Readers, Have You Ever Given Up on a Book?

I’m an avid reader.  I love to read a variety of books.  Fiction and non-fiction.  Long books and short.  Sometimes it can take a few chapters for me to get into a book, but usually, once things get moving, I’m in for the duration.

But sometimes, I hit a wall.  For some reason, there are books that I can’t get into, and I can’t stay focused and can’t stick with the book.  I have tried to read a handful of books more than once and still have trouble getting into them.

One this year was Gone with the Wind.  I kept falling asleep while reading, which was never a good sign, and I had to give up.

Another was written by one of my favorite authors.  I’ve started it about four times and can’t get past the first 50 pages without reaching for another book.

Okay, I’ll tell you what it is.  It’s Stephen King’s The Stand.  I’ve read dozens of King’s books, but I just can’t get into this one.  Has anyone else had this problem?  It is about as long, and I had no issues diving into that one.

So, why does this happen?  I can’t be the only reader this has happened to.  It’s weird when a book is no longer being read for enjoyment; it’s now an assignment. 

Is it worth the multiple attempts to reread a book with thousands of books to read, or is it truly a fool’s errand?

Have any of you encountered this problem?  

Have you had trouble getting into a book from an author you love?

Have you fought through the wall and finished the book, or given up and moved on to another book?  

Leave a comment and let me know.

Happy Reading, and I’ll see you next time!

Reading Tip of the Week: Planning Ahead for 2023

January 1, 2023, is only a mere 108 days away, and it got me thinking about my reading goals for the coming year. Is it too early to create a reading plan? Perhaps. But, with my current reading goal of 25 books almost completed – I’m at 22 read so far – I was starting to figure out my reading goal for next year.

And, planning ahead of time helps distance it from the stigma of being a New Year’s resolution.

So, let’s talk about it!

Why Have a Plan?

I used to read whatever I wanted and as many or as few books as I felt like each year. But when I started setting a yearly reading goal, it turned reading into a goal-oriented activity. It was a great way to turn off the TV and open a book since I had a set number of books I wanted to read in a year.

A reading plan can also help you stay focused and create a basic schedule to help you reach your chosen reading goal.

How Many Books?

If you’ve never set a reading goal, start with 12 books for the year. That’s one a month, which should be fairly manageable. If you’re an avid reader like myself, you can double that.  

I have seen several people posting their completed 2022 reading goals on social media. One woman has read 172 books and her goal was 80!

Start with a basic number, and if you find yourself burning through books faster than you anticipated, you can always change your goal. For example, I initially started 2022 wanting to read 20 books but realized I would hit that sooner than later, so I upped it to 25.

What Books?

Simple answer: read what you like.  

More complex answer: Vary what you read, so you don’t get into a monotonous cycle that makes you dread picking up a book.  

I like to alternate between fiction and non-fiction, and I also will pick a theme for my non-fiction and stick to it throughout the year. For example, in 2020, I read several non-fiction books about pandemics and plagues throughout history. In 2021, I read about world history. This year, I’ve been focused on biographies about actors and actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

And in between, I read fiction.

Now, you can spin the wheel and choose what books to read and in what order at random, or you can plan out what you’ll read and when you plan to read it.

What About Page Count?

After I read a 900-page biography, I’m not ready to dive into another entry in the Game of Thrones series. I’ll usually grab a shorter book from my shelf or on my Kindle and burn through that before I start another longer book.

Variety is a key factor in keeping the reading momentum going. If you read one of your kid’s books, count it. Reading is reading, and any book you read can count toward your goal total.

Where Can I Keep Track?

You can use several sites and apps to keep track and record your progress. I use Goodreads.com, but apps like StoryGraph or Bookly can work just as well.

Find a site or app that you like and stick with it. Then work toward your 2023 reading goal, knowing that you now have the power to track and complete your stated target.

Final Thoughts

I know it’s early for this post, but, like holiday shopping, sometimes it’s never too early to start thinking about what’s coming sooner than you think.  

