Wednesday, May 13, 2015
I haven't always been this way. Time was, once I started a book, I'd plow through to the end largely I suspect because the idea of NOT finishing it--of judging it--never occurred to me. But once I started writing, I carried the habit of scrutinizing word choice and pacing, characterization and plot structure from my own work to the books I was reading. I grew impatient. My To Be Read pile was growing, my time for reading shrinking. I started proctorizing. Sometimes I would proctorize half a dozen books in a row--books by very successful NYT bestselling authors I won't name because this is a small business and saying nasty things about other authors can come back to bite you in the ass. The list of authors I enjoy is short. My editor once actually snapped at me for this, because editors like to ask their writers' favorite authors for quotes.
Then, about a year ago, I decided I needed to break this proctorizing habit. And so, when an author started losing me, I didn't allow myself to put the book down but would plow through determinedly to the end. As a result, I read a string of books by popular authors whose works I'd never been able to finish. And you know what? At the end of each one, I found myself thinking, "Well, that was a waste of time."
A couple of weeks ago, I gave myself permission to abandon my short-lived resolution and go back to proctorizing. Life is too short, and my TBR pile too high (piles, actually; that's a photo of one, above). Ironically, I then stumbled upon a book I thoroughly enjoyed--The Two Minute Rule, by Robert Crais. For years, one of the members of my writers' group has been singing Crais's praises, but while I'd added a couple of his books to my TBR pile, I'd never been able to bring myself to try one largely because this friend (sorry, Sphinx Ink!) also absolutely loves a certain other bestselling author whose popularity mystifies me. Crais does not have the literary inclinations of James Lee Burke or Martin Cruz Smith (my two favorite mystery/thriller writers); he's a Hollywood screenwriter, after all. But I found this particular book brilliantly plotted and emotionally satisfying. So I tried one of Crais's Elvis Cole books and found it, again, masterfully plotted, gripping, and frankly fun. So I've looked up his backlist and I'm dizzy with delight at the thought of all those books I now have to read.
So, what about you? Do you proctorize books?