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gilesth
12-21-2009, 06:30 PM
I tackled this topic on my blog recently, but I want to have a discussion with people regarding the quality of writing that can be found in any given bookstore. I wrote specifically about YA Fiction, but I KNOW that this problem occurs in every genre across the board.

You can read the post here (http://gilesth.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-it-good-enough.html), but the long and the short of it is, is it acceptable to allow our own work to be filled with grammatical and stylistic faux pas?

Let me explain. I read a book once, from a REALLY popular series, that contained three conjugations of the verb "to be" and five, count them FIVE, "-ing" verbs in the first paragraph. That's right, the first PARAGRAPH! And the first three "sentences" were single words..."-ing" verbs, no less.

Should we, as writers (unofficial educators) ignore something like that in our own writing, or should we try to make our books better?

Aaaannnnndddd...discuss :)

Bubastes
12-21-2009, 06:34 PM
See the second quote in my sig line.

Mr Flibble
12-21-2009, 06:40 PM
Let me explain. I read a book once, from a REALLY popular series, that contained three conjugations of the verb "to be" and five, count them FIVE, "-ing" verbs in the first paragraph. That's right, the first PARAGRAPH! And the first three "sentences" were single words..."-ing" verbs, no less.

And?

Not all conjugations of the verb to be are passive. Passive is even sometimes the right thing to do. And there's no ban on using 'ing' either. They aren't hanging offences. Oh look. An 'ing'

If it works, it works.

ETA: and we're unofficial educators? Are we? WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME!? Ahem. I'm not. I write stories. I'm not here to teach but to entertain.

Wayne K
12-21-2009, 06:44 PM
I do it to score with chicks.

NeuroFizz
12-21-2009, 06:45 PM
1. Do not pay attention to what other authors "get away with."

2. Strive for excellence in your writing. Nothing less.

3. No matter what you achieve in your writing, always challenge yourself to work hard to get better.

4. Experiment with the craft, but always do so with two goals; doing something new and unique, and making yourself a better writer.

5. If your main goal is to find the minimal acceptable level of quality, you may want to consider a less creative endeavor. We don't need a bunch of C students.

dawinsor
12-21-2009, 06:53 PM
I think there's a bell curve of quality in pretty much everything. And once you become a writer, you're more aware of the flaws in the stuff you read. For me, it's important to read the best stuff I can find because weak writing tends to get into my head, rattle around, and come out on my page. But good stuff makes my creative juices flow.

gilesth
12-21-2009, 06:55 PM
And?

Not all conjugations of the verb to be are passive. Passive is even sometimes the right thing to do. And there's no ban on using 'ing' either. They aren't hanging offences. Oh look. An 'ing'



"ing" verbs and "to be" ARE acceptable, but in moderation. Even when they aren't passive, overuse leaves the narrative flat.

And yes, whether we like it or not, we do educate our readers in one way or another. They learn from our example, even if they only learn a little bit.

willietheshakes
12-21-2009, 07:03 PM
I do it to score with chicks.

Word.

willietheshakes
12-21-2009, 07:07 PM
"ing" verbs and "to be" ARE acceptable, but in moderation. Even when they aren't passive, overuse leaves the narrative flat.

Which may or may not be true (I'm not going to mess around with the premise), but you didn't answer the most important question: did it work?

If it worked -- if the narrative was engaging, if that first paragraph helped suck readers into the story -- then I don't give a frost-covered shit about what rules it broke.

The only rule, to my mind, is this: whatever you do, it has to work.


And yes, whether we like it or not, we do educate our readers in one way or another. They learn from our example, even if they only learn a little bit.

Fuck. That.

I'm a storyteller. I use fragments, passive voice, -ing verbs, the lot.

I'm not an exemplar -- ask anyone.

Bubastes
12-21-2009, 07:09 PM
The only rule, to my mind, is this: whatever you do, it has to work.


QFT.

NeuroFizz
12-21-2009, 07:32 PM
1. Do not pay attention to what other authors "get away with."

2. Strive for excellence in your writing. Nothing less.

3. No matter what you achieve in your writing, always challenge yourself to work hard to get better.

4. Experiment with the craft, but always do so with two goals; doing something new and unique, and making yourself a better writer.

5. If your main goal is to find the minimal acceptable level of quality, you may want to consider a less creative endeavor. We don't need a bunch of C students.


The only rule, to my mind, is this: whatever you do, it has to work.
So sorry to quote myself, but I wanted to mention that the statements in these two quotes are not, in any way, mutually exclusive (no one said they were, I just wanted to emphasize it). In fact they can be gestalt-ish.

Mr Flibble
12-21-2009, 08:01 PM
"ing" verbs and "to be" ARE acceptable, but in moderation. Even when they aren't passive, overuse leaves the narrative flat.

