Writing. Reading. Publishing. And just general news. The one thing I’ve tried stay away from doing is actively recommending books. I’ve written a few posts about the books I’ve read this year from the Amazon 100 Books Everyone Should Read List, but even then I don’t think I recommended any of those to my readers.

You may be wondering why I try not to recommend books. Well, because there is no “if you liked this, then you’ll definitely like this.” Just because you did doesn’t mean I will. For example, most of you know that I’m obsessed with Katniss and all things THG, and yes I would recommend those three books to anyone, no matter what they say their genre of choice is because I think those books transcend the YA dystopian genre, but those are the only ones.

I won’t tell you that if you enjoy reading crime novels that you should read every book on my shelf since it’s about 90% detective fiction. I won’t tell you to read my most recent read because I liked it so much. One thing I’ll  never do is gift someone a book. Because what the heck do I know about their reading habits? Nothing.

One other quick example. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I thought it was a great book, but it doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to buy all of his previous books or that I’m going to delve deeper into YA. I don’t think either of those is going to happen right now. I read what I read and if it happens to be mystery or YA or sci-fi, then so be it. No single book or recommendation will be changing that.

If you’re wondering, the one book that doesn’t belong in a series that I’d recommend to any person is Anne Frank. But that’s it.

Taking Writing Advice From Other Writers

Law-Essays-Tips1Photo Credit: LawEssays

As you all know, there are SO many writers here on WordPress. Some have publishing deals, others have sellf-published, and yet more don’t know the first thing about grammar. The quality of the writer is impossible for you to know because no, writing a blog post is not and never will be the same as writing a new chapter in a story or any type of fiction at all. Yet all of these writers are constantly giving out advice like they’re some expert on the craft. Here’s what I think about all of the “advice” floating around the web, and specifically WordPress.

Ask for advice at your own risk. Have you read the work of the person giving you this seemingly magnificent advice? Or better, have they read your work? No to both, huh? Well then what the heck are you doing taking their advice? How can they tell you about plotting or your characters or anything at all that is specific to your writing if they’ve never read it? They can’t. All you’ll likely get is whatever happens to work for them. Even though the two of you aren’t the same person or writer. Weird.

Never take it. Okay, never is probably the incorrect word. How about very rarely. You should very rarely take their advice, unless it’s coming from some guy named Stephen King or something, then write it all down! But really, a lot of my writing blog posts ask for what other people do when this or that is happening in their writing. And I get plenty of comments and feedback, BUT ask me if I’ve ever actually incorporated something someone has told me into my own writing. The answer is honestly no. And the other aspect of this is that there are probably 5-10 bloggers who I’d actually listen to when it comes to writing advice. Can’t name them because now you can just assume that you’re one of them.

I think those two points cover what I have to say. Writing advice is all over, you shouldn’t just accept whatever is offered to you as fact. But I will still ask, have you ever taken advice from another blogger who wasn’t familiar with any of your work? Tell me why you’d do such a thing. I’ve received advice, but nothing has been incorporated as of yet. Some ideas will be used in the future, but these are a very few.

Writing Everyday

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Photo Credit: Shift Writing

I’ve been pretty vocal about my opposition to writers having to write everyday. And also to word count goals and a million things that other writers seem to think are necessary to be able to call yourself a writer. All because I managed to write a book by doing it my way. Well, my way hasn’t worked the second time around and I’m about sick of it. I still don’t believe in this whole write everyday business or word counts or any of that stuff, but I’m in need of a change of pace. Right now.

People tell me that not writing for nearly two months is nothing. But these people don’t realize that I wrote my first book in less than three months total. So again, it doesn’t matter if two months of not writing isn’t a long time to you, it’s more like an eternity to me. This is the longest I’ve been away from my characters since I created them. Not any more.

I’m not going to set any goals for myself in the coming days or weeks because this whole thing may prove useless. But I’m going to give it a shot. If I fail, then so be it. I need to at least try to get some writing done.

I know a number of you write everyday or most days or whatever it may be, but I don’t want to hear about it. What I do want to know is whether you’ve ever changed any part of your writing process. If yes, how did it go? Major failure. Success. What?

