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KarmaHead
02-01-2013, 08:17 PM
To me, the phrase 'bad writing' when appointed to a novel or something of fiction could mean a variety of things.

What do you specifically mean when you complain about bad writing? Or is it a variant of things? For example, I was with a friend a few weeks ago who told me about some novel (which I can't seem to remember the name of), and she told me it was full 'bad writing' and was difficult to finish. I asked her why, and she said it read like a teen novel, despite being aimed at older audiences. I assume she was speaking of the overall grammar or style, etc.

When I refer to bad writing, I usually mean the story as an overall, or the structure of a novel. If I read something poorly written, I'd usually look past that and dissect the story, and then make my mind up as to what didn't work.

I think more importantly, would you finish a book if it was poorly written in any respect?

Kerosene
02-01-2013, 08:24 PM
I don't even turn the first page if the book isn't written well. The writing carries the story, if the writing is not up to my standard I'm not going to read it.

Stacia Kane
02-01-2013, 08:28 PM
I don't even turn the first page if the book isn't written well. The writing carries the story, if the writing is not up to my standard I'm not going to read it.


Yep, this. Bad writing doesn't capture or hold my interest. It annoys me and makes it very difficult for me to follow whatever story there might be.

SelmaW
02-01-2013, 08:33 PM
If writing calls attention to itself by telling a story in the least effective way, it's bad. The story should feel effortlessly carried along by the writing. I shouldn't be wondering why the author chose to phrase things the way they did.

Jamesaritchie
02-01-2013, 08:36 PM
To me, in the context of a published novel, bad writing is simply writing that gets in the way of story and character. I don't think very much bad writing gets published, and this includes the writing in Twilight.

What does get published is poor story and poor, unempathetic characters. I think too many writers, new and used, often concentrate too much on the writing, and far too little on story and character. I love great use of language, good rhythm and flow, but it's the unexpected sentence that gets to me, the truth I hadn't seen before, the sudden left turn that takes me to a new place.

Ray Bradbury did just this, and did so with plain, simple, everyday prose. Anyway, once writing is at a publishable level, I think the writing itself is most often just a matter of personal taste, and we win or lose by story, by character, and by what we have to say, the truth we tell, etc.

Merrit
02-01-2013, 08:41 PM
Some books I have looked past grammar issues to finish the book, especially if it is one that I am supposed to review. I have however closed a book and refused to review it if is badly written, that goes past simple grammar and typo errors.

If a book is able to pull me in despite errors, I think for me, it is easier to look past the errors and read the story.

Bad writing to me is something that goes past mere grammar issues. For example I tried to read a book recently that I was supposed to review. I was asked to review it simply because it was a difficult read. I read 4 chapters and still had absolutely no idea what I was reading. I couldn't understand the plot, I had no idea who the main character was or even what genre it was supposed to be written in. The author explained that he was trying to show his intellectual side, but after reading nearly half the book his bad writing convinced me he was trying to be smarter than he actually was.

Amadan
02-01-2013, 09:02 PM
I am reading Mr. Churchill's Secretary now. It is bad. I haven't quit because I'm a stubborn finish-what-I-start reader, unless it's so horrible I can't go on, and the story actually isn't bad. But the writing is bad in the following ways:

1. Anachronistic behavior and dialog. Characters who behave like feisty 21st century feminists even though it is England in War War II.
2. Bad guys who have meetings for no other reason than to spell out their evil plans for the reader. Complete with "As you know, Murphy, the IRA does not like England" speeches. (Goes with the "Did you know the Nazis were very bad people and were mean to Jews?" monologues.)
3. Constant arbitrary insertion of historical events and people to remind us "Oh hey, this is England and it is World War II." Oh hey, the book is called Mr. Churchill's Secretary, I think we got the "England" and "World War II" part.
4. Telling not showing. I kind of hate this generic advice, it's used too frequently, but this book is full of the omniscient 3rd person narrator telling us what everyone is feeling and why they feel it and then telling us that by the way this is England and it is World War II. Along with narrating of backstory. Maggie meets Charlotte for breakfast and by the way here is Charlotte's life story.

Basically, everything is spelled out for a reader who is assumed to be historically ignorant, exceedingly dense, and completely incapable of parsing nuance or subtext.

That's bad writing. Even though on a technical level it's competent enough, and the prose and story is certainly seviceable. This bugs me as much as (if not more than) finding grammatical and punctuation errors. Writers should spend as much time focusing on good style and narration as they do angsting over serial commas.

dangerousbill
02-01-2013, 09:41 PM
To me, the phrase 'bad writing' when appointed to a novel or something of fiction could mean a variety of things.