Ah, but who decides what number is acceptable before it becomes Teh Evul? The reader. If the reader is engaged and wants to read on, if the writer has conveyed what they wished to covey, the words have done their job. Flat narrative is subjective anyway - what I call flat you might adore and vice versa.


And yes, whether we like it or not, we do educate our readers in one way or another. They learn from our example, even if they only learn a little bit. That's their problem. I'm not teaching anyone. Or you could say everyone is teaching everyone else just by doing whatever they do...and I ain't buying that either.




If it worked -- if the narrative was engaging, if that first paragraph helped suck readers into the story -- then I don't give a frost-covered shit about what rules it broke.

The only rule, to my mind, is this: whatever you do, it has to work.

This.




Fuck. That.

I'm a storyteller. I use fragments, passive voice, -ing verbs, the lot.

I'm not an exemplar -- ask anyone.
That as well.

I do however, follow Neuro's little guidelines ( or rather, similar ones I set myself) Just good enough, isn't.

gilesth
12-21-2009, 08:19 PM
Which may or may not be true (I'm not going to mess around with the premise), but you didn't answer the most important question: did it work?

If it worked -- if the narrative was engaging, if that first paragraph helped suck readers into the story -- then I don't give a frost-covered shit about what rules it broke.

The only rule, to my mind, is this: whatever you do, it has to work.



Fuck. That.

I'm a storyteller. I use fragments, passive voice, -ing verbs, the lot.

I'm not an exemplar -- ask anyone.

It didn't work. It was aweful! (Which is why I didn't mention the book by name.)

As far as teaching our readers is concerned, it's a fact, like it or not. You don't have to let it influence your writing. You don't even have to think about it if you don't want to.

Oh, and on a side note: this is an exchange of opinions. Meant to be civil. Drop the profanity, please.

Mr Flibble
12-21-2009, 08:23 PM
He wasn't swearing at you, he was expressing just how much he disagreed with you stance. That is not uncivil.


It didn't work. It was aweful! For you. It obviously worked for at least one person ( acquiring editor) Did it sell well?

In the end quality is all subjective. Once past a certain point of quality, what doesn't work for you, someone else may LOVE!

Using a style you don't like isn't an error - it's a style you don't like. That is all.

As far as teaching our readers is concerned, it's a fact, like it or not. You don't have to let it influence your writing. You don't even have to think about it if you don't want to.
BTW, you just taught me to spell awful wrong :D Sorry, gonna have to call bollocks on that one. In other words, I do not agree that we are teaching ( unless we're writing non-fic maybe ) Even if we were, conjugating the to be verb isn't teaching anyone anything wrong as it's a perfectly valid conjugation.

BenPanced
12-21-2009, 08:28 PM
I tackled this topic on my blog recently, but I want to have a discussion with people regarding the quality of writing that can be found in any given bookstore. I wrote specifically about YA Fiction, but I KNOW that this problem occurs in every genre across the board.

You can read the post here (http://gilesth.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-it-good-enough.html), but the long and the short of it is, is it acceptable to allow our own work to be filled with grammatical and stylistic faux pas?

Let me explain. I read a book once, from a REALLY popular series, that contained three conjugations of the verb "to be" and five, count them FIVE, "-ing" verbs in the first paragraph. That's right, the first PARAGRAPH! And the first three "sentences" were single words..."-ing" verbs, no less.

Should we, as writers (unofficial educators) ignore something like that in our own writing, or should we try to make our books better?

Aaaannnnndddd...discuss :)
Write what works for your story in your voice. Don't bother trying to sound like me or Stephenie Meyer or Stephen King or whomever. You'll just sound like a cheap imitation of me or Stephenie Meyer or Stephen King or whomever. And unless an author is standing directly in front of you in a classroom setting or has specifically written a "how to" book, you're barking up the wrong tree for education. It's good to read other authors for examples on how they write, but you shouldn't read their fiction specifically to learn how to write.

And I don't care if I've repeated specific words or phrases or formatting. It's what I needed to do to get my point across. :tongue

willietheshakes
12-21-2009, 08:52 PM
It didn't work. It was aweful! (Which is why I didn't mention the book by name.)

So we should just take your word for the "fact" that it didn't work? You who has a vested interest -- ie, supporting your point -- in it NOT working?

Sorry. You're going to have to do better than that.




As far as teaching our readers is concerned, it's a fact, like it or not. You don't have to let it influence your writing. You don't even have to think about it if you don't want to.

No, it's not a fact. It's an opinion.



Oh, and on a side note: this is an exchange of opinions.

See? Even YOU say it's an opinion.


Meant to be civil. Drop the profanity, please.

I've said nothing uncivil.

And, technically, nothing profane.

gilesth
12-21-2009, 09:00 PM
:D I'm a bad speller sometimes. IdiotRUs, you make a great point, and I agree that, to an extent, it is bollocks, but how much of your writing has been influenced by what you read?

