Ever tried to enjoy something and the person next to you couldn’t resist telling you EVERYTHING wrong with it?
Yeah. Me, too.
What does this have to do with how to ruin good books?
Well… imagine sitting in a room with me. I’m reading a book. I huff. I grunt. Oh, and I almost scream sometimes. You look over and naively ask the last thing you really should. “What’s wrong?”
I guarantee you… you do not want to ask that question. Why?
I’ve become one of THOSE people.
You know, the ones who watch a movie with you and tell you all the wrong things the detective is doing or explain, in long, agonizing, technical terms that no one but they know or care to know just how bad the camera shot is.
Or you watch ice skating, and they shred the performance that you just enjoyed.
I do it with books now.
I read and find myself almost weeping as I see passive voice or sentence phrasing that I despise–like “It was he who” or “It was the dog that.” NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO don’t. My eyes bleed. Please. Don’t. I know great authors have done it for centuries, but … *whimpers*
God has a sense of humor.
I planned this blog post a few days ago, and then a day or two later, I got in the car and began singing as I drove down the road. “Adios, amigo. Adios, my friend… the road we have traveled…”
Sang as I passed a guy crossing the street at the oddest place possible. I sang as I rounded the corner and waved at a police officer. Sang… right until I choked.
One of my favorite songs–ruined! Why? Because of my distaste for “It was he/she who”!!! Here I’m singing along, blissfully unaware that my world is about to be rocked. “When two love the same love, one love has to lose… and it’s you who she longs for…”
And if that’s not bad enough, the next line is… “It’s you she will choose.”
My teeth began to itch. I couldn’t finish singing it. One of my favorite songs of all times, and my own writing preferences had killed joy in my life–just as others’ had done to me with other topics.
One of the things I learned in the early days of writing is that you should never write, “It was he/she who” or “It was it that…” and things like that. It’s a convoluted way of writing, “He/she [acted]” or “It [acted]”.
So instead of writing, “It was the butler who killed the mouse with the carving knife,” you write, “The butler crushed the mouse…”
Grant you, I am just grateful that mouse got killed, okay?
But seriously–three unnecessary words right there that weaken your statement!
Of course, that’s not the only thing. I now read books and spend half my time refocusing. I used to be able to read a full-length (about 90k words) Christian novel in 2-2.5 hours. Now it takes me 3-4.
Why? Because I have to stop and tell myself that it’s not my story. I have to ignore things like passive writing, sentences masquerading as passive writing, too much telling and not enough showing… you know the drill.
Since becoming an author, I’ve had to learn to turn off the inner editor. I’ve had to learn to respect another author’s voice again. When you write–all day every day–your voice becomes such a part of who you are and how you see things that it’s easy to expect everyone to do it “your way.”
Oh, the arrogance!
And I know how others feel. Because I’ve been that person on the couch next to the critic who can’t let me watch the thing I was enjoying (you have no idea how hard it is for me to leave that there–was enjoying. Bad, Chautona. BAD). I’ve been the one aching to live in ignorant bliss of the inferiority of the things that my watching buddy can’t endure.
So here we are. Five ways to ruin a good book.
1. Become a writer:
The more you learn about the craft of writing, the more you struggle with reading things that don’t resonate with you.
2. Become an editor:
After speaking with my editors and friends who are editors, and doing some editing myself I’ve learned that they too struggle with just relaxing and enjoying a good book because they are so used to looking for the slightest flaws.
3. Stoke your arrogance:
Because only arrogance says, “You should do it my way.” So when you find yourself enjoying a book–no bleeding eyes or itching teeth–just poke the arrogance flame a few times. Can’t possibly have you enjoying a book as is, can we? *cough*
4. Repent of your hypocrisy:
We all have that bit of us that doesn’t… fit. We hate all classical music except Handel’s “Messiah” or we only like historical fiction… except for that one contemporary romance…
We’re “hypocrites,” so to speak. And if we repent of that hypocrisy, we won’t read that good book anymore. And, well, that means it’ll totally ruin it for us. Because we can’t read it, then!
Sure… it’s a theological stretch, but hey! That’s a great way to ruin the “Good Book” so it’s a double-win! *steps to the left in hopes of missing the lightning.
5. If you can’t ruin it for yourself by one of the above methods, there’s always the tried and true, “Find an error–even if it’s only that the author’s experience differs from yours.”
So the author infers that you can learn to roller skate in buffalo herds, and you’ve got the battle scars to prove that Roger Miller was right. Let everyone know how messed up that author is!
Trust me. If you can’t ruin it for you, you’ll ruin it for someone else! And that’s the goal, right?
I mean, this isn’t, “Five ways to find a good book…” That title would just make too much sense.
So, there you have it.
You should be set for ensuring that you have lots of time freed up on your calendar. By the time you finish this, you shouldn’t need to read again for a long time. Enjoy whatever it is you find to do to fill all that time you save by not reading. But shh… don’t tell Willow. She might have something to say about that.
Oh… and my song… I am now that annoying person who sings the lyrics wrong. (You know, the ones I used to grind my teeth over because they got it…well, wrong!) I now sing,
And you… she longs for. You’re who she will choose…”