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View Full Version : Surprised by a writer - for the wrong reasons



seun
11-06-2009, 06:31 PM
We had a delivery at work this morning. One of the books was the new one from a prolific and popular crime novelist. I haven't read any of this author's books, so wondering what they were like, I read the first 20 pages.

It was shit. I mean, really shit. I know story beats all, but I like to think avoiding info dumps and show vs tell are important issues as is constructing a sentence a little more developed than along the lines of See Dick run. I know it sounds over the top, but I was really blown away just how bad the writing was given the reviews and sales this author has.

Has anyone else had a similar experience?

scarletpeaches
11-06-2009, 06:33 PM
I've got to know who it was now.

Here is a post so you can rep me with the name. :D

Toothpaste
11-06-2009, 06:34 PM
Ooh me too!

And yes, yes I have had that experience. It's horribly depressing.

seun
11-06-2009, 06:34 PM
OK, but keep it under your hat.

Alpha Echo
11-06-2009, 06:38 PM
I wanna know too! Need to know who to avoid! But of course, I'll keep it quiet. :)

scarletpeaches
11-06-2009, 06:39 PM
I think some authors get so big they're beyond editing. They're guaranteed to sell. Absolutely guaranteed. Their name sells books rather than their stories.

It's the same old argument. "Why do we have to polish our manuscripts when these writers get away with murder?" And we'll never find a solution.

icerose
11-06-2009, 06:48 PM
I think some authors get so big they're beyond editing. They're guaranteed to sell. Absolutely guaranteed. Their name sells books rather than their stories.

It's the same old argument. "Why do we have to polish our manuscripts when these writers get away with murder?" And we'll never find a solution.

I don't know about you but if I ever get too big to bother crafting my best, I'd rather be shot. I would rather put out my best work always than lie back on my name and coast through.

scarletpeaches
11-06-2009, 06:52 PM
The fact I'm always talking about self-improvement and not pandering to the lowest common denominator should answer that one...

Calla Lily
11-06-2009, 06:53 PM
Rep me! Rep me! Esp since my agent's out there trying to sell my mystery. I wanna see the competition.

scarletpeaches
11-06-2009, 06:59 PM
This is talking about another author in another genre, but I recently read the latest offering from a big seller, and it broke every single rule we're told to adhere to. (Yes I know rules can be broken but only from a position of power and understanding).

The book began with a laundry list description of the protagonist, it head-jumped, was chock-full of "As you know, Bob," dialogue and telling-not-showing. The plot moved along by coincidence, was full of passive voice and ended on a more-or-less DEM plot point.

And I can guarantee, absolutely guarantee if you or I subbed it, we would be laughed out of the agent's in-tray. But this was a big name author. One of the biggest.

So I looked at the Amazon reviews and it seems people are starting to notice the decline in this author's books and it's about time. So, people who are after quality writing will notice and move elsewhere.

As for those who still want to read this author? Well there's nothing I can do about that. Yes, I get resentful and think, "Why them and not me? My writing's better than this!" I can only do the best I can while trying to keep a check on my anger.

This doesn't mean I'm dismissing what you're saying, seun...but the more I rage about it, the more impotent I feel, so the only thing I can do is try to raise standards by being better myself.

SPMiller
11-06-2009, 07:00 PM
We had a delivery at work this morning. One of the books was the new one from a prolific and popular crime novelist. I haven't read any of this author's books, so wondering what they were like, I read the first 20 pages.

It was shit. I mean, really shit. I know story beats all, but I like to think avoiding info dumps and show vs tell are important issues as is constructing a sentence a little more developed than along the lines of See Dick run. I know it sounds over the top, but I was really blown away just how bad the writing was given the reviews and sales this author has.

Has anyone else had a similar experience?You explained everything with the bolded words. Nothing else to say.

scarletpeaches
11-06-2009, 07:01 PM
I don't understand how readers can bear to uncover the story from all that bad writing sometimes, though. Some books are less entertaining, more hard work.

SPMiller
11-06-2009, 07:02 PM
Have you ever listened to other people talk?

Most people are barely coherent, much less articulate, yet we all seem to be able to extract meaning from their ramblings.

scarletpeaches
11-06-2009, 07:03 PM
Have you ever listened to other people talk?

Most people are barely coherent, much less articulate, yet we all seem to be able to extract meaning from their ramblings.Point taken, but I would say that listening to someone else speak can often be reduced to merely hearing them. It's passive. With a book, we need to make effort. Much like reading a letter as opposed to letting someone ramble on.

CaroGirl
11-06-2009, 07:07 PM
rant/ I wouldn't care if the industry wasn't tightening its belt and mostly accepting work from "established" authors (I know that's an exaggeration, but still). What a bloody Catch-22 we new authors are in! We can't get pubbed because publishers are too cheap and cautious to take on unproven work, and we can't establish ourselves as authors if we can't get pubbed. I know it's not as simple as that, but I felt like having a wee rant. /end rant.

SPMiller
11-06-2009, 07:15 PM
Point taken, but I would say that listening to someone else speak can often be reduced to merely hearing them. It's passive. With a book, we need to make effort. Much like reading a letter as opposed to letting someone ramble on.I don't know about that. I've read some pretty terrible letters (and emails) in my day.

In an abstract sense, I view this as a sort of Saussurean matter with the text as the signifier and the story as the signified. The reader will tolerate flaws in the signifier as long as it adequately communicates/represents the signified--and, of course, as long as the signified is damned interesting.

scarletpeaches
11-06-2009, 07:17 PM
Terrible letters and emails? That's exactly my point. Writing can be bad and just because we can get away with it doesn't mean we should.

It comes back to the same old, same old. Gripping story and good writing aren't mutually exclusive. I want both in my books - the ones I write and the ones I read.

I confess to having a problem with books by the author seun refers to in the OP. I've often had to go back and try to work out who the author is referring to because they headjump so much, within the same paragraph.

If writing leads to confusion, the signifier isn't doing its job properly.

CaroGirl
11-06-2009, 07:20 PM
But are these authors' first books brilliant? Or maybe they were accepted for publication at a more fruitful time, when publishers were willing to take a chance on anything that looked like it might sell?

icerose
11-06-2009, 07:23 PM
Rep me! Rep me! Esp since my agent's out there trying to sell my mystery. I wanna see the competition.