Kitty Pryde
12-21-2009, 09:03 PM
I tackled this topic on my blog recently, but I want to have a discussion with people regarding the quality of writing that can be found in any given bookstore. I wrote specifically about YA Fiction, but I KNOW that this problem occurs in every genre across the board.

You can read the post here (http://gilesth.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-it-good-enough.html), but the long and the short of it is, is it acceptable to allow our own work to be filled with grammatical and stylistic faux pas?

Let me explain. I read a book once, from a REALLY popular series, that contained three conjugations of the verb "to be" and five, count them FIVE, "-ing" verbs in the first paragraph. That's right, the first PARAGRAPH! And the first three "sentences" were single words..."-ing" verbs, no less.

Should we, as writers (unofficial educators) ignore something like that in our own writing, or should we try to make our books better?

Aaaannnnndddd...discuss :)

One word: voice. YA lit is very heavy on voice. The voices used being ones that are young adultish. If the voice is true to the character, and people (note: not you, but people) enjoy it, it's good writing. Also I'm sure you know that, as a grown up person, YA lit is not at all written to entice you to read it. You call it stylistic faux pas, but the author, the publisher, the bookseller, and the kid reading it call it a good book.

rosiecotton
12-21-2009, 09:08 PM
1. Do not pay attention to what other authors "get away with."

2. Strive for excellence in your writing. Nothing less.

.

Yep. Yep. Yep.

Sloppy writing's out there and sometimes makes a gazillion. Moral of tale? Stories that hit the right buttons take all.

Shadow_Ferret
12-21-2009, 09:10 PM
...but how much of your writing has been influenced by what you read?

I'm a writer exactly because of what I read, but what influenced me were the stories, the characters, not the grammar.

That I learned in school and then quickly forgot.

AnonymousWriter
12-21-2009, 09:15 PM
2. Strive for excellence in your writing. Nothing less.

3. No matter what you achieve in your writing, always challenge yourself to work hard to get better.


These. Your writing should be as good as you can make it. Anything less is cheating the reader.

Mr Flibble
12-21-2009, 09:16 PM
:D I'm a bad speller sometimes. IdiotRUs, you make a great point, and I agree that, to an extent, it is bollocks, but how much of your writing has been influenced by what you read?


Influenced, possibly. Taught? Novels didn't teach me grammar, or passive voice or any of that.( actually that was Katie :D)

And most readers aren't writers. All I might possibly teach them is whether or not they like what I write

gilesth
12-21-2009, 09:29 PM
For the sake of this discussion, we'll call profanity any word that the FCC would block on Prime Time. The "f" word for example. :)

Jamesaritchie
12-21-2009, 09:30 PM
I tackled this topic on my blog recently, but I want to have a discussion with people regarding the quality of writing that can be found in any given bookstore. I wrote specifically about YA Fiction, but I KNOW that this problem occurs in every genre across the board.

You can read the post here (http://gilesth.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-it-good-enough.html), but the long and the short of it is, is it acceptable to allow our own work to be filled with grammatical and stylistic faux pas?

Let me explain. I read a book once, from a REALLY popular series, that contained three conjugations of the verb "to be" and five, count them FIVE, "-ing" verbs in the first paragraph. That's right, the first PARAGRAPH! And the first three "sentences" were single words..."-ing" verbs, no less.

Should we, as writers (unofficial educators) ignore something like that in our own writing, or should we try to make our books better?

Aaaannnnndddd...discuss :)

So what? That doesn't make the writing bad or ungrammatical. Do you really judge fiction by the fact that it uses (Gasp!) cojugations of the verb "to be", or because it (Oh, Heavens!) has five "-ing" verbs in the first paragraph, or (How dare the writer!) actually uses one word sentences?

Much of the worst fiction I've read was bad solely because the writer worried so much about silly grammar rules that really aren't rules at all that they killed the very meaning of what good writing is supposed to be.

Failed writers are most often those who worry so much about the supposed "quality" of the writing that they fail to make the story and the characters worth reading about.

If the book is that popular, it obviously worked for a God-Almighty lot of readers. If the writing didn't work for you, I'd say it was because you're so obsessive about the writing itself that you can't see past the words to get to the story.

I think your post says a lot about you, and nothing at all about the quality of the book.

No, as writers we should not ignore writing like that. We should pray that we get good enough to use it in our own writing. Readers don't buy popular books because the writing is "good" or "bad", but because the writer is the master, not the "rules" of writing, and he or she found a way to write that made a story and characters come alive.

Teaching our readers? Ever heard the old saw about publisher's guidelines. "We're looking for quality writing, great stories, and wonderful characters. English teachers need not apply."

If you want to teach such rules, get a job as an English teacher. Those kids who want to be great writers will have to unlearn pretty much everything you teach, but at least they'll know what it is they need to forget.