By setting a target reading goal and mapping out what you want to read, you can set yourself up for reading success in 2023 and be even more prepared for 2024!

Happy Planning and Reading, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: Purposeful characters

No matter what type of fiction you’re writing, characters are essential to the story.  They engage the reader, generating empathy, sympathy, and connection.  Your characters must serve a purpose within the framework of your story’s world.

As writers, it takes time to craft, shape, and mold our protagonist, antagonist, and other characters into the overall story arc that we have created.  We shouldn’t be wasting creative energy creating superfluous characters who have no reason to be in the story.  

Here are some tips to help you eliminate aimless and purposeless characters from your story.

Take Inventory

Who’s who, and why are they there?  If you are in the beginning stages of writing your story, take time to establish your main characters, secondary characters, and background characters on a spreadsheet or piece of paper.  Do they serve an essential function in the story?

If you have already written your story, take inventory of your characters as you read through.  Do they all serve a purpose?  Is there anyone that doesn’t belong or isn’t really essential to the story?

By creating a spreadsheet, you can list who the characters are, their role, and how they tie into the story.  If you find characters that serve no critical function or role, you may want to cut them because…

More Characters = More Problems

Taking on an ambitious fiction project can be exciting.  Still, you also have to make sure that everyone you introduce has a reason for existing and serves an essential role in your story.  The more characters you bring into the mix, the harder it can be to keep track and keep things focused.

Limiting the number of characters can help keep the story and its conflict focused, so you don’t get lost in the weeds, which reminds me…

Where’s the Focus?

Your story has a main storyline with a protagonist working toward a goal amidst numerous obstacles.  That should be your primary focus as you write.  Find yourself deviating too much into subplots and side quests with other characters?  It may be time to either rethink the protagonist or move those other characters into their own story.

If the subplots tie directly back to the main character and their story, that’s fine.  But if you do notice that what they’re doing has zero impact on the main narrative, it’s time to cut it.

Superfluous Characters

Are there characters you’ve created that don’t really go anywhere or serve any real purpose within the story?  Maybe you wrote an elaborate backstory for a Starbucks barista that the main character encounters on their journey.  But, if they are in one chapter and never seen or mentioned again, you may want to trim out how they saved their grandma and her cat from a space heater fire in the fifth grade. 

However, if the barista’s backstory serves a key role in the story later on, and the character comes back to help save the day, they serve a purpose.  Just make sure that if you put in the time to provide lots of detail on a specific character, the reader has a reason to be given that information.

Elevate or Eliminate?

If your creative mind has crafted a complex side character who initially has no real purpose in the overall story, you have a few options:  

  • You can cut them out of this story and move them to one where they can play a more significant role.  
  • You can elevate them and combine their character and attributes with a less-than-stellar secondary character who may need some extra life.  
  • Or you can see how this character’s current role can be elevated through further interactions with the protagonist and the main story.

There are ways to make it work, but the character can’t detract or deviate from the main story.

Should My Protagonist Have a Pet?

I’ve seen this brought up before, and it’s an interesting question.  The answer is simple: only if you are willing to have the main character’s dog or cat be a part of the story.  You can’t just introduce the reader to the protagonist’s dog in one chapter and never mention them again.  Once you commit to your main character being a pet owner, you have chosen to keep that pet as a part of the story.

So, if your main character travels the world on quests, it’s probably best to keep the pets out of things. Otherwise, readers may wonder, “Who’s watching Rex?  Is the dog okay?  I know cats are independent, but she’s been gone for three weeks!”  

Read, Read, Read

Skim through novels and see how different authors set up and establish their various characters.  Some will be more detailed than others, but the key to this research is to identify how main characters, secondary characters, and others are described throughout the story.  

Whether you’re writing a short story or short film, a novel or a screenplay, knowing who your characters are and their purpose is essential to keeping the story moving and the reader or viewer engaged.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you in two weeks!