that time I read a book as a writer (and why it's usually a problem)

So, I'm one of those people that is highly anticipative of things - movies, books, new tv shows. In fact, insider information here - I make a list every fall of my tv schedule based on all the new shows, so I won't miss one. Caution, nerd alert.

Books are some of my most highly anticipated things I look forward to. I own WAY more books than I could ever hope to read. Even when I read ten from my to-read pile, I've bought fifteen more during that time. So even when it feels like my pile decreases, it only ever seems to grow. Back in March I found this book that I COULD NOT wait to read. I'm still debating sharing the title, because I really hate being a book basher.

But here are some important, yet-not-spoilerish, details about the book: It's a YA dystopian set in a metropolis city where people are divided by their wealth. The book is told from the POV of a young girl who's had her memory erased. She keeps having flashes of someone she loved but everyone in her life insists she loves someone else.

I must confess, I am only a little more than halfway done, but HOLY MOTHER I am having the hardest time finishing this book. Let me first say, the jacket cover description and the beautiful cover design alone sold me on this book. I COULD NOT wait to start this book. And then I started it, and it was all crickets.

This is my problem with reading as a writer, and I'm being completely and brutally honest about myself here: I often think How did this book get published? I know my writing is ten times better than this. And then I hate myself for thinking that. I've caught a couple grammatical errors. But I'm telling you guys, the dialogue is KILLING ME. The girls in this book DO NOT talk like normal teenagers. The dialogue is SO off, I sometimes skip entire conversations while reading.

And what started off as a dystopian novel is somehow morphing into an urban fantasy/science fiction/paranormal, and I'm not even sure what it is anymore. It seems like the author tried to hit every YA subtype & genre in this book. So I'm stuck in this place of: I really want to finish, but it's so amazingly painful to even pick up the book.

See the thing is, it's sometimes really hard for me to separate the reader and writer in me. Any time I read a book, I'm probably overly critical because I think like a writer, and I wonder: What did an agent see in this? What did a publisher see in this? How did this person get plucked out a slush pile I seem forever sentenced to? 

I've been stuck in query-trench hell for a year now, with a few months of breaks, but mostly I've been querying for almost a solid year (a total of four different books) and it is the MOST FRUSTRATING thing I HAVE EVER done in my entire life. When people unfamiliar with the writing business ask me what querying is, I say: It's like trying out for the olympics without any training, except in the form of writing.

When I read books that completely disappoint, I wonder what in the world I'm doing wrong? I'm a good writer. I've had more than a few agents tell me this. Oh and I've had them tell me that though they didn't love a project I queried them with, they'd love to see something else. And while that's flattering, it's not an offer. And sometimes, I just want to email them back and say, Exactly what are you looking for? I'll write it. Just tell me what you want.

But it doesn't work that way. I'm stuck in this query hell until that one agent picks me out of the slush, seeing something special in my manuscript. I've learned to be patient throughout the year, but when I read books like this, it gets increasingly difficult for me to want to keep up the writing. Because this book makes me think that anyone can write, and while I'm sure anyone can write, not everyone is great at it, just like any other skill. Like music for instance, I quite suck at playing any musical instrument.

So writing this post has been sort of terrifying, but not half as terrifying as it will be to hit publish. I always hesitate to be completely honest because I hate looking selfish and jealous (when sometimes I am). I know there's room for us all in the writing-books industry, but it doesn't make the journey there any less frustrating or exhausting.


  1. This is a really honest post and I'm glad you shared it. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing this. Honesty helps us all. :) It is rather frustrating because sometimes agents go on and on about quality this and quality that and then something like that happens that makes me wonder if anyone even cares anymore.


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