The only think you'll teach your readers is not to buy your books.

Kathleen42
12-21-2009, 09:30 PM
I've said nothing uncivil.

And, technically, nothing profane.

You can swear at me if you'd like. I just took it as an attempt to bring sexy back to can lit.

Mr Flibble
12-21-2009, 09:35 PM
For the sake of this discussion, we'll call profanity any word that the FCC would block on Prime Time. The "f" word for example. :)

What's the FCC?

Anyway, this forum does not filter words, and people can and do swear. IF it's the right word to use. As with all our writing, if it's the right word to convey what you mean.....

Would make the erotica forum quite tricky if you couldn't say fuck. :D

Ruv Draba
12-21-2009, 09:40 PM
Gilesth, in your blog you made the point that YA fiction is full of mediocre writing. I wondered why you picked on YA though. If you want to avoid mediocre writing entirely, the only place you can do that is the Classics shelves, and that still doesn't guarantee that every sentence will scintillate.

How bad is good enough? To read, to write or to publish?

To read: Depends. Writers tend to read more bad fiction than most anyone (because they write it) -- except editors.

To write: Depends. How much do you want to tire agents, tax editors and irritate your brighter readers?

To publish: Depends. If you're willing to read it, someone's willing to publish it. Also even if you're not.


For the sake of this discussion, we'll call profanity any word that the FCC would block on Prime Time. The "f" word for example. What!? I can't say poo? Wee? Syphillitic urethra? And I must adhere to US cultural conventions because the US is More Important than Anywhere Else? Oh, fiddlesticks.

Kathleen42
12-21-2009, 09:42 PM
What's the FCC?


It's a US thing. They govern what content can be said on television and radio and such.

They were the ones chasing poor Christian Slater down in Pump Up the Volume, I believe.

jclarkdawe
12-21-2009, 10:33 PM
Originally Posted by IdiotsRUs http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/buttons/viewpost.gif (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=4395891#post4395891)
What's the FCC?

It's a US thing. They govern what content can be said on television and radio and such.


Not only is it a US thing, it's a thing that even before George Carlin many people in the US felt should be dumped into the fucking hopper. Bunch of piss-ants in DC telling us what's obscene and resulting in Janet Jackson's nipple getting more air time than any nipple deserves.

If you don't like the goddamn language on this forum, find one that pleases you. Although most of the time we act like grownups around here, sometimes we fucking just don't care, and realize that describing something as shit is the best and fastest way of doing it.

Having avoided a bunch of swears because it would serve no purpose, but realizing that I could have done it,

Jim Clark-Dawe

willietheshakes
12-21-2009, 10:43 PM
You can swear at me if you'd like. I just took it as an attempt to bring sexy back to can lit.

That's my mandate!

willietheshakes
12-21-2009, 10:44 PM
For the sake of this discussion, we'll call profanity any word that the FCC would block on Prime Time. The "f" word for example. :)

Oh, okay.

I'm taking notes now:
-- no excessive conjugations of "to be"
-- no -ing verbs
-- no naughty words

Any other rules you'd like to impose before you hit two dozen posts?

Phaeal
12-21-2009, 11:20 PM
To be or not to be?

To swear or not to swear?

To overstep or not to overstep?

Too many questions for me.

* looks around for the teacher, then shouts the ebil words:

AM, ARE, IS, ARE, ARE, ARE! *

*getting away with that, adds, still louder:

WAS, WERE, WAS, WERE, WERE, WERE!!*

*REALLY getting out of line:

WILL HAVE BEEN!!!*

*runs away fast*

willietheshakes
12-21-2009, 11:24 PM
To be or not to be?

To swear or not to swear?

To overstep or not to overstep?

Too many questions for me.

* looks around for the teacher, then shouts the ebil words:

AM, ARE, IS, ARE, ARE, ARE! *

*getting away with that, adds, still louder:

WAS, WERE, WAS, WERE, WERE, WERE!!*

*REALLY getting out of line:

WILL HAVE BEEN!!!*

*runs away fast*

You! Keep a civil tongue in your head!

Phaeal
12-21-2009, 11:51 PM
BE, BEEE, BEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

And you know who was a really dirty-minded poet? Wallace Stevens! I mean:

"Let be be finale of seem"???

There oughta be a law.

Hittman
12-21-2009, 11:52 PM
3. No matter what you achieve in your writing, always challenge yourself to work hard to get better.

Although, if you do get sloppy crap published, getting better is pretty easy.


What's the FCC?

The Fucking Candy Company.

At least, that's what we used to call them way back when I was doing radio.

As a writer you're trying to build and maintain a following based on your reputation. Do you want a reputation for sloppy writing?