Bad writing: when the words on the page distract from the story being told.

This happens:

(a) When spelling and grammar mistakes are too distracting.

(b) When the writing is convoluted or florid, and the author is saying, 'Never mind the story. Look at me, what a clever writer I am'.

(c) When there are too many common structural issues, like shifting or uncertain pov, inconsistent characters, inconsistent plot, etc.

kaitie
02-01-2013, 10:29 PM
I can only think of one big name writer who actually has a lot of spelling and grammar errors, so usually for me bad writing falls into one of two categories.

Usually if I say a book has bad writing, I mean that it's clunky. There's no rhythm to it, for instance. Repetitive words or phrases drive me completely insane. Unrealistic dialogue is a really common element I see. Head hopping. Pacing issues (too flowery, for instance, to the point of being boring, ruining suspense). Overwriting or underwriting.

Most books have some flaw somewhere. It might be writing that just doesn't sound good. A proliferation of "I....I....I..." sentences in first-person is something I've seen a few times. Using the same sentence structure repeatedly without variation is another common issue that can weaken writing. Lack of a good voice.

The thing is, even if an author has a problem with head hopping, or uses one type of sentence a lot, it won't bother me unless an author has several of the issues. I don't mind the occasional weak dialogue as long as that's the only real problem. Some authors have a lot of head hopping, but if that's the only problem, I won't call that bad writing. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and it only becomes a problem for me when the weaknesses are multiple and detract from my enjoyment.

I'll keep reading a book that's badly written and potentially even enjoy it as long as it's got a great story or great characters to back it up.

What I'm much less forgiving of as a reader is story flaws. Plot holes, moments that break suspension of disbelief, characters doing things that are good for the plot but make absolutely no sense for the character, that sort of thing. I'd rather read weaker writing with a great story than a weak story with good writing. I'm there for the story after all.

kkbe
02-01-2013, 10:32 PM
I keep thinking about "Timeline," Michael Crichton. I like Michael Crichton and the story wasn't bad but God, the infodump. By the third dump I'm thinking, REALLY? You think I don't know what you're doing, Crichton?

Wooden dialogue is a deal-breaker. Or stories that you can tell right off are too ridiculous to be palatable. I used to read a book through, even if it was crap because--

I don't know. Felt un-American or something if I didn't. Not any more. If it sucks, I'm done.

Dorky
02-01-2013, 10:34 PM
IMO bad writing includes bad grammar, and it goes beyond that as well.

& No. I would not finish it unless, somehow, the story was amazing enough to drag me through the rest of the story. That hasn’t happened yet.

I tried to read a book the other day, but I had to stop reading because of the bad writing. When I got it, I thought to myself, “This has about 1100 reviews and ~4.5 stars. I guess I’ll give it a try!” Yeah. No. That book was not 4-star worthy. I knew from the first page that it was bad. However, I pushed myself on to see why everyone liked it. I only got to page 15 before I gave up completely.

Since it’s still fresh on my mind, I can tell you exactly why I thought it was bad writing:
Poor pacing. Far too often, the FMC (who is narrating) will pause a conversation to explain some new thing that got mentioned. These asides are usually a paragraph each. Then the conversation suddenly resumes. This happens constantly throughout the 15 pages.
Obvious use of a “big word” that seemed to have been pulled from a dictionary (vacillate). I’m not saying people don’t use the word vacillate. It’s just that I couldn’t see the FMC using the word.
A Jekyll and Hyde-ish problem with the FMC’s voice. This is a good example of two completely different voices one right after another: “... I watched a blob of yellow land in her bowl. / It was moving. Gross. / It continued to vacillate as it interacted with the mixture...”
Grammar. Commas, em-dashes, tenses. The usual.
Bad transitions between actions and no explanation where it’s actually needed.
For example: (sneaking into a room) “My foot hit something and made a thunk sound. I dropped to my knees and clenched my hand into a fist.”
Three or four sentences later, I finally get to find out why she suddenly decided kneel down and make a fist: she was making fire.
Overuse of similes. So many of them. Everything is like-a-something. Let’s take a look at some of the ones I saw in the first fifteen pages!
Something was like: a thousand fireflies, a herd of buffalo, a water balloon with a leak, an alien, duck feet, a stealthy cat, having a seizure, an angry wolf, a spent cobra, a fat man on a bicycle, crack, Whitney Houston, red lace doily, biting into a carrot, uncooked tuna, etc.
(I actually liked the fat man on a bicycle one :))


As you can see, there are lot of things that can contribute to an overall “bad writing” experience for a reader.

archerjoe
02-01-2013, 10:42 PM
In addition to all of the above, one that bugs me is: "Oh crap, I just discovered a plot hole! I'll put a heavy-handed fix for it right here, right now rather than go back and take care of the issue in a more believable place."