I’m an Inspirational Blogger? If you say so

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I was nominated a little while back for the Inspirational Blogger Award by Heather. Thank you. I’ve been nominated for a million awards by a number of bloggers, but I don’t always accept because who wants to read posts with random facts about myself and no real book stuff? I don’t even want to write those kinds of posts. But I’ll accept this one because it only requires seven random facts and I won’t be nominating anyone else because my favorite blogs don’t change and I’ve already nominated several of them just a short time ago.

Seven Facts

1. I hate people who talk with their mouth full. You’re probably thinking that everyone does. No. DO NOT do it in front of me. I will yell at you to shut the hell up. Not joking at all. Annoying and disrespectful all at once. Get out of my sight.

2. I’m always hungry. From the moment I wake up until I’m falling asleep. Whenever old people tell me that their teenage son or daughter eats a lot, this is me in my head, “You have no idea what it means for someone to eat a lot. I bet I eat double what they do.” Remember, bodybuilder over here.

3. I appear to be collecting a stash of Smoothie King cups at my desk. There are six cups here. Yikes. I get a smoothie everyday after the gym.

4. I love naps. I even have a fairly specific nap schedule.

5. I have no friends. Okay, just a small few. I’m perfectly fine with that because I don’t want to hear about anyone else’s problems, anyway. I do rather enjoy talking to some people. Some.

6. I was almost kind of popular when I was in fifth grade. First, I’d finally made it into the GT class, which was where all the popular kids were. Not kidding. And second, because there was this fitness test that I can’t remember what it was called…maybe Presidential Fitness Test, it was something. There was a White badge, a Red badge, and a Blue badge. Students’ fitness was tested in gym class via a number of predetermined exercises like push-ups or pull ups. Well, in my fifth grade year I was the only person with a shot at the Blue badge. I think it had to do with your height and weight or maybe your birthday? I honestly don’t remember, but I was the only one. I’d done everything I needed to get it until I got to having to run the mile. This was the most sure thing out of everything for me, I loved running back then. I needed maybe an 8:10 or 8:30. 0r it may have been just below 8:00. BUT when my class went out to run it, I had some breathing trouble and couldn’t possibly come up with the time needed for the Blue badge. Some amount of time later, my gym teacher had me do it again before school at like 7:00 in the morning. I ran a 7:13 mile and earned myself the coveted Blue badge. But there’s more. A list was kept in the gym of the best mile times in the history of the school and I’d made the list! Something like tenth or so. I left the school before I could ever actually see my name on there, but it was great knowing I’d made it. AND somehow or another when I went to my first class that day, EVERYONE knew about my mile running. I felt like a celebrity. It was nice.

7. I’ve had six best friends in my life. I’ll even name them for you. Larry. Terrance. Leslie. Lana. Lilly. Sydney. I no longer talk to any of them. Except Sydney, who of course is in my book. So I guess that means she’s my favorite? Yeah, I’d say that. She’s also the only one I trust. And she’s funny. And holy crap she’s about to be a nurse!

No nominations this time around, so that’s all I have for you guys!

Why are Protagonists Always Damaged in Some Way?

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Photo Credit: American Salon

Just a picture of my favorite protagonist in the history of all history to start this post.

I wanted to write this post from the perspective of a writer, but I soon realized that my perspective as a reader would force its way into the writing of this post, so you’ll get both. Let me tell you what I’m talking about when I say “damaged.” There is always something that the protagonist of a story has to deal with that makes a case more difficult to work or makes whatever goal s/he is trying to achieve that much more unattainable. But why is this? Why can’t characters be regular people who have to deal with something extraordinary during the course of the book?

In a very non-scientific analysis, I decided that I’d think of some of the series I read to see how many of the protagonists are broken in some way or another. I won’t name any of them, but let me tell what I came up with.

One guy’s mother is murdered when he’s a child and he becomes a detective. Decades later, the mother of his daughter is murdered during the course of an investigation.

Another guy is shot while on the job as a patrolman and the bullet is left inside of him due to its proximity to his heart. This is referred to in every book.

Another guy’s wife is murdered due to his work as a detective. Killer never apprehended.

Another guy’s wife is in broadcasting and after divorcing him, she starts to do whatever it takes to move up in her line of work. All while claiming she will always love him. He secures a Chief of Police job on the other side of the country after going to the interview drunk. The city figures they’ll be able to control an idiot.