I hate errors in my own stuff. Any kind of error, no matter how trival. The other day I found a minor grammar mistake in a seven year old page on my web site that is hardly ever visited. (I used "that" when I should have used "who.") I was more annoyed than I should have been and fixed it immediately.

gilesth
12-21-2009, 11:53 PM
For the profanity thing, this is a text forum, so vocal inflections are completely absent (obviously), so I'm hoping to avoid letting this degrade into insults. Since some people (not myself, of course) may misinterpret those words as vehemence and bull-headed stubbornness, and I don't want miss out on learning from their opinions just because they feel unwelcome. But I'm not going to tattle on any of you :)

I see that a lot of people take serious exception to some of the things I've said, as if I'm unwilling to shift my worldview or like I'm trying to get you all to agree with me. That's not what I'm trying to do here. I'm trying to learn and open up a discussion about something that I've been thinking about recently.

Jamesaritchie, it's not just that the first page didn't work for me, it didn't work with any of the dozen people I've discussed it with. And the book didn't sell well. I agree that there are MANY exceptions to any rule of grammar. This author just didn't do it well, and I didn't want to call them out on it because that's not my goal, here. As far as my blog is concerned, that was just my way of telling my readers that this is something I consider when I edit. I'm not obsessed or hung up on it, either. And, since I'm waaayyyy too new at this whole attempting to get published thing, the insinuation that I am a failed writer is far from an accurate assumption. And I'm not an English teacher. I think that, if we can get all of the essentials of a story into a book, i.e. engaging plot and characters, we should, if at all possible, try to make it something more...IF THAT'S WHAT WE WANT TO DO! Write the way you want to, don't keep any of these things in mind if you don't want to...I'm not an authority here, I'm only asking questions....and I like the responses I've gotten :)

Willie...my word choice was bad. I meant influence...teaching is too specific and narrow. You and IdiotsRUs were correct to question me :D

Fillanzea
12-21-2009, 11:54 PM
On the question of "good enough" --

No one is going to mistake fast-food french fries for haute cuisine. But they're full of fat and salt, and humans naturally crave fat and salt and sugar, and they are delicious. A lot of frozen or canned foods are very high in fat or salt or sugar because if you put a lot of fat and salt or sugar in something, it's going to taste good no matter what.

A novel that's high in emotional catharsis, drama and conflict, major emotional highs and lows, some aspect of wish fulfillment, and whatever tropes a particular reader enjoys (vampires, werewolves, philosophical dogs, serial killers) is like food that's high in fat and salt and sugar. It needs to be clearly and competently written, but it doesn't need to be particularly sophisticated in style, for the majority of readers. That said -- it is NOT an easy thing to write a book that pushes readers' emotional buttons. And style is absolutely a part of that, even if readers don't consciously notice it.

scarletpeaches
12-21-2009, 11:58 PM
1. Do not pay attention to what other authors "get away with."

2. Strive for excellence in your writing. Nothing less.

3. No matter what you achieve in your writing, always challenge yourself to work hard to get better.

4. Experiment with the craft, but always do so with two goals; doing something new and unique, and making yourself a better writer.

5. If your main goal is to find the minimal acceptable level of quality, you may want to consider a less creative endeavor. We don't need a bunch of C students.Everything this man said, times a million.

Never. Ever. Settle.

Shadow_Ferret
12-22-2009, 12:07 AM
Not only is it a US thing, it's a thing that even before George Carlin many people in the US felt should be dumped into the fucking hopper. Bunch of piss-ants in DC telling us what's obscene and resulting in Janet Jackson's nipple getting more air time than any nipple deserves.



Its there to pretty much protect children from having to listen to someone going off on a profane rant on over-the-air radio or television.

Wanna swear, go buy time on cable.

Mr Flibble
12-22-2009, 12:11 AM
For the profanity thing, this is a text forum, so vocal inflections are completely absent (obviously), so I'm hoping to avoid letting this degrade into insults.

Ah, well you see this forum is different. We are allowed to swear if it's the right word. Cos we are grown ups and stuff. Okay mostly. I'm still about three emotionally.

But we are not allowed to personally insult other posters. See? First rule of Fight Club: Respect your fellow writer.

It works pretty well, and if this had degraded to insults it'd be shut down pretty quick.

So we should all go go stick our head in a pig :D



As for the opening, so it didn't sell well. That might be down to any number of things, but yes it could be the writing. Maybe it was the story, or the characters were unlikeable or...Then again what you and I might call weak writing is lapped up by thousands. See the threads on Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer. You can diss their writing all you like - but they are doing something right, because they sell boatloads of books. Editors will buy books based on whether they think the readers will like them, sometimes for the writing, sometimes for teh story, and work with the writer to make it the best they can. Sometimes they are wrong about the saleability *shrug* it happens. Heck sometimes the writing is out of this world - and readers ( or too few readers) don't buy and / or like the book. Again, it happens.