Mary Higgins Clark. She's probably your toughest competitor and I've never seen shabby work from her.

DWSTXS
11-06-2009, 07:23 PM
Have you ever listened to other people talk?

Most people are barely coherent, much less articulate, yet we all seem to be able to extract meaning from their ramblings.


This is true, and yet, if I had to pay $7.95 to hear some of these morons try to string together an intelligible sentence, I would slap the S out of them.

ChaosTitan
11-06-2009, 07:25 PM
:deadhorse

DWSTXS
11-06-2009, 07:26 PM
I had been planning on starting a thread along these same lines, because I just read a crime thriller and one of the lines was this:

'the guy who answered the phone sounded like a guy who hadn't trimmed his sideburns recently.'

I read that, and I was like, WTF?

so, I had to ask the masses. am I missing something on that sentence?

scarletpeaches
11-06-2009, 07:28 PM
Maybe his sideburns were tickling the phone and causing interference.

icerose
11-06-2009, 07:28 PM
My own vaguest guess would be a reference to the time period when they wore their sideburns long? Maybe hippie? Elvis? It certainly doesn't help with the picture at all.

HelloKiddo
11-06-2009, 07:30 PM
Now I'm curious. Somebody please send me a message and tell me who it is.

DWSTXS
11-06-2009, 07:31 PM
In the same book, the MC buckled his belt around his waste.

kaitie
11-06-2009, 07:34 PM
Mary Higgins Clark. She's probably your toughest competitor and I've never seen shabby work from her.

See, and this is what's funny. This is quite possibly one of my least favorite authors ever, and I have actually always considered her work a stellar example of "If this can get published anything can."

There is also a Dean Koontz book (who I typically really enjoy) that goes into my category of "What on earth were you smoking when you wrote this?" and has me feeling like he should just put it out of print and try to forget it ever existed, but reading on his site, another reader talked about how the same book was his favorite Dean Koontz book.

It kind of makes me wonder how much of this is a matter of taste. Obviously certain traits aren't going to be considered good in general, but it is interesting if two people can read the same thing and one can love it and another can hate it.

HelloKiddo
11-06-2009, 07:36 PM
In the same book, the MC buckled his belt around his waste.

Well yeah, it's important to be clear. Otherwise your readers would be imagining him tightening a belt around his neck and choking himself, or else he might buckle it around his leg and they'd all be left wondering how he's walking around without his pants falling down--it'd be anarchy!

CaroGirl
11-06-2009, 07:36 PM
In the same book, the MC buckled his belt around his waste.
Now that's just disgusting.

DWSTXS
11-06-2009, 07:38 PM
Well yeah, it's important to be clear. Otherwise your readers would be imagining him tightening a belt around his neck and choking himself, or else he might buckle it around his leg and they'd all be left wondering how he's walking around without his pants falling down--it'd be anarchy!

well, what I was grousing about was the fact that he misspelled waist. and the publisher's editor let it get past them.

Calla Lily
11-06-2009, 07:39 PM
I'm not a Mary Higgins Clark fan, but I know what she writes.

WHO IS THE AUTHOR IN THE OP? PLEASE! I'm dyin' here. :D

Chris P
11-06-2009, 07:40 PM
I was set to interview a local author for a special feature piece. I set up the interview and then read his books. O...M...G... The characters were uninteresting, the dialogue unrealistic, the conflict nothing too sticky and the resolution pretty hum-drum. Then I was stuck interviewing someone whose books were garbage. I focused on the writing process rather than commenting on the quality of the books, but I dreaded the "so what did you think?" question from him.

He actually turned out to be quite humble about it all and readily admitted that he didn't much care if he made the best seller list; he wrote the books more for himself and, as Kurt Vonnegut once said, to make one particular person smile (paraphrasing from the forward to Bagombo Snuffbox). I respected him more after that.

HelloKiddo
11-06-2009, 07:41 PM
well, what I was grousing about was the fact that he misspelled waist. and the publisher's editor let it get past them.

Oh yeah--haha! I didn't even notice that. I'm not much quicker on the draw than those editors ;)

Although the statement probably wasn't needed anyway. If he tightened his belt, it was probably around his waist. Where else might he put it?

DWSTXS
11-06-2009, 07:42 PM
I also just finished reading Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. Well, I got 2/3 of the way through it and stopped reading. It was just crap. Absolute crap. I can't believe it got published. I know he sold jillions of the previous version of the same book, but still, it was just so incredibly awful.

Now, I'm interested to see Dan Brown's next novel, simply because I want to see if the bad guy in it is another self-mutilating freak. I mean, seriously, can't he think of some different characterization for a bad guy? Mix in nazi, or a terrorist or something.

HelloKiddo
11-06-2009, 07:43 PM
WHO IS THE AUTHOR IN THE OP? PLEASE! I'm dyin' here. :D

Nobody will tell me either. You're a mod, is it acceptable to post it on the forum or is that against the rules?

scarletpeaches
11-06-2009, 07:43 PM
Uh-oh. Someone played the Dan Brown card.

*hides behind the settee*

Calla Lily
11-06-2009, 07:44 PM
I'm not a Dan Brown fan, but I'm all for his books selling a gajillion copies, because cash cows like him give us unknowns a smidge better chance at a contract from the Big Guys.

Calla Lily
11-06-2009, 07:45 PM
Nobody will tell me either. You're a mod, is it acceptable to post it on the forum or is that against the rules?

Against the spirit of the rules, if the OP doesn't want it posted. Sorry. :)

However, there are no rules against begging the OP through reppies. :D

icerose
11-06-2009, 07:47 PM
See, and this is what's funny. This is quite possibly one of my least favorite authors ever, and I have actually always considered her work a stellar example of "If this can get published anything can."

There is also a Dean Koontz book (who I typically really enjoy) that goes into my category of "What on earth were you smoking when you wrote this?" and has me feeling like he should just put it out of print and try to forget it ever existed, but reading on his site, another reader talked about how the same book was his favorite Dean Koontz book.