That and deux ex machina endings.

Shadow_Ferret
02-01-2013, 10:48 PM
To me, the phrase 'bad writing' when appointed to a novel or something of fiction could mean a variety of things.

...

I think more importantly, would you finish a book if it was poorly written in any respect?
Yes. A variety of things. But overall, it means anything that kicks me out of the story and makes me notice the mechanics. A good story is like a sleek sports car. All I should see is the beauty of the car's sheet metal and paint and experience a breathtaking ride. But if its rusting, or has dents, or the upholstery is torn, and the engine sputters, then I don't want to drive it any more.

That was convoluted, wasn't it? Anyway, a lot of things the writer has done can kick me out and to me, that's if not bad writing, at least annoying. (Which of course, is different from being kicked out because of my ADHD. I used to blame the writer, or the book, for that, but I recently learned it was me, not them.)


And no, I never try to finish anything that constantly kicks me out. That's too much work for too little payoff.

electroweakstar
02-01-2013, 10:48 PM
I find myself using the term "that's bad writing" more when referring to movies or television shows. It almost always refers to the writer(s) taking a shortcut to achieve something that knocks me out of the story or makes me go "that character seriously wouldn't do that". x10 if it's obvious fan pandering (HATE). I have quit shows many times due to writing holes.

I can only think of one book I've read in the last year that fit this and it was by a BIG name paranormal author (the following book was much, much better). Said book was also riddled with typos and grammatical errors, so I might have said "lazy editing" or called it "rushed" rather than bad.

I use "poorly written" to describe bad or cliche grammar, purple prose, and writing styles that are trying way too hard. Kind of mincing words, but there you are.

I try to be more specific when it's a book that I just don't enjoy because of choices the author made. For example, I recently read a romance/adventure novel that is fairly acclaimed and I could not finish it because the male lead followed the female lead around with his eyes on her rear The. Entire. Book. Some readers might find that hot or entertaining, but I found his tent-making skills incredibly distracting and finally threw the book down despite enjoying the overall story and worldbuilding. I can't call that "bad writing", but "the author made choices I don't enjoy" might be used.

I have a really tough time putting any book down, though. Weird that it's so different from TV in that respect.

All that said... I'm super specific about stuff, but I like the simplicity of "dangerousbill" view.

leahzero
02-01-2013, 10:54 PM
If writing calls attention to itself by telling a story in the least effective way, it's bad. The story should feel effortlessly carried along by the writing. I shouldn't be wondering why the author chose to phrase things the way they did.

No. This is subjective.

Sometimes I read a book EXPRESSLY FOR the prose. Because it's luscious, decadent, and calls all sorts of attention to itself, in a wonderful way.

"Bad writing" is subjective. We can point to objective grammatical and mechanical errors*, but aside from that, it's all opinion.


* Though even these can be deliberately and artfully done. See: the poet e.e. cummings; the novelist Cormac McCarthy; et al.

Kittens Starburst
02-01-2013, 11:00 PM
I read a cop story the other week, which I'd class as bad writing. It was filled with silly speech tags, including a 'mused' every two or three pages - and there actually wasn't much by way of musing going on. The writer was also obsessed with recreating the 80s, but the only way he did it was constant, heavy-handed musical references. This was fun at first but just got silly and bizarre. And then there was all the 'As you know, there's been a miners' strike going on for the last eight months and we've been drafted up from London to help the local bobbies' kind of dialogue. Then the author ended the story leaving most of the questions unanswered. Nothing on the cover indicated there would be a sequel!

Now this might get me pelted with large red mushy tomatoes, rotten yellow turnips, wilted leafy cabbages and uncooked dirty potatoes, while my standard-sized head with its grey-blue eyes and alabaster skin is poking out the round hole in the wooden, splintered stocks, but I'm also not a fan of the George RR Martin way of hitting the reader with a whole load of ikea catalogue description. Give us description if you like but work it into the action fer gawd's sake.

Riley
02-01-2013, 11:13 PM
For me, bad writing means a lot of things. Probably thousands of things, even. Good thing it's like pornography: you know it when you see it.

quicklime
02-01-2013, 11:21 PM
as mentioned, there is lots of components to good writing, and "bad writing" is a case where any one, or more, is glaringly obvious. It could be grammar, pacing, exposition, purple prose, etc. etc. etc.

quicklime
02-01-2013, 11:22 PM
Good thing it's like pornography: you know it when you see it.


