It’s nice to read a book that isn’t that good. Well, as a writer it is anyway. You learn what you, as a reader, like and don’t like which enables you to make a judgement as to what other readers may or may not like. Your readers.
Sometimes it isn’t very clear cut though. This was the problem I had this weekend as I got into bed each night and looked at the book I was reading. More often than not, I wouldn’t pick it up.
This was my main clue that I wasn’t getting on with it, and unfortunately it meant that I was often trying to go to sleep while still very awake and talkative. My husband can tell you all about that, he’s the one crying under the covers.
My other issue, which is unique to this particular book, is that it came with a ghost. Roughly the same time as I started reading this book about death, we were woken nearly every night but a loud, persistent, irregular tapping. I would lie awake, staring into the dark, trying to work out what it was. At first I thought it was someone in heels walking home after a night on the town, but it never faded away. So it must be something banging, maybe a door in the wind. Except that there was no wind, and nothing I could find made the same noise (and yes, I walked around rattling and tapping things). It must be rats, then, in the wall. I’ve been informed that this isn’t possible. Maybe it’s the neighbours doing…something. Maybe.
Last weekend I realised I was bored of the book. I didn’t want to read it, I caught myself skimming sentences. I was on the verge of skipping whole paragraphs.
Sunday night I got ready for bed and, without thinking, I went to my bookcase and picked up another book. This book, Jack Glass by Adam Roberts, is an award winner. I was interested in it before it won its awards, but hadn’t got around to reading it. Well, now seemed like a good time. Jack Glass is about murder, so not that different to the book about death that I was reading.
I got into bed, opened the front cover and read the prologue. A nice hook. Then I read the first sentence of the first section. And I sighed.
‘The prison ship was called Marooner. The name had nothing to do with its colour.’
As I said at the beginning, sometimes it’s nice to read a book that isn’t that good. It makes you realise that you too can be published, that all of your writing dreams are possible because you know that you can do just as good a job, if not better.
But a good book can make your heart sink. How can I ever compete? You hear yourself ask as you turn page after page, unable to put the damn thing down.
Stick with it. After those brief moments of inadequacy, comes the inspiration. You can write that well, you will write that well, and not only will all of your publishing dreams come true but you will be proud of what you have accomplished.
Since I started reading this book, the tapping at night has stopped…