Do you know what I mean by a Pity Read?
It's like a Pity Fuck. You know what that is, right? We've all had one or offered one (I assume, unless you are a particularly prickly sort who never gives out those good-bye adios vaya con dios love fests just before you break up).
I'll refer to the one as PR, and the other as PF, for simplicity and to reduce the vulgarity, as if that matters to me. It doesn't, but I do it as courtesy to those light-hearted souls.
Often in a relationship, One person is more in love than the Other. Since this is an unbalanced relationship, it is doomed as a one-winged bird a-flapping with the left wing and a-scratching his ball-feathers with the right.
The One wants nothing more than to soar up into the sky and shit on something clean. The Other is busy trying to find bird-balls, which it soon will realize don't exist.
So in the end, just before the dooming occurs, and maybe a few times before, the Other (who is less in love, the scratcher) offers the One (who is more in love, the flapper), a good old-fashioned banging pity fuck.
Other doesn't enjoy it.
Ironically, neither does the One.
It's a lose-lose situation.
Even if it's a guy, he may not be into it. He'll give it a few good thrusts, but then he leaves with a lazy salute, hasta la vista, and he jumps off the balcony onto the carport and rolls into the back of a truck and walks buttoning his pants and pulling on his shirt across the parking lot. He forgot his damned shoes but he'll never go back for them because he doesn't need to -- the One is on the apartment balcony tossing his shoes and socks down after him and screaming to the world how small his Johnny is and that she's glad she gave him herpes.
Now, flip it and Godferbid it's the woman offering the PF, because folks, this can be quickly boiled down into a bone fide long-term guilt-trip, or even worse, a date-rape accusation.
Either way the PF is a bad thing. It's not a safe way to end a relationship, nor is it a healthy act to indulge in.
Doing something out of pity is a sure way to reduce your own personal worth.
So what's that got to do with writing, and reading?
I'll tell you, since you asked politely.
I call it this: The Pity Read
It's when you ask someone to read your book, or your story, or maybe they ask to see it and you show it.
Now, just as one person disliking your pelvic thrusts doesn't make you a bad lover, neither does one person disliking your writing make you a bad writer.
It just means you didn't do it for them. You weren't their thing. They're not into you. No hard feelings, it's me, not you, but not really.
But the reader, the Pity Reader, the PR, is your friend, your confidant, your spouse, your relative, your co-worker, your online buddy.
And since they are your friend, they trudge through the piece. They ache their eyes against your blasphemous words. Your phrase makes them want to peel their eyeballs like the skin of a plum. My God.
It's not bad, they tell you later, after their Pity Read, as they run through the parking lot buttoning their pants and pulling on their shirt.
Not bad at all.
The first thing wrong is this: They gave you dishonest feedback.
The second thing wrong is this: They will tell their friends.
Oh Lord in Heaven, do you see why this is the Gonorrhea of writers? Not only does the Pity Reader mislead you about your writing, but they then sabotage you with would-be readers inside your own circle.
So I tell you this: Avoid the Pity Reader like the clap!
This comes up because I am at present soliciting beta readers for my novel, and I tell them this, without exception:
I only want you to read this if you want to read it. If it doesn't grab you, put it down. You won't hurt my feelings. Even if your feedback is that you got through the first twenty or so pages and didn't like it, it's not your bag, no problem. That's feedback. That's what I need to know.
And I only want you to be a beta reader if you want to be a beta reader. Just because I asked doesn't mean you are obliged.
Or something like that.
I recommend you do the same thing with your betas, and with your readers, and with anyone inside your globosphere who offers to buy or read your work.
Read it not because you know me -- read it because you like what you're reading.
I say the same thing to you, my online buddies -- only read me if you enjoy this sort of fiction, and for Godsake don't buy me if you don't think you'll like it!
Because I don't need your pity.
What do you tell your readers? Buy my book or I'll cut you!