Bad writing is like pornography. After the first 45 minutes or so, I take my hand out of my pants and walk away, disgusted.

DeleyanLee
02-01-2013, 11:30 PM
"Bad writing" is anything put on the page that doesn't get the story the author is trying to tell into my (the Reader's) head, plain and simple.

Once the story is in my head and I'm invested in it, I don't care about all kinds of "writing mistakes". I honestly don't notice them at all and can remember the story fondly despite all the "errors".

I have not seen much "bad writing" in published books, mind you. I've seen writing styles that I don't enjoy (Tolkien leaps to mind immediately), and I've seen typos, etc, that happen no matter what in fiction, but I rarely see published writing that I can't glean what the story is. Whether or not I like the story is a completely different question.

flapperphilosopher
02-01-2013, 11:32 PM
I agree with pretty much all the above. I have an especially low tolerance for wordiness, purple prose, head-hopping, and bad dialogue (which is a whole issue onto itself!).

Also lazy description. By this I mean especially description that bears no actual relation to what would be seen/happen. I once read the line ""I dropped the jam jar into the sink where it smashed to smithereens." (I forget the name of the book or author, though I wouldn't mention them anyway). This drives me crazy. First of all, "smashed to smithereens" is not only a cliche, it's a cliche no one uses (which seems like a contradiction, doesn't it?). But more than that-- Jam jars do not smash into smithereens. They are thick glass. The narrator was cleaning it so right over the sink. A jam jar probably won't even break if dropped that far, and if so it will not be obliterated, which "smithereens" indicates. The author fell back on an inappropriate cliche rather than observation--THAT is bad writing.

Shadow_Ferret
02-01-2013, 11:41 PM
"Bad writing" is subjective. We can point to objective grammatical and mechanical errors*, but aside from that, it's all opinion.


* Though even these can be deliberately and artfully done. See: the poet e.e. cummings; the novelist Cormac McCarthy; et al.
So you don't believe we can quantify "bad writing?" Because I do agree that it is all opinion, but there's are differences between the quality of the opinions. You can probably find some who are of the opinion that say Hemingway is a bad writer. But their opinions are in the minority. The majority of opinion is that he was a good writer. That's how judgements are made between things being good and bad. Is it subjective? Sure. What isn't subjective outside of math?

When we analyze fiction there are agreed upon rules, standards, and conventions that we look for to determine if a piece works or fails. Now some works might "artfully" break these rules, but that's an accepted convention, too. It's pretty easy to tell the difference between a skilled writer playing with the language and an unskilled writer blindly stumbling along.


So literary criticism may be "subjective" but it's a judgement made from special knowledge. We can dismiss one or two claims of "bad writing" as "just opinion" but when it becomes the opinion of a majority, then its the accepted prevailing viewpoint.

Chasing the Horizon
02-02-2013, 12:03 AM
I have not seen much "bad writing" in published books, mind you. I've seen writing styles that I don't enjoy (Tolkien leaps to mind immediately), and I've seen typos, etc, that happen no matter what in fiction, but I rarely see published writing that I can't glean what the story is. Whether or not I like the story is a completely different question.
This, right down to not enjoying Tolkien in the least.

Occasionally I'll run across an objectively bad piece of writing in a book, almost always related to unbelievable plot development. But mostly I put down books for not being paced the way I like or not having characters I can connect with. This isn't objectively bad writing. It's stories that don't suit my taste.

Of course there is such a thing as terrible writing. Stories full of bad grammar and prose that make no sense whatsoever. I'm sure there are a few examples of this in SYW right now. But I only buy work from specific publishers I trust and they would never put out books like that.

SelmaW
02-02-2013, 12:08 AM
No. This is subjective.

Sometimes I read a book EXPRESSLY FOR the prose. Because it's luscious, decadent, and calls all sorts of attention to itself, in a wonderful way.

"Bad writing" is subjective. We can point to objective grammatical and mechanical errors*, but aside from that, it's all opinion.


* Though even these can be deliberately and artfully done. See: the poet e.e. cummings; the novelist Cormac McCarthy; et al.

Oh, sure, but that's only okay if that's the intent of the novel. If you read something literary that puts lyrical prose on display, then that's part of the experience. If you read a chapter book full of extended metaphors and ten-cent words, it's less good.

