I've been doing a lot of random reading lately, which involves reading new-to-me authors I acquire in an unplanned, spontaneous fashion. While most of the time I'm lucky with this method it doesn't always work 100% of the time. At the dollar store I picked up ten hardcovers, and I'm a third of the way through those, but only Charles de Lint's The Mystery of Grace has held my interest long enough to finish it (and you were right about that one, Di.)
While reshelving some books at home I also found a book by an author I meant to read six months ago that somehow got lost in the shuffle, and tackled that. Decent world-building and interesting characters made me think I had a winner, but the mediocre story and dialogue so inept I was rewriting it in my head by chapter three persuaded me otherwise. I finished that one, but the ending was just as lame as the plot and every word out of the characters' lips.
I also picked up one of those chunky oversize paperback BSLers from the grocery store in hopes that its millionaire author would break my losing streak; great writing, a promising story, but it devolved in the middle into a muddle that never recovered. After I write this post I'm going to start a literary novel because obviously I haven't suffered enough this week.
I don't mind occasionally hitting a run of books that for whatever reason don't appeal to me. For one thing, bad reading luck never lasts forever. There are always plenty more new books out there to turn to, and often starting a new random pile will do the trick. If that doesn't work I know rereading something from my keeper shelves will revive me (Marjorie Liu and Rob Thurman are especially skilled at helping me stomp a reading depression.) And if all else fails, I'll employ what always pulls me out of a slump -- I'll write a story to entertain myself.
The other reason I don't mind reading books that don't work for me is that they always teach me something. The lost-in-the-shuffle book made me realize the importance of not getting completely sucked into your own world-building and characterizations at the expense of the story; something that is quite timely as I'm presently constructing a new series universe and crew. The chunky BSLer has me mulling over middles, muddles and making the story count on every page, not just the first fifty. The dollar store pile is especially fascinating because most of the books are from one publisher and are less than a year old, so I'm getting great insights into what they want to put in print (as well as why their books so often flounder on the market.)
Some books I've read that left me wanting a lot more/better storytelling also energize me. They make me more conscious of the great responsibility of the craft, in that it's not enough to simply write something that makes sense. As writers we have an obligation to give every page our absolute best, every single time we go there. Being bogged down in a bad run of books only makes me more determined as a writer to learn and improve and deliver something worth the reader's time and financial investment.
How do you all cope with bad reading luck? Do you have a sure-fire way of pulling out of a reading slump? Let us know in comments.