It kind of makes me wonder how much of this is a matter of taste. Obviously certain traits aren't going to be considered good in general, but it is interesting if two people can read the same thing and one can love it and another can hate it.

It is funny. I adore Mary Higgins Clark. Her writing style. Her sense of mystery. I've never found a book I haven't loved.

It really does come down to taste which makes me so grateful there are so many authors out there. Everyone can find a book they love.

I also don't care for Dean Koontz, I've never liked his writing style. It's not say he isn't a good writer, I don't know, I just don't care for his books.

Likewise I love the stories Tom Clancy writes, I love the movies that were made but I get so sick and tired of reading five pages about the history of this particular terrorist five minutes before he blows himself up, or a two page life story of "The deli guy" we never see or hear from again! The man doesn't even talk!

That's why I never look at anything and say "Well I can get in because they did." It might not be true. It could be they're filling a certain niche I can't. Or that they appeal to a lot of people other than me.

It could be my writing doesn't have the broad appeal even though it satisfies my own requirements.

Taste is certainly a tricky subject.

Judg
11-06-2009, 08:05 PM
I'm afraid this is why I avoid bestsellers. I will read them if I have a serious reason to believe that there's something good there, and sometimes there is, but in my experience, most bestsellers are the equivalent of Macdonald's hamburgers. Which I no longer eat unless I'm desperate or in a very strange mood.

I don't know of any bestselling writer that cranks out a book or more a year that I can stomach.

Shadow_Ferret
11-06-2009, 08:10 PM
I don't understand how readers can bear to uncover the story from all that bad writing sometimes, though. Some books are less entertaining, more hard work.

I don't think the majority of readers are as discerning as many writers are. Readers tend to read for enjoyment and probably don't even know what infodump means.

I tend to read as more reader than writer because many authors reviled around these parts I actually enjoy or at least don't find unreadable.

Maybe my lack of discernment is the reason for my lack of success as a writer.

scarletpeaches
11-06-2009, 08:13 PM
Having standards is not the same as having snobbytitties, Fuzzface. ;)

But aside from that, I think the problem is - for me at least - I read as a writer and a critic rather than a 'mere' reader.

Because I'm so used to analysing my own writing I see the joins and component parts in others' works.

Shadow_Ferret
11-06-2009, 08:15 PM
I edited that, Peaches. :) I thought snobititiness was a little harsh and it wasn't what I meant to portray.

Anyway, I guess I'm just a "mere" reader.

scarletpeaches
11-06-2009, 08:15 PM
I shall let my post remain, with the sole aim of confusing people. :D

DWSTXS
11-06-2009, 08:24 PM
?
I don't know what it was, but something in those last 3 posts between shadow and SP sent me into deep hypnosis

Perks
11-06-2009, 08:30 PM
Now I want to know, too.

The good news is that my advanced age has reminded me that my limited hours left on the earth can be better used and I no longer feel compelled to finish books that really annoy me.

The bad news is, I want mine to be one of the books that has a chance.

Perks
11-06-2009, 08:31 PM
Having standards is not the same as having snobbytitties, Fuzzface. ;)

For what it's worth, I liked your analysis of the sad state of some things.

DeleyanLee
11-06-2009, 08:35 PM
I don't think the majority of readers are as discerning as many writers are. Readers tend to read for enjoyment and probably don't even know what infodump means.

I tend to read as more reader than writer because many authors reviled around these parts I actually enjoy or at least don't find unreadable.

QFT. This has been my experience time after time after time. In general, readers who don't write just don't care about the things readers who do write obsess about.


Maybe my lack of discernment is the reason for my lack of success as a writer.

Maybe your "lack of success as a writer" is because you're not merging those two skill sets together as you sit down to create and only write as a writer and not as a reader. ;) Just thinking aloud, not meaning to derail the thread.

seun
11-06-2009, 08:43 PM
I didn't name the author because I didn't want this to become a debate along the lines as we've had before, but as so many people want to know...

Martina Cole.

Shadow_Ferret
11-06-2009, 08:47 PM
I didn't name the author because I didn't want this to become a debate along the lines as we've had before, but as so many people want to know...

Martina Cole.
Well, for me, that was anticlimactic. I was expecting Stuart Woods, or Jonathan Kellerman, or John Grisham or something. I've never even heard of Martina Cole.

scarletpeaches
11-06-2009, 08:48 PM
I've never heard of Stuart Woods.

willietheshakes
11-06-2009, 08:54 PM
This is talking about another author in another genre, but I recently read the latest offering from a big seller, and it broke every single rule we're told to adhere to. (Yes I know rules can be broken but only from a position of power and understanding).

The book began with a laundry list description of the protagonist, it head-jumped, was chock-full of "As you know, Bob," dialogue and telling-not-showing. The plot moved along by coincidence, was full of passive voice and ended on a more-or-less DEM plot point.

And I can guarantee, absolutely guarantee if you or I subbed it, we would be laughed out of the agent's in-tray. But this was a big name author. One of the biggest.

So I looked at the Amazon reviews and it seems people are starting to notice the decline in this author's books and it's about time. So, people who are after quality writing will notice and move elsewhere.

As for those who still want to read this author? Well there's nothing I can do about that. Yes, I get resentful and think, "Why them and not me? My writing's better than this!" I can only do the best I can while trying to keep a check on my anger.

This doesn't mean I'm dismissing what you're saying, seun...but the more I rage about it, the more impotent I feel, so the only thing I can do is try to raise standards by being better myself.


DB, right?

scarletpeaches
11-06-2009, 08:54 PM
Wrong.

willietheshakes
11-06-2009, 08:55 PM
Uh-oh. Someone played the Dan Brown card.

*hides behind the settee*

Nevermind, then.

bluehippo
11-06-2009, 09:14 PM
I flicked through Martina Cole's new book just out of curiosity and you're right, it is pretty awful. If only she had posted it in the share your work forum.

Jamesaritchie
11-06-2009, 09:17 PM
We had a delivery at work this morning. One of the books was the new one from a prolific and popular crime novelist. I haven't read any of this author's books, so wondering what they were like, I read the first 20 pages.

It was shit. I mean, really shit. I know story beats all, but I like to think avoiding info dumps and show vs tell are important issues as is constructing a sentence a little more developed than along the lines of See Dick run. I know it sounds over the top, but I was really blown away just how bad the writing was given the reviews and sales this author has.