I think Shadow_Ferret pretty much hit the nail on the head re: subjectivity.

AshleyEpidemic
02-02-2013, 12:09 AM
I keep thinking about "Timeline," Michael Crichton. I like Michael Crichton and the story wasn't bad but God, the infodump. By the third dump I'm thinking, REALLY? You think I don't know what you're doing, Crichton?



I actually remembering loving the infodumps in that story, more than the plot. Then again, I like long winded explanations, as long as they don't repeat themselves. I think this is because I don't like ambiguity. I am a walking oxymoron, fyi.


I find myself using the term "that's bad writing" more when referring to movies or television shows. It almost always refers to the writer(s) taking a shortcut to achieve something that knocks me out of the story or makes me go "that character seriously wouldn't do that". x10 if it's obvious fan pandering (HATE). I have quit shows many times due to writing holes.


I tend to relate bad writing to films and tv, as well. But that is because it is the medium that consumes the majority of my life. But ultimately writing for film or tv is the same as writing a book in the sense that you are telling a story. A bad story in any medium makes me angry, I include video games with this. Nothing is worse than investing 20 hours to a video game for it to crap in your face with an awful ending. Or drag you through the mud, through a lackluster story because of a good ending. The whole piece needs to work.


Bad writing is like pornography. After the first 45 minutes or so, I take my hand out of my pants and walk away, disgusted.

:roll::Clap:

Al Stevens
02-02-2013, 12:16 AM
Poorly (vaguely) -defined characters
Unnamed characters who appear often enough that the narrator should know their names
Too many characters whose names and roles I am supposed to remember for later
Multiple characters who are indistinguishable from one another
Too many unnecessary bit players

Mr Flibble
02-02-2013, 12:21 AM
First of all, "smashed to smithereens" is not only a cliche, it's a cliche no one uses (which seems like a contradiction, doesn't it?).

I hear it quite a lot for a word/phrase no one uses....but I wouldn't say it's cliché. So, yeah, it's subjective. :D But anything that pulls me out of the story, be it clunky prose or bad plotting. Though ofc what I call clunky or bad, someone else may love.

Kittens Starburst
02-02-2013, 12:26 AM
N"Bad writing" is subjective. We can point to objective grammatical and mechanical errors*, but aside from that, it's all opinion.

There are bad critics just as there are technically bad writers, ones who can't distinguish their personal tastes from talent that simply isn't to their liking. There's nothing worse than something getting a bad review based on someone's arbitrary likes and dislikes. I will never forget an idiot giving Motorcycle Diaries a one-star review on Amazon for being subtitled (in, ahem, Portuguese :ROFL:), despite it being an international film, and also for there not being enough focus on motorbikes. FFS, it's like saying bananas are rubbish because you can't dig holes with them. Buffoon.

ChristinaLayton
02-02-2013, 12:40 AM
IMO bad writing includes bad grammar, and it goes beyond that as well.

& No. I would not finish it unless, somehow, the story was amazing enough to drag me through the rest of the story. That hasn’t happened yet.

I tried to read a book the other day, but I had to stop reading because of the bad writing. When I got it, I thought to myself, “This has about 1100 reviews and ~4.5 stars. I guess I’ll give it a try!” Yeah. No. That book was not 4-star worthy. I knew from the first page that it was bad. However, I pushed myself on to see why everyone liked it. I only got to page 15 before I gave up completely.

Since it’s still fresh on my mind, I can tell you exactly why I thought it was bad writing:
Poor pacing. Far too often, the FMC (who is narrating) will pause a conversation to explain some new thing that got mentioned. These asides are usually a paragraph each. Then the conversation suddenly resumes. This happens constantly throughout the 15 pages.
Obvious use of a “big word” that seemed to have been pulled from a dictionary (vacillate). I’m not saying people don’t use the word vacillate. It’s just that I couldn’t see the FMC using the word.
A Jekyll and Hyde-ish problem with the FMC’s voice. This is a good example of two completely different voices one right after another: “... I watched a blob of yellow land in her bowl. / It was moving. Gross. / It continued to vacillate as it interacted with the mixture...”
Grammar. Commas, em-dashes, tenses. The usual.
Bad transitions between actions and no explanation where it’s actually needed.
For example: (sneaking into a room) “My foot hit something and made a thunk sound. I dropped to my knees and clenched my hand into a fist.”
Three or four sentences later, I finally get to find out why she suddenly decided kneel down and make a fist: she was making fire.
Overuse of similes. So many of them. Everything is like-a-something. Let’s take a look at some of the ones I saw in the first fifteen pages!
Something was like: a thousand fireflies, a herd of buffalo, a water balloon with a leak, an alien, duck feet, a stealthy cat, having a seizure, an angry wolf, a spent cobra, a fat man on a bicycle, crack, Whitney Houston, red lace doily, biting into a carrot, uncooked tuna, etc.
(I actually liked the fat man on a bicycle one :))


As you can see, there are lot of things that can contribute to an overall “bad writing” experience for a reader.


