I've been reading a book by an author I like a lot, but this one has been a real trial. Too many characters, too much obscure information, and a shift between first and third person that creates the feeling that I'm reading two different books. I'll finish it because she's good and I know it, but it won't go on my list of her best.

At the same time I had the experience of two people reading one of my works with two different results. The first one didn't finish, simply gave up with the complaint that it was too confusing and she couldn't get into it. The second read it twice and loved it both times. Hmmm. What am I to take from those two opposing reactions?

Not everyone will like every book. I've said that here many times, and I'm okay with it, being a realist. But moving on from that, I think writers have to remember that not everyone wants to invest the time and what I term "intelligent effort" to follow a story line that's even slightly convoluted.

What can be done about it? For one thing, writers have to remember that it's frustrating not to know what's going on. Readers tolerate it for a while, but they have to get periodic nuggets of clear information that assists them in understanding what's happening. Secondly, they aren't as wrapped up in your characters as you are, at least not for a while, so you need to give plenty of identification, clearly laying out who is who and what their purpose is in the story.

Finally, and maybe most important, the writer has to have in her own mind a VERY clear overview of why things are happening so that every minor event adds to the main one, every character's actions lead to a strong conclusion. In the book I'm reading, there are two very divergent elements, and the author is going to have a tough time convincing me in the end that the psychopath who for years kills on demand for a well-intentioned but misguided family does so because they make her feel useful or powerful or whatever. In my experience, which admittedly is from novels, pyschopaths are neither that cooperative or that controllable.

Still, this book got accepted, published, and well-reviewed. My manuscript got one "Huh?" and one "Bravo!" So we're back to square one: the writer's mind creates, and the reader's mind absorbs. Or not. I guess that's why publishing is such a crapshoot.

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