Any professional fiction writer will tell you that you need to invest as much time to reading as you do to writing -- if not more so. As Stephen King so bluntly points out, if you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time to write. But sometimes, reading can be the biggest roadblock to writing.
I have read a string of really, really bad books. Granted, there were a few gems interspersed, but I'd say for every good book I've read in the last year, I've read about 3 or 4 absolute crap ones.
I've been trying to read within the genre that I am currently writing in -- "intelligent chick literature", for lack of a better term -- and that has been a colossal failure. And that was somewhat to be expected: sometimes you can't tell intelligent chick literature from the standard crap beach read until you're already 100 pages in. But what got me was when I was picking up critically acclaimed books -- or books that had won international contests -- and was still sighing at the weak storyline and poor characters.
Shitty books will make you want to stop reading -- but how could they make you want to stop writing as well? Especially when you are reading the drivel in front of you and going, "I can do better than that"?
Because of that very reason: you can do better than that, and yet your books are digital files in a folder instead of in paperback at Barnes & Noble.
Because this person got a book deal -- be it because they were a writer on a TV show or because they got Twitter famous or because they seriously looked out and snagged not only representation, but a deal -- and you have been querying agents for as long as you can remember. Because this person won a contest with their book and you can't even get past the first gate. Because you have poured your blood, sweat, tears, and talent into your writing and your manuscripts still go unread. Which makes you think about every time a website has rejected you, only to post "10 Things I Totally Wish My Crush Did" instead.
It can throw you into a serious tizzy. It reminds you we live in a world of Twilight and 50 Shades. We don't live in a Pride & Prejudice world anymore. We don't even live in a Life of Pi world anymore. We live in a world where the majority of the books that prosper are young adult, because people like "reading something at their level" (and I mean -- really, people? I get hating James Joyce -- I do, too -- but are you honestly shunning mainstream adult books in favor of books that can be read at a fourth grade reading level?).
It's enough to make you want to give up.
But the key here is going back to that first remark -- the "I can do better than that" -- and holding onto it for dear life. Trudging forward because you know that, while you might not exactly win a Pulitzer for your writer, it is damn better than a lot of the drivel that is published. You have a story to tell and you are not about to give up, especially since people are spending their time reading garbage that might actually be killing brain cells.
I feel like I say it a lot, but you realize that you just have to keep on keeping on. I might not have received any representation, but my ability to write queries has increased significantly and my writing résumé has been slowly building up. And maybe I end up self-publishing my first two manuscripts, but the world is shifting and more and more people are looking favorably to the self-publishing world. And maybe that will be just what I need to properly sell a book to a publisher.
Or maybe I never do and gain only the tiniest readership because of it. Or maybe that tiny audience reads my stuff and maybe -- just maybe -- they go, "Well, that was a breath of fresh air."