The worst writer in the world has a lot to learn, and this thread is a diamond. This is my favorite post. :Clap:

Ken
02-02-2013, 01:27 AM
... bad writing = anything penned by me.
At least I can't help feeling so when getting back a rejection.

:e2cry:

BethS
02-02-2013, 01:43 AM
I don't even turn the first page if the book isn't written well. The writing carries the story, if the writing is not up to my standard I'm not going to read it.

Yeah, this.

To me, bad writing is prose that's amateurish, clunky, melodramatic, and/or overwritten to a marked degree. This includes hokey or unrealistic dialogue, repetitive words or phrases, and poor handling of POV.

But stories can also be badly structured and badly concluded.

SomethingOrOther
02-02-2013, 02:51 AM
For me, bad writing means a lot of things. Probably thousands of things, even. Good thing it's like pornography: you know it when you see it.

Exactly. I can point to any crappy passage and explain why I think it's written poorly. But if I tried to define "bad writing" in a vacuum, detached from any concrete examples, I'd just spit out a bunch of banal generalizations.


No. This is subjective.

On a semi-related note, you ever notice how it's seemingly acceptable to pile broad-strokes ridicule on what's highbrow or experimental or whatever—"Oh it's so wordy and pretentious!"; "Ugh, I don't like literary fiction. ; "Ew [James Joyce / David Foster Wallace / whomever] is so [I]verbose."—whereas anyone looking down on genre fiction will (rightfully) be called out for head-up-their-hindquarters snobbery? But both kinds of ridicule are two idiotic sides of the same coin. Some people just have trouble understanding that their taste isn't "better" than others', and that they shouldn't look down on something just because it isn't their cup of tea.

I like both. Mmm tea.

(This isn't directed specifically at any replies in this thread. I thought about this like a week ago, and you gave me a relevant-enough place to post it.)


There are bad critics just as there are technically bad writers, ones who can't distinguish their personal tastes from talent that simply isn't to their liking.

Kitten high-five.

http://i.imgur.com/1uQaqfz.gif

Atlantis
02-02-2013, 03:11 AM
I can usually forgive a bad opening page and even the first few pages if it picks up or if I can see talent in the rough writing. The opening couple of chapters of the Host was like that for me. It was rough but interesting and it picked up for me a little more in.

Now JK Rowling's last book was just terrible. I had such high hopes for it and thought she could pull it off because she was so talented. But it was like reading a completely different author. Her style had changed. It wasn't the same snappy, tight, interesting, funny writing. It was like someone else wrote it. Someone with not a lot of experience. It opened with the most boring sentence in the world - that someone had a headache. I mean...what? How is that interesting to anyone JK? Do you remember the opening line to your first Harry Potter book and how good that was? And then the rest of the chapter was told, not shown, and boring as heck. And then the next chapter was just weird. And the plot? hello, plot? are you there?

I think if I wasn't a writer I wouldn't be so harsh. But bad writing is very annoying especially from someone like JK Rowling who should know better. She should stick to fantasy.

ArachnePhobia
02-02-2013, 03:27 AM
Exactly. I can point to any crappy passage and explain why I think it's written poorly. But if I tried to define "bad writing" in a vacuum, detached from any concrete examples, I'd just spit out a bunch of banal generalizations.

I'm jumping on this bandwagon, and if you and Jane Austin will pardon me...



"Oh! Certainly," cried his faithful assistant, "No book can be really esteemed bad, which does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A book must have thorough flaws in grammar, characterization, plot, consistency, and dialogue with all its tags, to deserve the word; and besides all this, it must possess a certain failure in its style (or lack thereof), the tone of its language (or lack thereof), its cliches and condescension to the reader, or the word will be but half deserved."

"All this it must possess," added Darcy, "And to all this it must yet add something more hackneyed, in that it must hint at the author's utter lack of reading and belief that even the oldest tropes in use are the pinnacle of creativity."

"I am no longer surprised at your having read only six bad books. I rather wonder now at your having read any."

Wilde_at_heart
02-02-2013, 03:50 AM
I'll keep reading a book that's badly written and potentially even enjoy it as long as it's got a great story or great characters to back it up.


