Think Aloud explores book-related discussions encompassing reading, writing, blogging, and perhaps newsworthy content. The focus is to push the boundaries, stretch the mind, and encourage dialogue within this community. Let’s all think out loud.
Negative Reading Experiences
and Second Chances
People forgive but they never forget. Does a jaded reading experience (and ultimately a “poorly rated” book) warrant the forgoing of an author’s other written work?
As readers, we all have our own niches of enjoyment and certain standards of writing we hope to see in a novel (i.e. literary tropes), and I don’t believe that all readers are against books catching them by surprise with quirk and differentiation. After all, that’s what makes most books unique from each other. But sometimes it doesn’t always work out…and that’s when we begin to question whether or not the read should be continued. There are many reasons as to why a book may be put down. Perhaps you’re distracted with another book. Maybe you’re just bored out of your mind or angry at how contrived or trite the story has become. In many cases, it’s simply about not enjoying the novel as much as you hoped you would—so you put it down, unfinished. Fine, that’s okay—you read what you like knowing there’s no one-size-fits-all book. Even if you do complete the novel, it could have been an unworthy struggle. So you give it a low quantitative rating and post a review explaining why this book didn’t work for you. But does this one negative experience taint and detract you from reading other novels written by this particular author, or are you able to go into each novel with a blank slate?
I’m not claiming to be an expert at knowing what’s bad and what’s good in writing to say otherwise but with the sheer number of authors in the community/industry, it is my belief that creating (and maintaining) a voice for themselves is a key driver of success. Sure, the love of the craft is important but one cannot deny the euphoric hit of positive feels when a readers’ brain picks at an authors written thoughts. (I mean, hey, I appreciate you still chomping down these rambling thoughts—you’re pretty cool for reading this!). Fact is: regardless of positive or negative dialogue being garnered from a piece of written work, as long as it’s being thought of and passed along—should it matter? This becomes a double-edged sword. With opinionated readers (basically everyone) being one of the many gatekeepers to a book/authors further success (through exposure of storytelling), a single muck-up with a book can translate to critical analyses that not only deters a reader’s motivation for ever picking the book back up (let alone future novels) but also affects those who take criticism and thoughts with more than a grain of salt.
A reader only has the experience of a first time once and with first impressions being everything, re-reads are never the same. So what does a negative reading experience mean? While it may be tied to minimal enjoyment, there’s no sure-fire answer because we’re all too different for there to be a universal reason (helpful, right?). A negative experience carries the weight that once is often enough; but while readers can forgive…they can never forget. The choice of writing (whatever that may entail) is often part of the creative voice of an author and it is that which sets the tone and expectation of the style typically rehashed in later publications. But how true is this in action, and how similar (or different) are two different standalones from the same author?
From personal experience, I haven’t had the greatest time with debut authors (and their respective ARCs). Perhaps I’m simply difficult to please or maybe it’s just in my mind that I’ve set immaterial standards unbeknownst to the author that need to be met—seriously, how unfair is that? By accepting the idea that future publications hold some merits of its predecessor can readers easily lump apples-and-oranges together into a category of negative reads. And once that step is taken, apprehension and doubt protect readers from enduring another unworthy time investment. I’m not here to hark on how readers should choose to read what they like. I’m just saying that we need to remember that an author’s penmanship is something that develops over time; and by limiting future reads based on a single case of unsuccessful storytelling are we ultimately limiting the diversity of stories we live. Redemption is the name of the game and it’s not always how things start but rather how it ends–so will you give an author a second chance?
Bam: nonsense complete.
Hope things made sense though! But before you go ham and chirp out my flawed arguments (which I do absolutely encourage), here are some food-for-thought prompts to get your brain churning:
1) Assuming the genres of two books are equal, how encouraged are you to pick-up another work by the same author if you’ve just endured a negative reading experience? (or, how much does the writing in one book affect your outlook on future publications?)
2) If you’re willing, what are some of your peeves that immediately turn you off from a book (potentially causing you to drop the read)?
3) What are some reasons why you might enjoy a re-read of a book you’ve previously dropped?
4) Are there other factors in play not related to the content of a book that you feel taints an author (i.e. authors behaving poorly, writing scandals)?