I have seen lots of posts in various threads where a commercially successful (though not necessarily critically acclaimed) author is bashed for bad writing. (Dan Brown and Stephanie Myers seem to be two of the most often-mentioned on AW in that regard.) It's perfectly normal for humans that the green-eyed monster in all of us occasionally breaks his chains and runs amuck (especially if your eyes are green to begin with—guilty as charged). Most of us would love to have the type of success that these authors have achieved, even if we weren't considered “good” writers. However, simply pointing out the ways in which we think these authors write horribly doesn't do anything towards telling us how to write well. You could avoid all their failings and follow the oft-touted rules (guidelines, actually) for writing, yet still produce a novel no one wants to read.

So I would like to turn the question around in hopes of pinpointing characteristics and techniques which these “bad” writers have used to make their works appeal to so many readers. So for those of you who have read a commercially successful writer you consider “bad,” I challenge you to find something about their writing ability which is good or outstanding you feel is the reason they have achieved success. There have to be specific things they have done which attract the masses; it can’t all be chalked up to a successful marketing campaign.

So what, in your opinion, have these folks done well? And I am not looking for sweeping generalizations about how “Dan Brown knows how to tell a good story.” I want to know what about their story-telling technique is good. Is it because he creates an interesting premise? Does he have a gift for building suspense and what specific method does he use to do it? Is it because he can be easily followed and understood? Logical, well developed action? Interesting presentation of the details?

What about other “bad” authors you have read. What have they done well, in your estimation? Is it that they construct good paragraphs with idea-containing sentences which seem to follow logical thought or flow in a natural order? Do they write good dialogue which feels like normal conversation for the setting? Are they adept in some way at conveying the emotions and feeling of their characters? If so, how do you think they are doing it? Do they create interesting characters and what are they doing to make them interesting.

There have to be some specific things each of these successful “bad” writers does which makes people buy their books. If we could distill from these, the things they do right, perhaps we could learn to incorporate those things into our own writing. I believe that would be more helpful to our own success than pointing out what they do wrong so we can avoid it. Don’t get me wrong, I love to hear how such and such an author is not as great a writer as the masses think they are, but it doesn’t help us understand what they did correctly so we, too, can utilize those things and have a shot at success. Come on, use those critical thinking skills to dissect their path to fame and fortune. Who has any ideas?