When you're writing a novel and you take a break to read one, would you rather read a really good book or a bad one?

Me, I'd rather read a mediocre one. (Yes, I know that wasn't one of the choices, but it's my blog, after all.) A book that is enjoyable, but maybe not so out-there good that it makes me wonder what the hell I'm thinking, trying to write my own book. I can still learn from a mediocre book. Bad books just act as a cautionary tale, and I try to forget them as quickly as possible. Luckily, I haven't read too many really bad books.

I have read a few books lately that fell into the meh category. They were enjoyable; the stories were pretty good, the characters were half-decent, but they just didn't resonate with me on a level that made me want to re-read them. (Which is the metre-stick of a good book for me.) But I learned from them.

1. Watch out for repetitive sequences. In one of the books, there was a lot of the same kind of action in the first half of the book: the MC goes out, discovers a snippet of information, and comes back to her apartment. Rinse, repeat. About three times. It got a little boring. When you have a lot of the same type of action, without really moving the story forward, it slows the pace.

2. Don't beat readers over the head with narrative. In another book, the author had a lot of repetitive narrative. Circular thinking on the part of the POV character, where she reiterated her motivation/goal over and over again. If a particular revelation/plot element is extremely important to the story, give it the weight it deserves and trust your readers to remember it without repeating it every five pages.

3. In a romance novel, sex does not equal romance. Anyone who's been on the WD Forums for awhile knows my thoughts on this, though I don't think I've ever had a full blog post on it. Hm. Fodder for another day. At any rate, romance novels are about the romance, not the sex. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy steamy love scenes (writing and reading them), but I'm seeing a trend in some paranormal romances to skip the relationship part of the romance and head straight to the sex. Sex should be a natural progression of a relationship that's developing, but emotions need to be engaged. And please, for the love of all that's holy, don't use sex as a convenient plot device, wherein the MC has to sleep with people to gain their abilities. Sigh.

4. Make sure your characters' Happily Ever After feels real. Even in a paranormal romance series, with loose ends flying about, you can give your readers a satisfying ending. But part of having an awww moment in your ending is making sure your characters' relationship throughout the book rings true. You want your readers to feel like the relationship will survive, no matter what life throws at the characters next. In one of the books I read recently, I didn't get that awww moment. Maybe because the characters didn't have a whole lot of one-on-one time; most of the time, there were other, secondary characters in the mix. Including the MCs from the previous book, who had a fair number of scenes to themselves.

I'm trying to keep these lessons in mind as I revise TOPAZ SKIES. What have you learned from books you've read?

Happy writing!