Has anyone else had a similar experience?

I would be willing to be that millions of readers will love this book to death, and won't have a single problem with the writing.

Like it or not, that's what it's all about for everyone except those who want to be teh published writer.

Wayne K
11-06-2009, 09:20 PM
The first thing that leapt to mind was a chapter someone recently posted in SYW. I knew she was a good writer, but damn if that chapter wasn't better than I expected. If I look for new writers I start in SYW.

IceCreamEmpress
11-07-2009, 12:18 AM
Here's the thing.

If you're absolutely confident that millions of people will dig your plot SO MUCH that they'll overlook the crappy technique of your writing (I'm looking at you, D*n Br*wn), then go ahead and write crappily.

Otherwise, we're all well-advised to make our writing the best it can possibly be, yes?


Also, on the "I've never heard of Martina Cole"/"I've never heard of Stuart Woods" thing: crossover bestsellerdom between the US and the UK is the exception, not the norm. Even in the mystery/thriller/suspense field.

Red-Green
11-07-2009, 12:50 AM
I had an unpleasant surprise while reading a NYT bestseller recently, and it was the kind that really freaks me out. The books that I don't enjoy from the get-go, whatever, but this book was well-written, had well crafted characters. It was very enjoyable, and then kablooey. Three chapters from the end, it was like the writer ran out of steam or the publisher ran out of ink. Quick-quick, all the little subtle secrets in the story were just blurted out in the most awkward manner imaginable. Like reading 95% of a novel and then getting the remaining 5% in synopsis form. Uh, what happened? How does something like that go to press?

Phaeal
11-07-2009, 02:07 AM
I had an unpleasant surprise while reading a NYT bestseller recently, and it was the kind that really freaks me out. The books that I don't enjoy from the get-go, whatever, but this book was well-written, had well crafted characters. It was very enjoyable, and then kablooey. Three chapters from the end, it was like the writer ran out of steam or the publisher ran out of ink. Quick-quick, all the little subtle secrets in the story were just blurted out in the most awkward manner imaginable. Like reading 95% of a novel and then getting the remaining 5% in synopsis form. Uh, what happened? How does something like that go to press?

They ran out of time? They figured, meh, this guy will sell if we smear dogfood on the pages?

Actually, I've noticed this very sad phenomenon a number of times. Big lesson to learn: Do NOT speed through the climax. That's like telling people all the way through dinner that there's going to be a GREAT dessert, then serving them a couple shrivelled raisins apiece.

aadams73
11-07-2009, 02:16 AM
Mary Higgins Clark. She's probably your toughest competitor and I've never seen shabby work from her.

Hmmm, I heard she doesn't write her own books anymore.

(Something that's been mentioned here in AW before, where is where I first heard it--but not last.)

StandJustSo
11-07-2009, 04:01 AM
"Writing can be bad and just because we can get away with it doesn't mean we should."

Right ON.

HelloKiddo
11-07-2009, 04:06 AM
I didn't name the author because I didn't want this to become a debate along the lines as we've had before, but as so many people want to know...

Martina Cole.

We can't get into a discussion about this author anyway. I tried to find the offending pages and I can't find a single sample of her writing anywhere online.

Question for the posters more knowledgeable than myself: Why would a publisher (or whoever is responsible for this stuff) not want sample pages of a book online? It would seem to me a small sample could only help--unless the pages suck.

scarletpeaches
11-07-2009, 04:08 AM
She's the bestselling crime writer in the UK; her publishers don't need to put her work online.

HelloKiddo
11-07-2009, 04:18 AM
The Da Vinci Code, Twilight and the Harry Potter books all have sample pages posted online. There must be another reason. It can't just be that they have enough sales and feel they don't need any more.

Toothpaste
11-07-2009, 05:11 AM
Check out Amazon, they have the search inside feature. I found I was able to with at least one of her books (didn't try with any others), not to verify or deny what others have said about her quality of writing, just to see if it was possible.

It is. Just google her name plus "Sample Pages".

blacbird
11-07-2009, 07:21 AM
I think my most disheartening experience of this kind was going to a reading/question session featuring a prominent (Pulitzer-winner) novelist seven years ago or so, a person I considered to be at minimum an interesting writer.

And discovered said person to be an insufferable egotistical jerk, with no redeeming personal qualities that I could see. It was all he could do to cloak his disdain for having to appear at this event (for which he was paid) in my distant and obviously unworthy town.

And, no, I won't name a name, so don't ask.

caw

seun
11-07-2009, 03:52 PM
Well, for me, that was anticlimactic. I was expecting Stuart Woods, or Jonathan Kellerman, or John Grisham or something. I've never even heard of Martina Cole.

She's pretty popular in the UK :Shrug:

What surprised me about this book was knowing she's held in very high regard and has millions of readers - and then discovering just how amateurish her new book read. I know there are plenty of people who are published and don't know or care about the rules that all writers are supposed to; I was just surprised to discover how bad the book was.

Linda Adams
11-07-2009, 05:59 PM
I had an unpleasant surprise while reading a NYT bestseller recently, and it was the kind that really freaks me out. The books that I don't enjoy from the get-go, whatever, but this book was well-written, had well crafted characters. It was very enjoyable, and then kablooey. Three chapters from the end, it was like the writer ran out of steam or the publisher ran out of ink. Quick-quick, all the little subtle secrets in the story were just blurted out in the most awkward manner imaginable. Like reading 95% of a novel and then getting the remaining 5% in synopsis form. Uh, what happened? How does something like that go to press?


Might have run up against the deadline and botched the end rushing through. I saw another writer like that--spent the whole book developing a storyline about a murder in the Supreme Court, and then when we reached the end, she blew off the ending by making it a random killing. Had the feel of an author who got stuck near the end and had to push to get it out. Another one had a too short book for apparently the same reason--sandwiched between two other fast releases.

emilycross
11-07-2009, 06:27 PM
Oh I'd appreciate it if the OP could rep me? if they are comfy with it?