I won't. I don't really see how you can have both great characters and lousy writing, though I suppose it all depends on how you define good or bad.

For me, 'bad writing' has to be really bad, not simply mediocre.

By that I mean lazy writing that reads like a rough draft where:
- the author doesn't appear to have cracked open a thesaurus or even a dictionary for that matter,
- each sentence is the same length or rhythm so it feels you're being banged about the head,
- the dialogue is embarrassingly trite or corny or reads like a 60s sci-fi B-movie,
- the characters have really ridiculous names that in real life would send CPS after the parents, and
- serious errors in building up to the main 'turning point'*
- idiotic or annoying characters that are well-loved by the MC for some reason that's never made clear*
- critical plot points or dramatic scenes are expository instead of being written into action and dialogue.

However, it does take several repeated violations of the above, not just a handful.

* I put down one recently where these were the only problems. The book had a lot of potential but the entire plot hinged on the MC finding a close friend who had been abducted and she was introduced at about page 60 or something at least, immediately before the character went off to find her. If she's that important, there really should have been some buildup first - as it was, I didnt' give a crap about her and thought the MC was an idiot to risk his life for her.
- The MC's girlfriend was also a shadow - the only description of her was that she watched 'Real Housewives'. Ugh. At least give her really beautiful eyes or large breasts or an exciting career. Something.


What I'm much less forgiving of as a reader is story flaws. Plot holes, moments that break suspension of disbelief, characters doing things that are good for the plot but make absolutely no sense for the character, that sort of thing.

See, for me that IS bad writing as well...

blacbird
02-02-2013, 04:23 AM
Beyond straightforward grammatical mechanics, not usuallly a huge problem in traditionally published novels, things that bother me:

Pretentious verbosity. The writer calling attention to his own wonderfulness as a writer, rather than presenting a solid story I can admire for its skill in presentation.

Anachronisms, errors in commonly-known or easily-researched facts.

Unfocused, uncontrolled POV.

caw

Stacia Kane
02-02-2013, 04:23 AM
Good writing is clean, no matter how verbose it may be; each sentence says something, and what it says is easily understood.

Bad writing may be pared down to monosyllables but still say nothing understandable, or which actually means anything.

kaitie
02-02-2013, 04:55 AM
This thread is making me think back to the last book I read that I truly disliked (okay, I admit I recently threw Game of Thrones across the room, but this one I disliked exponentially more) which was one that several people recommended to me as brilliant, an author who was incredibly famous and supposedly a master, and so on.

What amazed me about it while reading was that the writing was (to me) atrocious. It was filled with cliches, and the dialogue was some of the most ridiculous I've read. I actually wondered if it was a satire and I just wasn't getting the joke. It came across as so unnatural it seemed that it must have been an extreme, intentional example of badness.

To make matters worse it was filled with contradictions. The characters actions in the first chapter (when he tried to commit suicide) went completely against the actions in the next (no! I don't want to die!) with absolutely no development in between. It seemed more that the author had just forgotten what he'd said on the previous pages, or perhaps that he was making the story up as he went without any regard to the character's actual thoughts or motivations.

The book was supposed to be funny, but the humor came across as juvenile. The relationship in it was completely one dimensional. Basically, it just blew my mind that someone so famous, and a series so famous that had come so highly recommended, could possibly suffer from the multitude of problems that I saw.

But the part about that that really just ruined the book for me? The idea was so damn cool. I loved the concept. There was so much that it could have been. It was like each page was a disappointment that failed to reach my ever lowering expectations.

Now that was a way to make me hate the writing, to the point that I don't ever plan to read anything else by that particular author again. And yet, oddly, so many people adore it. I guess there really is something to say for that subjectivity thing, huh? ;)

WriterBN
02-02-2013, 05:45 AM
I admit I recently threw Game of Thrones across the room)

Oh, thank [insert name of deity]! I thought I was the only one. I did manage to read it through, though. As I did with Stieg Larsson's first book.

There have been others that I've abandoned after a few pages, usually due to grammatical or syntax errors.

kaitie
02-02-2013, 06:04 AM
A lot of things about the book were brilliant, and I understand why people like it, but it was certainly not enjoyable for me.

Layla Nahar
02-02-2013, 06:23 AM
I can put up with all kinds of "bad" writing for a interesting idea. The one thing that turns me off is writing where the writer's intention is to show off how clever they can be. I think Nabokov is pretty much the only writer I've ever read who can make this work, and even then some of his stuff gets to be a bit much. I recently read a genre novel that had all kinds of overblown word choices. I almost never put down a novel because the prose gets in the way, but this one I did.

gcsalamon
02-02-2013, 09:58 AM
I recently read a book (surprisingly, all the way through) that had me wincing page after page, with disbelief that someone actually thought it was publish worthy.