Do you see my point? Sorry these are all detectives, but there are more examples I could point out from my own reading, but I have a post to write.

I’ve even been told that my character, Andrew Banks, is too squeaky clean and that he needs some damaged history, otherwise the reader is less likely to become invested in him. Huh? I mean, when I set out to write him (he’s me, which y’all should know) I did so wanting him to be different. Real. Not the guy with all the answers and being some expert at this or that. Just a regular guy who does his best at his job. And what did some of my readers say?

He’s independently wealthy.

He’s arrogant.

He’s a bad detective.

His relationship with Sydney is a joke.

He thinks he’s better as one person than an entire police department.

First off, none of these are correct. The only one that I think even warrants any kind of response is the first on the list. Some readers have come to their conclusion that he’s some rich guy parading around the city of Houston because of a very short list of things. He doesn’t charge his first client anything for working her case. He happens to wear a Polo once during the course of the book. And he doesn’t tell the reader constantly about not having any money.

I’m not going to explain away the notion that he’s independently wealthy because those are the things right there that readers have told me that make him appear so. If you think someone is wealthy because of that list, then your definition of wealth is not the same as any other. And you probably need to check your head for irregularities.

Back to my point, what makes a character more likeable just because s/he has a bad past? Because to me, a great character is a great character. Period. I won’t change my character to fit some literary expectation or whatever you want to call it, because he is who he is, and that’s all there is to it.

Amazon’s List of 100 Books Everyone Should Read: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

First off, I KNOW you guys didn’t believe my whole thing yesterday about going to the World Cup. Come on. I work weekends. I don’t have anything remotely resembling a rich family or girlfriend/wife. So where the heck would I get the thousands of dollars I’d need to be traveling for two months? The lottery? No.

Back to this post. You guys might have forgotten that I decided to tackle all the books on this list when it was first released in February. This will be the fourth book I read from the list since then and the seventh book I’ve read from it overall. But enough with the pleasantries, you guys probably want to know what I thought of the book.

Fault in Our Stars

I know I don’t need to waste time telling you guys what the book is about because who hasn’t read this book, so I’m not. Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters meet at their cancer Support Group and everything that follows is nothing short of wonderful.

My Thoughts

I’m writing the rest of this under the impression that you’ve read the book, if not, this is your warning to turn your eyes away from the screen. Well, this book has a huge amount of hype going right now. For me, I think it was able to live up to it. Let me tell you the million and one things that I liked about it. LOVED Hazel and Augustus as characters, as a couple, as thinkers, basically everything about them. Loved Hazel’s approach to everything. Loved how they both could quote An Imperial Affliction like no tomorrow. Excuse the language, but I loved how amidst everything that was going on between her and Augustus and her illness, Hazel was able to call Peter Van Houten on his shit. Yes, of course it’s later revealed that he had a daughter who died of cancer at the so very young age of eight, and Hazel changed it up a bit from constantly yelling at him.

I realize my thoughts are just spilling out at random, but that’s okay. I thought it was seriously fantastic that Augustus Waters called her Hazel Grace throughout the entire book even though at the very start she told him just Hazel. And I thought it was great to see that Hazel rarely broke down for any reason during the book. I’m thinking when she lay in her backyard in front of the swing set and of course after Augustus died. Both times guess who ultimately cheered her up, Gus.

Lastly, you all are probably wondering if I cried even though I’ve mentioned that I’m a notorious cryer when reading books. Yes. Just once, at the very end as Hazel is reading what Gus sent Van Houten before he died. This was the line that got me for some reason. I was at 98% on my Kindle.

“-I was wondering if you could write a eulogy for Hazel. I’ve got notes and everything, but if you could just make it into a coherent whole or whatever?”

He was dying and he knew it, and he STILL couldn’t stop thinking about Hazel. I mean, seriously, how freaking great is that? So yes, I cried the whole time as Hazel read what Gus so eloquently wrote to Van Houten about her.

You guys may or may not remember that I rank all the books I read. The books from the Amazon list rank as follows: Anne Frank is #1, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is #22, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is unranked, and this one comes in at #13 just behind The Hunger Games on my list.

Now if only I could find a girl who’s read this book, then maybe I might go see the movie.

Oh, and tell me Hazel Grace Lancaster isn’t the greatest name in the history of ever.