The Lonely One
12-22-2009, 12:21 AM
Voice is such an important part of writing. You can make up a bazillion rules, and scoff me for my use of the word bazillion, for example, but if you have no voice to tell your story you don't have one, IMO.

New writers especially seem to place the focus on adapting to a set of 'rules' like watching out for -ing words or 'to be' verbs, etc.

But to me, the focus should be--at every step of the way--crafting one's own writing voice. A reader won't care if you have to be verbs if you have a strong voice. Part of a strong voice, then, I think, is having confidence in the way you 'speak.' Not getting bogged down in the writing so much that you're taken out of the equation completely and it's just a formula.

Aside from your worries about those word-rules, did you actually dislike the writing? Or was it clear regardless? Did you get a strong image from the paragraph? Clearly some editor did, or else you never would have encountered the book in a bookstore.

Clarity is important, and many of those rules are set up to help one achieve clarity. But I really do think writing needs a soul, not just a body. Manipulate the rules to help YOUR voice say what it needs to say the clearest way possible.

icerose
12-22-2009, 12:33 AM
Neuro pretty much summed up anything I could have said. Whatever form of writing you're doing, stop looking at the worst and aim for the best.

The sad and scary thing is the worst of the published on the shelf material is at least 90% better than everything else out there.

willietheshakes
12-22-2009, 01:43 AM
For the profanity thing, this is a text forum, so vocal inflections are completely absent (obviously), so I'm hoping to avoid letting this degrade into insults. Since some people (not myself, of course) may misinterpret those words as vehemence and bull-headed stubbornness, and I don't want miss out on learning from their opinions just because they feel unwelcome. But I'm not going to tattle on any of you :)

Oh no -- they ARE bullheaded stubbornness on my part. No mistaken impression there.


I see that a lot of people take serious exception to some of the things I've said, as if I'm unwilling to shift my worldview or like I'm trying to get you all to agree with me. That's not what I'm trying to do here. I'm trying to learn and open up a discussion about something that I've been thinking about recently.

Jamesaritchie, it's not just that the first page didn't work for me, it didn't work with any of the dozen people I've discussed it with. And the book didn't sell well. I agree that there are MANY exceptions to any rule of grammar. This author just didn't do it well, and I didn't want to call them out on it because that's not my goal, here. As far as my blog is concerned, that was just my way of telling my readers that this is something I consider when I edit. I'm not obsessed or hung up on it, either. And, since I'm waaayyyy too new at this whole attempting to get published thing, the insinuation that I am a failed writer is far from an accurate assumption. And I'm not an English teacher. I think that, if we can get all of the essentials of a story into a book, i.e. engaging plot and characters, we should, if at all possible, try to make it something more...IF THAT'S WHAT WE WANT TO DO! Write the way you want to, don't keep any of these things in mind if you don't want to...I'm not an authority here, I'm only asking questions....and I like the responses I've gotten :)

The thing is, you provided NO evidence, no examples, no cites -- you're expecting people to take what you say on faith...



Willie...my word choice was bad. I meant influence...teaching is too specific and narrow. You and IdiotsRUs were correct to question me :D

Fuckin' A. ;)

CaroGirl
12-22-2009, 02:25 AM
Fuckin' A. ;)
Strictly speaking, this is not profanity. It is, in fact, vulgarity.

:tongue

willietheshakes
12-22-2009, 02:32 AM
Strictly speaking, this is not profanity. It is, in fact, vulgarity.

:tongue

That's what I said earlier!

And it's not uncivil, either!

CaroGirl
12-22-2009, 02:36 AM
That's what I said earlier!

And it's not uncivil, either!
No, not particularly uncivil at all.

"You're a true vulgarian, aren't you?"
"You're the vulgarian, you Fuck!"

Come on, what's the film. You know it. Rep points... (no cheating)

gilesth
12-22-2009, 02:38 AM
Willie, I see that I should have cited my sources, but I didn't want to call out any writers. Those books and authors weren't the intended subject of this discussion. I wanted to focus more on how to improve WIP by learning from common mistakes.

Mr Flibble
12-22-2009, 02:42 AM
No, not particularly uncivil at all.

"You're a true vulgarian, aren't you?"
"You're the vulgarian, you Fuck!"

Fish Called Wanda - I win the internets!


ETA: when I call upon Odin's crusty left nutsack am I being profane or vulgar or neither?


Willie, I see that I should have cited my sources, but I didn't want to call out any writers. Those books and authors weren't the intended subject of this discussion. I wanted to focus more on how to improve WIP by learning from common mistakes.

Well an example of the sort of writing ( paraphrasing or something) would have helped maybe if you didn't want to name names. Just saying 'it was awful' is no real test in anything but your taste really, especially as it seems it was just stylistic, and as Lonely One says, when you got voice, you're better off going with that. Voice is good. Technically perfect with no heart / voice is...less so. Though of course that's subjective too :D Isn't this fun?

willietheshakes
12-22-2009, 02:44 AM
No, not particularly uncivil at all.

