I’ve been reading a ton of books by shiny new authors lately, and I’m finding myself unable to trudge through most them to the end.
Take the book I stopped reading a month ago: A man time-travels to present-day San Francisco to locate and destroy a virus that is killing off crops in his own time, and this present-day guy gets involved accidentally, and there’s the whole butterfly-effect thing (except in this book, it’s all dragonflies) and the future man ends up being the present man’s great-great-great-great-grandson, and another future guy is trying to kill people… that’s as far as I could get, about halfway though. There is a ridiculous number of characters for such a fairly simple plot, and only a fraction of them are memorable. A villian introduced in the second chapter didn’t make another appearance until just before I decided to ditch, and I had no memory of him at all – a badly executed foreshadow. Then there’s the wonky point-of-view. The bulk of the story is told in third person until the present-day guy is introduced, and his parts of the story are in first person. I’m sure this technique is cool when done correctly, but this author chose to wait until several chapters into the story to introduce present-day guy. Overall, I found the story cliched and unoriginal, but I really thought this was going to be one I could finish… made me wish I was reading Twelve Monkeys instead.
I read a short story branded as a novel that had no plot. Not even an inkling. A man on a spaceship makes a decision to commit suicide. That part took up a whole page. The other 20 pages give a painfully detailed explanation of the artificial intelligence from which the man was rescuing himself. I skipped over entire pages to get to the end, to read actual story line, but disappointment and confusion awaited me there. I understand what the author tried to do. No doubt, he’s read other stories with similar techniques, probably Bradbury and the like, but he couldn’t make it work for his own.
When I read stories like these with all their stereotypes and flat writing, I get scared. I’m reminded of those poor souls who sign up for highly publicized and televised singing competitions, claiming music as their life’s purpose. They audition before God and the free world only to reveal they are, in fact, tone deaf. The contestants wear nervous smiles, waiting for the judges’ praise. I imagine they really don’t know they aren’t hitting the notes until someone tells them. Their dreams are shattered. No, they cannot sing. And that’s my fear: Someone telling me, “No, you cannot write.” There are so many aspiring authors with terrible, horrible, awful novels, and I do not want to be classified as one them.
Some might say my hypervigilance of sucky writing only means that I do not suck. Or it means that I will never, EVER finish my novel because I’m too scared of simultaneously fulfilling and killing my dreams upon its completion. Time will tell, I suppose. For now, I will swagger on toward my goals, praying for a keen eye and an engaging voice.