There are countless articles telling writers how to write for readers. As a result many writers find themselves overwhelmed by Do's and Don'ts. I've been pondering this situation and come to the conclusion that some of these 'rules' for writers are a result of readers getting it wrong.
So here's my list of tips for readers which if followed by all could result in writers being able to relax and produce much better work in future.
1. You don't have to read it all.
Once you have bought, borrowed, found a book and chosen to read it you are in control of the reading process. Nobody is watching over you and nobody will smack you over the head if you skip bits to get to the parts you are interested in. This is especially important if you have a book heavy in descriptive passages and you are more of a 'what happens next' sort of reader.
Unfortunately many writers who are brilliant at beautiful atmospheric descriptions are being persuaded not to write these passages any more because readers often don't like them. Which is a shame because many readers do like them. It's a bit like telling us all never to include vegetables in a meal ever again because some people don't like them. Why should everyone do without something they find enjoyable when the folk who don't like that something can so to speak simply leave it on the side of their plate and still enjoy the meal?
Nobody ever died from descriptive passages being in a book - no matter what Charlie Hill's latest novel Books may suggest
2. You don't have to read it in order.
Again - you are in charge of the reading experience. If you have a book made up of many threads (story arcs) following different characters you are free to choose a character and just read their story arc if that's what interests you. I have often done this and it can turn one book into three or four enjoyable reads. Then if I want to I can read the entire book all in order and get yet another experience out of it. It means a reader who may be daunted by a long book is able to enjoy it as a series of shorter ones.
3. You can read the end first if you want to.
I hate suspense. I also dislike investing my emotions into a character only for something terrible to befall them. So I always read the end of a book first to check what will happen. I am reading for my own pleasure and I know if I am forewarned I will relax more and enjoy the experience better. Obviously many people think differently - but I prefer to enjoy a book if I can, so I do damage limitation to increase my chances of enjoyment.
4. Don't blame a writer for your own limitations.
If you dislike a certain genre of book and you know that or even if you come to discover that fact by reading an example of that genre please don't blame the writer because they happened to write in a genre you find not to your taste.
Again back to the cooking analogy: If you don't like carrots and a chef cooks a perfect carrot dish which is hailed by carrot aficionados as sublime - then it doesn't make sense to complain if you as a person who hates carrots then find this dish unpalatable.
5. How do you know you won't like it if you don't try it?
Now and then you may find a writer/chef who does something unusual with their literary carrots and it turns out to be something even carrot haters enjoy, like carrot cake.
Be adventurous, if you don't want to spend money on your explorations borrow from a library or from a friend. But when you do, try and enjoy it by looking for what you like not for what you don't like.
6. Buying a book or borrowing it from a library means more books like that one will be written or copycats attempted.
Every time a reader buys or borrows a book it feeds the literary process. Without readers, writing would decrease. I am not so silly as to believe it would stop, but certainly the behaviour of readers influences what writers do, no matter how often you might read assertions to the contrary.
You control what publishers do and you control what many writers do. At a very simple level if people buy lots of copies of the first of a series it is far more likely the next one in the series will be forthcoming.
So every time anyone complains about what type of books are for sale in the bookshops the answer is in their hands. Borrow, buy and read something different and encourage others to do the same and if enough people do that then things will change.
7. Do some research before buying a book.
Most books these days have a 'look inside' facility on Amazon. Love or hate Amazon it is a marvelous opportunity to try before you buy. You don't have to purchase from Amazon if you disagree with their way of doing things, but it is a good resource for checking to see if you may or may not like a book beforehand.
8. Authors are people and they appreciate you buying their book anything else is a bonus.
I am pretty sure an author would prefer you bought or borrowed their book from a library and got what ever you could from it however you chose to do so and then maybe felt like buying more of their work in the future than that you bought or borrowed their book and forced yourself to read it word for word even when you were finding it hard going and then when you got to the end thought Thank goodness that's over with and then never bought anything by them again.
9. Authors develop as time passes and although you may not like one of their books you may LOVE another.
It is possible to pick the wrong book to start off with an author who is new to you. One author I am very familiar with is Terry Pratchett. Most of his works delight and entertain me effortlessly. But even he has his lemons. And even the ones I consider lemons have fans who rave over them. Tastes differ.
I bought a couple of his books without checking when they were written. It turned out they were rereleases of the first two novels he'd written. Personally I thought they were stinkers. Luckily I'd read about twenty or more other Pratchett books by then so they didn't diminish my love of his work. I took them in context. But if they'd been the first books I'd read by him I might never have progressed to read any more by him. Thankfully that was not the case and I have spent many happy hours reading his work.