"You're a true vulgarian, aren't you?"
"You're the vulgarian, you Fuck!"

Come on, what's the film. You know it. Rep points... (no cheating)

One of the best comedies of all time, that.

"It's K-K-K-Ken, coming to k-k-k-kill me!"

willietheshakes
12-22-2009, 02:46 AM
Willie, I see that I should have cited my sources, but I didn't want to call out any writers. Those books and authors weren't the intended subject of this discussion. I wanted to focus more on how to improve WIP by learning from common mistakes.

Yes, but you haven't actually shown any common mistakes.

And when it comes to textual issues, and subjective responses thereto, opinions are like assholes...

Mr. Anonymous
12-22-2009, 03:22 AM
I agree with the TC about writers teaching readers. What is every author's first piece of advice to those who want to be writers? Read. And there's a reason for that.

Mr Flibble
12-22-2009, 03:31 AM
Writers might inform other writers. Of course we look to others who do what we do, see how they did it and wonder how we could use that to improve. Same as any other profession really. If I design computer games, I look at how others have done. But that's not the purpose of the game. That's only what I take from it.

That's different from assuming readers will be educated by what we write or the stylistic choices we use ( other than whether they like our writing lol), which as it wasn't explicitly stated, I assumed the OP meant ( he may have done, I don;t know). Gods only know what someone would learn from mine. Turnips are dangerous in the wrong hands?

Hittman
12-22-2009, 08:49 AM
Its there to pretty much protect children from having to listen to someone going off on a profane rant on over-the-air radio or television.

Are there any tyrannies that haven't invoked "protect the children?" It is the war cry of every nanny (bully) movement, and immediately sets off my bullshit meter.


Whatever form of writing you're doing, stop looking at the worst and aim for the best.

Sometimes looking at the worst can be more instructive, though. When I started designing web sites I examined a lot of bad ones to learn what to avoid. When drafting a business plan I noted all the things a similar business did wrong and carefully avoided them.

But I just can't read bad writing. It's too painful to do, except briefly, for a laugh, and the masters do things so perfectly and seamlessly it's hard to see exactly what they're doing.

kuwisdelu
12-22-2009, 09:33 AM
Would make the erotica forum quite tricky if you couldn't say fuck. :D

It sure as fuck would...

Do what works.

If you think it's good enough, make it better.

Terie
12-22-2009, 12:05 PM
gilesth, if you're not willing to name the author and title (understandable), and apparently not willing to simply quote or paraphrase the first, offending paragraph (less understandable), how about this: who's the publisher?

Samantha's_Song
12-22-2009, 01:44 PM
Don't you just love it when someone tries to teach grannies how to suck eggs.

No one is going to deliberately let their work go, knowing it's littered with grammatical errors and such. - People don't generally like to make themselves look like fools.

If the author's agent, editor, and publisher didn't pick the errors out, then they're as bad as the people they represent, no?

Terie
12-22-2009, 03:05 PM
If the author's agent, editor, and publisher didn't pick the errors out, then they're as bad as the people they represent, no?

But...but...but...what if they're not errors? As folks have been trying to say, someone else's style that doesn't jingle my bell isn't necessarily wrong. We haven't seen the work in question, nor do we know anything about it except what one person and a group of their friends think. That's hardly conclusive.

It might well be as bad as the OP says. It might not. It might be self-published. We don't know. All we have is the OP's opinion that the writing sux. Absent any evidence, there's no real proof of anything.

Maxinquaye
12-22-2009, 04:06 PM
5. If your main goal is to find the minimal acceptable level of quality, you may want to consider a less creative endeavor. We don't need a bunch of C students.

Yes we do.

It will thin the competition at the agents quite a bit.

;)

gothicangel
12-22-2009, 04:49 PM
Don't you just love it when someone tries to teach grannies how to suck eggs.

Don't you just love it when the unpublished try telling the published and publishing professionals how the industry should work?

icerose
12-22-2009, 06:16 PM
Sometimes looking at the worst can be more instructive, though. When I started designing web sites I examined a lot of bad ones to learn what to avoid. When drafting a business plan I noted all the things a similar business did wrong and carefully avoided them.

But I just can't read bad writing. It's too painful to do, except briefly, for a laugh, and the masters do things so perfectly and seamlessly it's hard to see exactly what they're doing.

My statement was for what you should be aiming for, it had nothing to do with learning from.

I hear this so much in the script writing field. They'll look at the worst possible example of a movie and declare "If this crappy movie got made, so can mine!" Umm no. They use it as an excuse to not have to improve their writing.

Samantha's_Song
12-22-2009, 08:07 PM
I actually agree with you. It's got to be the style the writer wanted, or else someone would have picked it up along the way, surely.