Similar thing happened to me, picked up a book by a very famous crime writer, and i couldn't get past first chapter. i couldn't believe the writing- which ruined plot for me cause i kept focusing on it!

aruna
11-07-2009, 06:54 PM
Without finishing this thread. I'm going to guess. Does his last name rhyme with Town?

aruna
11-07-2009, 07:02 PM
Now that's just disgusting.

:roll:




Now, I'm interested to see Dan Brown's next novel, simply because I want to see if the bad guy in it is another self-mutilating freak. I mean, seriously, can't he think of some different characterization for a bad guy? Mix in nazi, or a terrorist or something.

That's what I ws guessing. Obviously I was wrong!

HelloKiddo
11-07-2009, 08:42 PM
Check out Amazon, they have the search inside feature. I found I was able to with at least one of her books (didn't try with any others), not to verify or deny what others have said about her quality of writing, just to see if it was possible.

It is. Just google her name plus "Sample Pages".

Thanks Toothpaste. I had tried Amazon.com and B&N, neither had samples. Found some on Amazon.co.uk. Not sure why that was different, but they have them.

Regarding the book in question: It seemed no worse than many other books of this type I've seen elsewhere. I was less bothered by the info dumps and more bothered by the sloppy writing. The writing was irritating to me, I found it barely tolerable.

To be fair though, SF was right--we notice this more than the average reader does. To us it's like nails on a chalkboard, but readers like this stuff.

Jamesaritchie
11-07-2009, 09:56 PM
Here's the thing.

If you're absolutely confident that millions of people will dig your plot SO MUCH that they'll overlook the crappy technique of your writing (I'm looking at you, D*n Br*wn), then go ahead and write crappily.

Otherwise, we're all well-advised to make our writing the best it can possibly be, yes?


Also, on the "I've never heard of Martina Cole"/"I've never heard of Stuart Woods" thing: crossover bestsellerdom between the US and the UK is the exception, not the norm. Even in the mystery/thriller/suspense field.


What makes you think D*n Br*own isn't trying as hard as he can, and isn't writing the best way he can possibly write?

"Crappy" is highly subjective, and something that mostly bothers new writers and old critics, not the great majority of readers.

When the story and the characters are such that millions read and love the book, the writing did the job it was supposed to do.

IceCreamEmpress
11-07-2009, 10:49 PM
"Crappy" is highly subjective

Not when there are things like mangled tenses, improper subject/verb agreement, and incorrect word usage. None of that stuff is subjective.

ishtar'sgate
11-07-2009, 11:09 PM
I'd never heard of Martina Cole so checked out some amazon reviews. I think the key to her popularity can be found in one reader's review.
..reading a Martina Cole book is like watching a movie in your mind, you can see it all playing out as you read.
Regardless of what anyone might think of her technical ability she is evidently an enthralling storyteller.
As a writer I am not that concerned about a best selling author abiding by the rules of the written word. I am far more interested in discovering what makes them storytellers that millions of people want to read.
Reading is so subjective. One person's crap is another person's jewel. Publishers are interested in readership and if many many people consider a writer's work worth paying good money for then publishers will print it. And they should.

jodiodi
11-08-2009, 03:55 AM
I've never heard of Martina Cole either.

As others have said, though, the story. if it's entertaining enough, trumps everything else, especially for readers who are non-writers.

I recall when I wrote policies/procedures and news releases, I was told the information meant for the public should be written at a reading level of no highter than 6th grade. Items being sent to providers were, of course, college graduate levels, but the average public level was deemed to be 6th grade. I'm hoping the level has risen to at least 8th grade by now. Sad commentary on the US educational system.

AnneMarble
11-08-2009, 07:35 PM
I didn't name the author because I didn't want this to become a debate along the lines as we've had before, but as so many people want to know...

Martina Cole.
Ooh, interesting. I stayed away from Martina Cole's Faces because even Romantic Times (I mean RT Book Reviews) magazine gave it one star. And because it was about the underworld in London. I usually prefer to read about the cops, not the robbers (with some exceptions).

ETA: I think Faces is the first Martina Cole to get released in the U.S. -- or at least the first to get a big release with a lot of push from the publisher.

Salis
11-09-2009, 09:58 AM
This is talking about another author in another genre, but I recently read the latest offering from a big seller, and it broke every single rule we're told to adhere to. (Yes I know rules can be broken but only from a position of power and understanding).

The book began with a laundry list description of the protagonist, it head-jumped, was chock-full of "As you know, Bob," dialogue and telling-not-showing. The plot moved along by coincidence, was full of passive voice and ended on a more-or-less DEM plot point.

And I can guarantee, absolutely guarantee if you or I subbed it, we would be laughed out of the agent's in-tray. But this was a big name author. One of the biggest.

So I looked at the Amazon reviews and it seems people are starting to notice the decline in this author's books and it's about time. So, people who are after quality writing will notice and move elsewhere.

As for those who still want to read this author? Well there's nothing I can do about that. Yes, I get resentful and think, "Why them and not me? My writing's better than this!" I can only do the best I can while trying to keep a check on my anger.

This doesn't mean I'm dismissing what you're saying, seun...but the more I rage about it, the more impotent I feel, so the only thing I can do is try to raise standards by being better myself.

I actually can vouch for people noticing quality. The best example I know is Eddings, who wrote a lot of really great series. Then, the last series (before he passed over) was just astonishingly bad, like a competent writer writing an intentional parody of his earlier work.

Although it seemed to get some alright critical blurbs, the Amazon/online reviews are almost universally bad, so it gives some hope for reader's discretion, I suppose.


http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/smiley-violent083.gif

http://coreygilmore.com/uploads/2007/08/beating_a_dead_horse.jpg

Robert E. Keller
11-09-2009, 12:29 PM
I don't really care if someone doesn't like a writer's work and wants to talk about it. I just don't bother with it myself. If I don't like a writer, I ignore them. I'd rather spend my time trying to find and weed out the flaws in my own writing instead of Martina Cole's. And if I was going to dissect her work, I'd probably focus more on what makes her successful since she's obviously connecting with readers, which is all the matters.

scarletpeaches
11-09-2009, 03:39 PM
I don't really care if someone doesn't like a writer's work and wants to talk about it. I just don't bother with it myself. If I don't like a writer, I ignore them. I'd rather spend my time trying to find and weed out the flaws in my own writing instead of Martina Cole's. And if I was going to dissect her work, I'd probably focus more on what makes her successful since she's obviously connecting with readers, which is all the matters.There are people - writers and readers - out there who would say that's not all that matters.

