Okay, I admit it: I have little patience. Some would say I have NO patience. But still, I don't understand how it's possible to be bored for more than a few minutes. Once I find myself falling into a state of boredom I jump out of it. Of course, I always carry pens, pencils, pads, and index cards and they're a big part of why my handbag is so big. And why I always have a briefcase in my car. But that's another subject...
I spoke to a classroom of fourth graders about being a writer earlier this week and one of them asked me what I find boring about being a writer. I could honestly say I'm seldom bored. And that's because most topics and people fascinate me. Over the years, I've performed tremendous amounts of research--both for my writing and about things that barely touched on it simply to satisfy my curiosity: graphology (handwriting analysis), the different branches of the Secret Service, how different states require criminal and sexual offenders to report, etc.
As a reader, on the other hand, I find myself bored more often than I do as a writer. And I believe this is something we need to keep in mind when we're writing. Of course, what interests us may not interest our readers. And while we may love long stretches of narrative description or detailed love scenes or pages of witty dialogue--not everyone else does.
Not that we should be writing to make other people happy but, if our goal is to publish works that elicit emotional responses from our readers or to create material they enjoy reading, we have to balance writing what we want with what readers want.
In no special order, here are some of the things that bore me as a reader (and cause me to skim over paragraphs, or even pages):
- Love scenes that provide in minute detail what goes where. Dear Ms. Writer: I've had sex once or twice and know how the process works. Instead of giving me a biology lesson, share with me how the characters feel.
- Too much repetition. Dear Bestseller: Yes, I know the protagonist has blue eyes. Or was abused as a child. Or wants to be a pilot when he grows up. But I don't have Alzheimer's--I remember what you told me. I find this especially boring when the repetition has to do with body parts, hair and eye color, height, etc. without also being directly and significantly tied to motivation or character growth.
- Lack of personality. Dear Mr. Novelist: I know you're human. I know you have feelings and opinions. Why aren't you communicating them to me? From, Bored Reader.
- More than a few errors in editing, spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Dear Author/Publisher: I've read LOTS of good stuff that was published by small, independent presses or self-published authors. Those works were reviewed by editors and other professionals to help them improve the quality of their work before publishing. Cripes, even Stephen King and Nora Roberts run their work by editors before sending it off to the printer. Why didn't you? You should have.