But...but...but...what if they're not errors? As folks have been trying to say, someone else's style that doesn't jingle my bell isn't necessarily wrong. We haven't seen the work in question, nor do we know anything about it except what one person and a group of their friends think. That's hardly conclusive.

It might well be as bad as the OP says. It might not. It might be self-published. We don't know. All we have is the OP's opinion that the writing sux. Absent any evidence, there's no real proof of anything.

Samantha's_Song
12-22-2009, 08:11 PM
Er, my old grannies and eggs saying was actually getting at that exact point. Shrugs. I see a lot of unpublished writers on the net telling others how they should do their writing. I used to be a beta reader, so that goes for me too. :D

Don't you just love it when the unpublished try telling the published and publishing professionals how the industry should work?

Cyia
12-22-2009, 08:37 PM
"Good enough" is fine for a 2nd draft. But that's only if YOU think it's "good enough". Your "good enough" may be someone else's garbage (otherwise known as 1st draft) or gold.

I have to 2nd and 3rd what's been said about Voice. Voice trumps rules.

If you're writing in the voice of a 22 year-old grad student at an Ivy League school, then your voice may be proper and grammatically correct. If you're in the voice of a 12 year-old brat, it won't be. Likewise, a southern (for the US) voice will sound different from one at the Canadian border. And if you're writing in the voice of a very young (in age or mental state) character, there can be many broken sentences because that's the way kids speak. Someone writing as a man or woman for whom English is a 2nd language might choose to use a similar but "wrong" word now and then to reinforce the difference in speech.

(And OP, you can mention the name of the book you didn't like here. People do it all the time.)

gilesth
12-22-2009, 09:29 PM
Terie, the two books I'm thinking of came from different publishers. One is a Star Wars novel, the other is a Scholastic publication. IMO, that shouldn't stop authors from trying to do better. Now, I know the Scholastic author a little bit, and he actually agrees that the quality of his books SHOULD be better...which is why he isn't working with his writing partner anymore. When I get some free time, I'll get a direct quote for you, also:) (stupid day job)

Terie
12-22-2009, 09:41 PM
Terie, the two books I'm thinking of came from different publishers. One is a Star Wars novel, the other is a Scholastic publication. IMO, that shouldn't stop authors from trying to do better.

No, I agree; we should all always be striving to do better. :D

The point of asking about the publisher was this: if the book had been self-published, this would've been a moot point, being as how there would've been no meaningful vetting of the MS.

gothicangel
12-22-2009, 09:45 PM
Er, my old grannies and eggs saying was actually getting at that exact point. Shrugs. I see a lot of unpublished writers on the net telling others how they should do their writing. I used to be a beta reader, so that goes for me too. :D

You know I realised that AFTER I posted.

Maybe I should cut back on the mulled wine and mince pies?

Hittman
12-22-2009, 09:53 PM
I hear this so much in the script writing field. They'll look at the worst possible example of a movie and declare "If this crappy movie got made, so can mine!" Umm no. They use it as an excuse to not have to improve their writing.

Agreed, but there is a way to use the crap for inspiration.

When I was writing Blood Witness, I had a book on the other side of the room, on the book case, with the cover facing out. This guy had published a dozen action novels, and this one really sucked. Every clue came from a dying bad guy. "The dying man gasped, 'it's too late to stop us. The hot dog cart will explode in Times Square on Tuesday during the lunch hour,'"

Whenever I was plagued with the thought "I really suck" I'd look across the room and say "but I can write significantly better than that, and he's been published a dozen times."

Samantha's_Song
12-22-2009, 10:46 PM
Ah, it's nearly Christmas, let your hair down and have a ball...

You know I realised that AFTER I posted.

Maybe I should cut back on the mulled wine and mince pies?

Kalyke
12-26-2009, 05:17 AM
There are perscriptavists grammarians, and there are vernacularists. I am a vernacularist. The difference is that perscriptavists think that there are ultimate rules, & are rather Manachean, the vernacularist feels that the language continues the grow and change by the minute. I would be with the set who believes a few to-bes, and a few gerunds are not a horrible stain to the writer. What did the writer SAY?

blacbird
12-26-2009, 01:32 PM
I read a book once, from a REALLY popular series, that contained three conjugations of the verb "to be" . . . in the first paragraph.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the use of "to be" verb conjugations. A minor bit of searching will find numerous threads devoted to this particular topic. The manner of such usage is what matters, and without a specific example, is impossible to judge. I'd bet I could grab any number of fine novels that contain three uses of "to be" verbs in the first paragraph.

In fact, I just grabbed a novel by Holly Lisle, a pretty fair writer of fantasy fiction, that contains four uses of "to be" verbs in the first paragraph.

Can somebody here please drive a stake through the heart of that idea that "to be" verbs are evil and "to be" avoided at all costs?

caw