The Light of Every Story

Why reading bad books is a good idea.

Image of quotation marks.

“We write by the light of every story we have ever read.”

– Richard Peck

Why I chose this author quote

Ok, so there’s no such thing as a ‘bad book’. I chose this quote because I’ve just finished reading a badly written book. The characters lacked depth and the point of view suddenly switched to a different character halfway through.

My first thought on finishing was that this book had been a waste of my time. But then I realised it wasn’t a waste of time. It was probably more useful than reading a good book.

For the readers

As a reader, this was a reminder of how wonderful truly great books are. What a special thing it is to find a book that makes you feel you have entered another world. And to get all the way to the end without anything breaking that spell. I have plenty of those books on my shelves and I’m feeling very grateful to have found them.

This book makes me want to celebrate authors who know how to immerse readers in their stories. These are the people who bring light to our dark days.

For the reviewers

As a reviewer, this book highlighted some elements of storytelling that I may have been taking for granted. I will comment on these aspects whenever I leave a book review going forward. I’ve learned they are fundamental to my reading experience. 

Just because a lot of authors are adept at creating character depth and managing point of view doesn’t mean I should expect that as standard. Or that people reading my reviews will expect that either.

For the authors

As an author, reading this book was a learning experience. First, I questioned myself – do I write like that? It’s really important for authors to identify examples of bad writing so we can edit them out of our own work. Reading only books that are well-written doesn’t help us develop that skill.

Then I considered how I would have written the book differently. And do you know what I found? There is a great story idea under the not-so-great writing. Understanding what good storytelling could have made of that idea has made me look at editing in a whole new way.

Yes, editing can be painful. Especially when there is a big chunk of work that needs rewriting. But knowing that a rewrite could be the difference between something disappointing, and something that will touch people’s souls, is a great incentive to do the work.

I learn from every book I read, whether it’s good, bad or average. I learn what to do, what not to do, and how to fix mistakes.

What this author quote means to me

Every badly written book shines a light on all the brilliantly written books. Every book has something good in it, even if you have to look hard for it. And every book has the potential to change our perspective, even if it’s not in quite the way we might have expected.

What does this quote mean to you?

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3 thoughts on “The Light of Every Story

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