Breaking the rules and connecting with readers is all very well but speaking for myself I would rather connect with readers by writing well.

"Good enough" isn't good enough, at least for me.

seun
11-09-2009, 05:47 PM
I'd rather spend my time trying to find and weed out the flaws in my own writing instead of Martina Cole's.

Why not do both? Why not learn from another writer to see how you can improve?

Robert E. Keller
11-09-2009, 05:48 PM
There are people - writers and readers - out there who would say that's not all that matters.

Breaking the rules and connecting with readers is all very well but speaking for myself I would rather connect with readers by writing well.

"Good enough" isn't good enough, at least for me.

I agree--in a way--but I look at it like this: If a writer is connecting with readers, that writer is getting the job done, which means the writing is good. It may not necessarily follow the "rules" but if it's good enough to attract readers, then I see it as good writing. So I view Dan Brown and Martina Cole as good writers in that they are able to create and sustain a large following of readers (no easy task, in my view). Having said that, I have no urge to imitate either writer, or any writer for that matter, but I'll give them credit for drawing a crowd.

I think writers should strive to write better and not settle for being "good enough." But Dan Brown does what he does very effectively, whether we like it or not, so I have to tip my hat to his skills. (Except I'm not wearing a hat.)

Robert E. Keller
11-09-2009, 05:51 PM
Why not do both? Why not learn from another writer to see how you can improve?

Good point. But if you read the sentence I wrote just after the one you quoted, I do mention that.

MarkEsq
11-09-2009, 06:43 PM
... if it's good enough to attract readers, then I see it as good writing. So I view Dan Brown and Martina Cole as good writers in that they are able to create and sustain a large following of readers (no easy task, in my view). ...

... Dan Brown does what he does very effectively, whether we like it or not, so I have to tip my hat to his skills.

I distinguish between the facets of a successful book and wouldn't necessarily agree that a large readership = a good writer.

Imagine a big, slow-talking dolt sitting around the campfire. He chooses words painfully slowly, says "expecially" and "supposably"... but he's telling you about this time he was kidnapped by Basque separatists and had to chew his way out of a kevlar sleeping bag, before riding over the pyrenees mountains on a cart drawn by rabod goats.

You'd sit there and listen, entranced by the story, no doubt. But afterwards no one would call him erudite or a great story-teller. A good story is what he had, and that was enough.

aruna
11-09-2009, 06:55 PM
I read the first page of Hard Girls.
All I can say is ..... OUCH.

If any of us would submit that to an agent she wouldn't read past the first sentence. It reads like a child's writing.

Frankly, if that was on the only way to tell a good story I wouldn't do it. Not for all the success in the world.
Thank goodness, there are other ways.
I do have good stories so I'll keep on slogging.

Robert E. Keller
11-09-2009, 07:10 PM
I distinguish between the facets of a successful book and wouldn't necessarily agree that a large readership = a good writer.

Imagine a big, slow-talking dolt sitting around the campfire. He chooses words painfully slowly, says "expecially" and "supposably"... but he's telling you about this time he was kidnapped by Basque separatists and had to chew his way out of a kevlar sleeping bag, before riding over the pyrenees mountains on a cart drawn by rabod goats.

You'd sit there and listen, entranced by the story, no doubt. But afterwards no one would call him erudite or a great story-teller. A good story is what he had, and that was enough.

I understand where you're coming from, but I think good writers come up with good stories. I also think that good storytelling ability plays a key role in the success of writers like Brown. This slow-witted dude you're talking about probably couldn't make up a good fiction story, and that's a big part of being a good writer--at least 50% of it, in my opinion. I feel that if Brown was a bad storyteller, he wouldn't have such a large reader base. He obviously captivates readers, and I don't believe it's on strength of story alone.

__________

Had enough, horse? Bam! What's that? You want a little more. Smack! Come on horse, let's see what you've got! Say, why aint you movin' no more, horse? Pow! :evil

Disclaimer: Robert E. Keller does not actually beat horses. Live ones, anyway.

seun
11-09-2009, 10:43 PM
I agree--in a way--but I look at it like this: If a writer is connecting with readers, that writer is getting the job done, which means the writing is good. It may not necessarily follow the "rules" but if it's good enough to attract readers, then I see it as good writing.

I know this is an issue that's come up here plenty of times before but your comment I've bolded stood out to me. I can't agree. If a writer is connecting with readers, that's great, but to me that equals a good story, not automatically good writing. A good story is one that makes the reader want to keep reading, makes them want to find out what happens with the plot and characters. Good writing means the author has taken the time and put the effort in to learn the craft of producing a book. The result of good story and good writing is what I enjoy reading and what I do my best to write.

Robert E. Keller
11-10-2009, 12:00 AM
I know this is an issue that's come up here plenty of times before but your comment I've bolded stood out to me. I can't agree. If a writer is connecting with readers, that's great, but to me that equals a good story, not automatically good writing. A good story is one that makes the reader want to keep reading, makes them want to find out what happens with the plot and characters. Good writing means the author has taken the time and put the effort in to learn the craft of producing a book. The result of good story and good writing is what I enjoy reading and what I do my best to write.

It looks like we just have an honest disagreement about what good writing is. To me, there's no divide between good writing and a good story--they're fused right together like spacetime. I believe that for a writer to connect with readers on a large scale, the story and the storytelling typically have to both be good. It may not be your idea of good writing, but it's good enough to attract a heck of a lot of readers--which means that in a way, it's irrefutably good. It got 'er done, so to speak.

But there are variables. We're both right, and we're both wrong. A book by Paris Hilton can suck eggs but still sell based on name alone. And we all know that Stephen King can publish anything (though most of his fiction is entertaining). I'm talking about writers that burst onto the scene and gain a big following, like Dan Brown. I believe that when you don't start out as "someone" you typically have to have good storytelling ability to write a fiction bestseller.

But anyway, what more can I say? I'm kind of talked out on this. I've got to get back to my novel. But before I do...

