March 26, 2016

The downside of reading a great book

Image courtesy of hashisho

Recently, I went through a reading slump. For some reason, the books I read just didn't appeal to me. Although they received good reviews, I found them sort of ... blah. I struggled to finish some of them, and, in a couple of cases, I put them down for good, which is rare because I seldom DNF books. It didn't matter what the genre was. It didn't matter what time of day or day of week I read the books. Fortunately, after two or three weeks, I started enjoying reading again.

The reason for my book slump? I read a really good book right before it. It may seem ironic that a great book could lessen my enjoyment of reading, but it did because the books I read after it paled in comparison. The authors of the subsequent books couldn't capture the same magic that the great book did. I kept wanting to feel what I felt when reading the great book, and I was disappointed when I didn't. I know that this is unfair to the books I read immediately after the great book, but I also didn't believe that I should stop reading. What got me out of the slump was getting used to the writing level of the majority of the books on the market again.

I just need to recognize that I will come across a great book once in a while, and while that experience may diminish my fondness for the next few books after it, it doesn't mean that the subsequent books are bad. It just means that they aren't as great as the gem I read before them.

As an author, my experience also makes me nervous about when readers read my books. What if my book is the one they pick up right after they've read what they consider to be a great book? How will my book stack up in comparison? Perhaps I can now chalk up bad reviews to the fact that the readers just finished what, in their minds, was a great book. Yeah, I'm sure that's the reason.

March 19, 2016


I tend to watch my favorite movies over and over again. I don't remember how many times I've seen the original Star Wars Trilogy, "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "The Matrix," "The Princess Bride," or "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." I know I've done so enough times to easily recite lines from those movies (much to my wife's chagrin).

It got me wondering why I don't do that with my favorite books. It's rare for me to read a book twice, even one that I love. I've read my favorite YA book, The Hunger Games, three times, but once was for "research" while working on one of my own novels. Even thrice is a rare exception for me. How many times have I seen "Star Wars: A New Hope"? Must be at least ten times by now.

So I'm going to make it a point to re-read more of my favorite books. If re-reading a favorite book is nearly as satisfying as watching a favorite movie, then it will be time well spent.

March 5, 2016

Everything sounds brilliant at 2:00 am

I'm one of those people who have vivid dreams and remember them after waking up. My dreams have often been creative fuel for the stories I write. Back before I published my first novel, I wrote a lot of short stories, and I estimate that more than a third of those story ideas originated from dreams. (For me, dreams work better for short stories than for novels because the events in my dreams aren't expansive enough to fill a novel.)

Unfortunately, I also suffer from insomnia in that I wake up several times in the middle of the night. In a perverse way, my insomnia helps my creativity because, while I'm lying awake in bed, I'll hash out a dream I just had. However, the downside of doing so in the middle of the night is that my brain isn't awake enough to filter content correctly. I can't count the number of times I've woken up at 2:00 am thinking that a dream was the greatest thing since the story-telling equivalent of sliced bread. But frankly, those dreams often weren't as good as I thought they were. There's something about the half-conscious state I'm in that makes me think that bad ideas are good.

If an idea passes my 2:00-am-half-brain-dead test, I'll log it in my journal for further consideration. I'll then read through my journal in the future, when I'm fully awake. I don't know how many times I've asked myself why I thought some of my dream-inspired ideas were any good to begin with. Thankfully, I'll catch those not-so-good ideas before they turn into stories that I subject my readers to.

Except for this blog post, which came to me at 2:00 am one night.