Do Writers Make Cranky Readers?

I’ve noticed a rather less than pleasant trend in the last few weeks when it comes to a number of authors whose series I have been reading over the last year or several years, both indies and those published through the traditional publication houses.   I’ve found them boring. The latest was a book far advanced in a series where the story has been advancing by inches and which I removed from my kindle’s reading list when I was just short of halfway through. I realized that I didn’t care anymore about the multi-book story arc, nor did I care much about the characters. The author’s writing is decent, and he paints good word pictures, but after many books chasing down the object of the ‘quest’, I found it hard to stomach yet another battle, similar to all the other battles that came before, knowing none of the main characters were going to die, and knowing the hero was going to add another member to his team. I got bored, pure and simple. By then the author had gotten a fair chunk of change from me, but he won’t be getting any more, because I stopped caring about the end-game. I no longer feel the urge to find out how the series ends. This was the fourth time in the last six months something similar happened. The first was a traditional print book, part of a series by a prolific, well-known author. Three-quarters into it, I gave up. I just didn’t care anymore, even though this wasn’t a multi-book, long drawn out story arc, but one that was self-contained in that one volume. The second was an ebook series by an even more prolific and very successful indie author. I began reading the latest installment, and gave up part-way in, because I didn’t care any more. The same happened with another series soon thereafter. Sadly, because of this, I hesitate in buying the latest book in another of his series which I found pretty decent up to now, on the basis that I’ve already tossed two partially read books into the electronic recycling bin. I made it through the latest print book of a traditionally published author earlier this year, but it was struggle. I can’t say the same for the latest from one of my biggest favorites, which I returned to the library half-read because again, I really didn’t care any more about the characters I’d been following for years.

I don’t know whether this phenomenon is one related to authors stretching out a lucrative series well beyond the point where it should have been ended and it’s first cousin, the use of the serialized novel concept to keep selling books by not wrapping up a story arc, or whether I’ve simply become more critical now that I’m deeply mired in the creative and editorial process myself. Or maybe I’m just cranky at spending money on books that don’t give me the satisfaction of a well defined story.

I know I’m not the only one out there. I’ve read the reviews of those books and series that came to disappoint me and many people have made the same observations I did, so it’s not just me being a curmudgeon. As an antidote, I’ve picked up a non-fiction historical analysis that may actually give me story ideas. As to future fiction reading, I’ll have to be more circumspect in my purchases. Just because I’ve enjoyed a given author’s work to date doesn’t mean I’ll continue to enjoy it. Some of them become stale or their storylines become stale or they simply put less care and time into their books in the drive to increase their volume of sales. Writing is a business after all, even though we scribblers would like it to be a labor of love.

There is, however, one conclusion I’ve drawn from all this. Just because a mainstream publishing house has put out a book by a well-known author, it no longer implies that it is of better quality than the best of the well-known indies. I’ve abandoned books from both sources in equal numbers.

And now, back to polishing The Path of Duty so I don’t bore anyone who enjoyed the first book in that series.  I’ve already decided that unlike other science-fiction heroines, Siobhan Dunmoore won’t be the subject of a never-ending series of books, each more turgid than the previous one.  I think I’ll be bored writing them well before I start losing readers.

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