I go beat horse now! Why he no move? :troll Whack!

maestrowork
11-10-2009, 01:48 AM
I understand where you're coming from, but I think good writers come up with good stories. I also think that good storytelling ability plays a key role in the success of writers like Brown. This slow-witted dude you're talking about probably couldn't make up a good fiction story, and that's a big part of being a good writer--at least 50% of it, in my opinion. I feel that if Brown was a bad storyteller, he wouldn't have such a large reader base. He obviously captivates readers, and I don't believe it's on strength of story alone.

Your example of Dan Brown actually illustrated MarkEsq's point: Brown had a great story and story trumps mediocre writing anytime.

Before DVC, Brown had already written four novels (including Angels&Demons which introduced Robert Langdon). Even Langdon is a takeoff of Indiana Jones ("Harrison Ford in tweed"). There's really nothing spectacular about his plotting -- basically a treasure hunt. Even by thriller standards, Brown is a mediocre storyteller. He was an "unknown" -- no big following, even after A&D came out.

What he did with DVC was having an intriguing story about the secrets behind the Holy Grail (some may accuse him of stealing the idea from Holy Blood, Holy Grail -- but we digress). The story itself is intriguing enough to compensate for anything. At best, Brown is considered (even by his fans) a competent writer, not a "good" one. But he had a KILLER concept that struck gold.

But anyway, we're not here to discuss Dan Brown. Still, Brown's success with DVC illustrated Mark's point: if you have an intriguing story, it sells itself even with mediocre storytelling. Brown did not really "connect" with the readers, what with his cardboard characters and contrived plot elements. But he has a killer story underneath everything. Strip away the Last Supper and the Holy Grail and the whole religious conspiracy/controversy, what you get from DVC is a run-of-the-mill treasure hunt thriller. I actually preferred National Treasures (the movies) over the Da Vinci Code, all things considered.

Again, let's not diss Brown for his success: he was able to create something that fascinates a lot of people. However, let's also not confuse great story with great storytelling or writing. One only wonders what the Da Vinci Code could be like if Michael Crichton had written it instead -- Crichton was able to fascinate me with his high concepts, his storytelling AND writing (Jurassic Park); now that's a triple threat.

Claudia Gray
11-10-2009, 02:06 AM
I pray with all my heart to screw up as badly as Dan Brown someday.

scarletpeaches
11-10-2009, 02:08 AM
I pray with all my heart not to.

I resent this implication it's either/or.

I want to sell well and be a good writer.

Bartholomew
11-10-2009, 02:08 AM
We had a delivery at work this morning. One of the books was the new one from a prolific and popular crime novelist. I haven't read any of this author's books, so wondering what they were like, I read the first 20 pages.

It was shit. I mean, really shit. I know story beats all, but I like to think avoiding info dumps and show vs tell are important issues as is constructing a sentence a little more developed than along the lines of See Dick run. I know it sounds over the top, but I was really blown away just how bad the writing was given the reviews and sales this author has.

Has anyone else had a similar experience?

Can you rep me the name of the author, and the book? I'm really curious now.

maestrowork
11-10-2009, 02:11 AM
I pray with all my heart to screw up as badly as Dan Brown someday.

Maybe try writing something with Catholics (or any religious groups) and the Holy Grail?

:)

I also heard teenage vampires are in demand now...

If all fails, ninjas!

Robert E. Keller
11-10-2009, 03:09 AM
What he did with DVC was having an intriguing story about the secrets behind the Holy Grail (some may accuse him of stealing the idea from Holy Blood, Holy Grail -- but we digress). The story itself is intriguing enough to compensate for anything. At best, Brown is considered (even by his fans) a competent writer, not a "good" one. But he had a KILLER concept that struck gold.


Yes, and I hopelessly view that as part of being a good writer. Let's face reality here: Dan Brown's skill at crafting his novel earned him great success and a legion of fans. Even if you say it was only the story he put together, that's still part of his overall writing skill.

Or are you saying that coming up with a great story has nothing to do with writing skill? If you're saying that, I disagree. Great writers come up with great stories. He writes; the readers eat it up. If he was feeding them something sour, they'd get a new menu. He found some way to captivate readers enough to make himself rich, so in an undisputable sense that makes him a great writer--to his readers, if no one else. But at least he can claim that, which is a heck of an accomplishment. Dan Brown has every right to call himself a great writer. You might not like it, but that's the reality of it. That's the cold truth (though I don't find it cold myself, but rather, inspiring).

Okay, I hereby swear to no longer defend a millionaire writer, because he only needs to point to his wallet to defend himself. :e2hammer:

scarletpeaches
11-10-2009, 03:15 AM
Great writers come up with great stories.Yes. Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln certainly did that.

Witch_turtle
11-10-2009, 03:33 AM
On a slightly different but related note, I can think of several authors on my bookshelf whose earlier books I loved and whose later books were extremely difficult to get into. It's like once they have a fanbase, a guarantee that they will sell no matter what, they don't have to worry so much about "hooking" readers with interesting beginnings.

But overall there are plenty of books in which the writing is mediocre at best, yet the book became a huge pop-culture icon or best-seller. Maybe the masses just don't notice bad writing?

I agree, though, it makes me cringe when people tell me to "Write a book like Twilight so you can be rich". My own father said that to me. I would rather produce great stories with great writing and live in a box than produce mediocre stories with mediocre writing and have alot of money

The Lonely One
11-10-2009, 03:48 AM
Look, I've talked a lot of crap about Stephanie Meyer. And I'll be the first person to direct readers elsewhere. But I agree with REK about story/writing being fused. If you can't write a sentence that lets the reader see your story then YOU HAVE NONE. Period. End of discussion. No point in even arguing. Get a fucking ghost writer or try harder or give up your narcissistic dream and move on to something you can do.

Meyer writes sentences that, whether they're disgusting to the rest of us or not, readily provide an image. Readers read her because they can see her story in their heads easily. I very much doubt she would have a fanbase if she misspelled words and was indirect with her imagery, or they had to think overly hard to get the gist. It's a simple story written in simple language. I've read it.

