I read on a literary agent’s blog the other day a question she posed which, paraphrased, read something like this: If you had to choose, which would you rather read? A well-written book with a weak plot or a so-so written book that’s a great story? I can’t say that I would enjoy either.
First of all, I’ve discovered that the more I read and write, the choosier I am with my reading. Authors whose books I used to enjoy, I’ve reread to get a sense of plot or character development or just a feel for why I liked the particular story, only to find that I didn’t enjoy the story as much the second time around. (And, no, Sonya, I am not talking about A Prayer for Owen Meany—I still love that book!)
I recently read a name-brand author’s new book whose work I’ve enjoyed immensely only to trudge through his latest story. To me it read like a first draft. Not only did I struggle with wanting to fix his sentence structure, but I even found holes in the plot. Points of conflict he introduced only to drop them like a bad habit (or a bad metaphor) mid-way through the book.
My husband listened to me rant for awhile and muttered something about sour grapes and then suggested I reread some of this author’s earlier books. “I’ll bet you’ll find the same stuff in what he wrote before; you just notice it now,” he said. So I took him up on his challenge and reread the first page of three of his books and noticed a vast difference: his earlier books were better. I can only assume a different editor was at the helm this time, the book was rushed to press, or because he sells so many books, the publisher doesn’t suggest many changes to what he submits.
Regardless, what started as a visit with a favorite author ended with disappointment that I spent so much time reading a book that was not enjoyable. So, for me a book has to be well-written and have a great plot. Otherwise, I feel cheated that I’ve given my time to a story that’s left me disappointed. I don’t think I’m asking too much.