And I think we all hate on her so much, myself included, because we think, "That got published? She made that much? I could have written better than that my freshmen year of college!" But she did write it and it did work for some editor and agent and it did work for millions of people. All we can do is sit there in our corners and go, "But, but that's not fair!" Or we can move on and write our stories and learn from her what DID work and WHY it worked.

I think the very worst stories don't work because the author is unable to blur the line between the narrative and the images it conveys. And the stories might not be up my alley but I've never had an author I love do that, as if forgetting how to write.

As someone said (I don't remember who, possibly someone here) you may not like published authors, but they've all done something well.

Judg
11-10-2009, 03:51 AM
I think it is worth reading the mediocre bestsellers, just to get a sense of what they did right. And then figure out if you can incorporate that into your own work and how.

But I'll admit I often find it a chore. Ironically, I'm probably not any better a writer than they are...

scarletpeaches
11-10-2009, 03:52 AM
If it's all about their stories, just ask someone who's read the books to tell you what they're about.

seun
11-10-2009, 01:00 PM
Okay, I hereby swear to no longer defend a millionaire writer, because he only needs to point to his wallet to defend himself. :e2hammer:

Another point where we disagree. I don't see sales as the be all and end all of producing a well written book. McDonalds sell a lot of burgers. It doesn't make it gourmet food.

aruna
11-10-2009, 01:10 PM
I pray with all my heart not to.

I resent this implication it's either/or.

I want to sell well and be a good writer.

Me too.


He found some way to captivate readers enough to make himself rich, so in an undisputable sense that makes him a great writer--to his readers, if no one else. But at least he can claim that, which is a heck of an accomplishment. Dan Brown has every right to call himself a great writer. You might not like it, but that's the reality of it. That's the cold truth (though I don't find it cold myself, but rather, inspiring).



I protest your use of the word indisputable.
If making millions through writing were the only criteria for greatness, then you would be correct in your assessment.
But that is not the case.
By my definition: I don;t give a damn is a person makes a multimillion dollars through novel writing, I don;t care if billions of fans scream at his door or touch the earth he walks on. Greatness for me is always the inseparable combination of great writing AND great storytelling. BOTH.
It may surpise you to know that money really is not everything, or the only measure of success.
I am by far not the only person to think this way. How many agents say "it's the writing" and read just one sentence to know that, no matter how great the story is, the writing is so abyssmal they won't touch the ms with a barge pole.

Sorry, calling DB's work great is very much disputable. I for one dispute it!



I think it is worth reading the mediocre bestsellers, just to get a sense of what they did right. And then figure out if you can incorporate that into your own work and how.


I coudn't read past one page of Martina Cole's Hard Girls, and I certainly feel no urge to incorporate her tricks into my own work. That might sound arrrogant, I learn better from authors I admire. I'd like to see what they did right, not the writers whose writing I deplore. Life is too short, and there are too many truly great books out there I haven't yet read.

john barnes on toast
11-10-2009, 01:42 PM
It's indisputable that writers such as Dan Brown have a talent for writing for their audience, and deserve credit for such.

But at the same time, I'd say the overriding majority of readers are unsophisticated (in their reading). I have little interest in making such people a major consideration in my own writing, and consequently would never read the likes of Dan Brown in order to find out what they're doing 'right'.

I would read them if an opinion I respected told me I'd like them, but that hasn't happened.

As the poster above has said, I'd much rather read authors I do love and learn from them.

Salis
11-10-2009, 01:48 PM
It's indisputable that writers such as Dan Brown have a talent for writing for their audience, and deserve credit for such.

But at the same time, I'd say the overriding majority of readers are unsophisticated (in their reading). I have little interest in making such people a major consideration in my own writing, and consequently would never read the likes of Dan Brown in order to find out what they're doing 'right'.

I would read them if an opinion I respected told me I'd like them, but that hasn't happened.

As the poster above has said, I'd much rather read authors I do love and learn from them.

The critics say Michael Bay is talentless. The box office says Transformers 2 was a work of modern art. No different from this sort of thing.

Face it: we're all snobs.

kaitie
11-10-2009, 02:20 PM
I've long felt that what is popular holds a pretty big disconnect from what's good. There are obviously some exceptions. I think Harry Potter is one of the most fantastic things out there. Granted, that wasn't (initially, she improved as she went, as would be expected) for stellar writing.

I don't think it's quite so easy to see in terms of books because so many different types of books become popular. Maybe not Twilight popular, but bestsellers. In other genres it's a lot more apparent. Often the movies that are big (Transformers is a great example, and I LOVED it, even though I know technically it sucks lol) aren't very good. It's hugely obvious with Japanese manga, if you've read enough to follow trends.

I've always felt that what often appeals to the masses appeals because it has a particular formula. I even occasionally enjoy things that are formulaic. I think for most of us, though, we tend to have higher standards and value what is outside of the norm. We value originality and insight, perhaps more than the average Joe. That isn't to say there's anything wrong with a fun escapist book. That's what these are, I think. I love Dean Koontz, and he certainly has a formula, but that formula is part of what I enjoy. I know what to expect. We're probably also a lot pickier than the average reader when it comes to writing, though. I'm sure all of us have suffered from the edits while we're reading. Sometimes I just want to get out a pencil and correct the book in my hand. :tongue

Anyway, I keep playing devil's advocate here in my head while reading this. I'm not sure I really excuse it when an author goes from good to downhill, which is really what we're talking about. I mean, yes it's frustrating to see something we really dislike or consider poorly executed become incredibly popular, but when you're talking about someone who started out with some talent and then starts letting us down that's a little different.

I just keep wondering why. Is it deadlines? Are they pushed to get out a book so often that they aren't able to really edit and go through it the way they might have earlier on? Or is it just pure lack of pressure? They don't have to edit something ten times to find an agent, then edit it again and again to find a publisher. They could hand a publisher a first draft and probably be given the go ahead on name value alone. Or is it really that they just become so enamored by their own popularity that they believe they're just that good?

I'm not sure. I'm with Scarletpeaches on this one, though. I really hope that even if I was ever lucky enough to become a bestseller and make lots of money doing this that I would hold myself to the same standards and improve over time. I'd rather be Stephen King, who still puts out some really great stuff than someone who has readers...well, writing things like this in threads about them lol.