What got me the most was the unnatural dialogue. That alone was enough to ruin it.

Kittens Starburst
02-02-2013, 03:14 PM
I won't. I don't really see how you can have both great characters and lousy writing, though I suppose it all depends on how you define good or bad.

I think of writing as having two main parts: the concept and the execution. Some fiction writers are terrific at dreaming up plots, characters, themes, and so on, but can't string a decent sentence together. Others have the opposite problem. Good writing is where it all comes together.


This thread is making me think back to the last book I read that I truly disliked (okay, I admit I recently threw Game of Thrones across the room, but this one I disliked exponentially more) which was one that several people recommended to me as brilliant, an author who was incredibly famous and supposedly a master, and so on.

George R R Martin is a fabulous plotter and character writer, but his description is so ugly. He doesn't work it in at all, just trowels it on, and it's so bland. I've only read GOT, mind you, still summoning the nerve to jump back in. The worst bit was when he broke a writing 'rule' with a main character (yay!) and held up the crucial action for several pages to tell us in minute detail how every character was dressed (aaaargghhhh!). I also missed an important clue at another crucial moment because I'd sped-read the description of some guards' uniforms. Had to backtrack.


But the part about that that really just ruined the book for me? The idea was so damn cool. I loved the concept. There was so much that it could have been. It was like each page was a disappointment that failed to reach my ever lowering expectations.


This is a killer. I felt exactly the same way about Tolkein, who ruined everything with his yawnsome 47-page diversions, with the songs that celebrated every burp and fart, and, oh, the stupid yodelling Tom Bombadildo. I felt similarly about HG Wells, with every single book. How I adore his ideas! I can't put my finger on why he disappoints me, except that in the Invisible Man he didn't explore the concept as thoroughly as he could have. I'm certainly not suggesting he's a bad writer, though. My dislike is purely subjective.

bearilou
02-02-2013, 03:53 PM
Bad writing is stuff I don't like.

Good writing is stuff I like.

I know it when I see it. There can be strengths in one area of the writing that will carry it for me so I am able to overlook the weaknesses in others. That varies from book to book, author to author.

I don't read bad writing and I won't make myself finish a book with bad writing.


So you don't believe we can quantify "bad writing?" Because I do agree that it is all opinion, but there's are differences between the quality of the opinions. You can probably find some who are of the opinion that say Hemingway is a bad writer. But their opinions are in the minority. The majority of opinion is that he was a good writer. That's how judgements are made between things being good and bad. Is it subjective? Sure. What isn't subjective outside of math?

I was going to call attention to the bold and say, knowing I probably shouldn't, Twilight and The Da Vinci Code. Majority opinion says...? Seems to me that their popularity indicates that more people thought that was good writing and not bad. I mean, if we can so easily spot objective good writing, those books would not have hit the way they did.

And yet they did. Or is it that the majority's opinion is not considered of quality to count? I'd certainly be interested in knowing what these hallmarks are for opinions of quality.

Then I reread this part.


When we analyze fiction there are agreed upon rules, standards, and conventions that we look for to determine if a piece works or fails. Now some works might "artfully" break these rules, but that's an accepted convention, too. It's pretty easy to tell the difference between a skilled writer playing with the language and an unskilled writer blindly stumbling along.

So literary criticism may be "subjective" but it's a judgement made from special knowledge. We can dismiss one or two claims of "bad writing" as "just opinion" but when it becomes the opinion of a majority, then its the accepted prevailing viewpoint.

I'm not a literary critic. I'm just a reader and a writer. I know what I like and I know what I don't like and I wasn't aware that I had to be reading everything with this 'literary critic' in mind. Just what I thought worked and what I thought didn't work.

Someone tell me that what Stephanie Meyer, Dan Brown or even EL James wrote didn't work and I'll point to sales numbers (a majority, by the way) that would beg to differ.

And the question was what we thought, as individuals. If the individual is a literary critic or enjoys engaging in literary criticism, then their opinions are going to differ from each other and from casual readers who will also differ from each other.

But I suppose...my opinion is not of sufficient quality to matter?

stray
02-02-2013, 04:08 PM
Tonight I have to go to a restaurant and order a meal. Friend's birthday. If that meal is of a better quality than I could have cooked up myself then it is a good meal. If the meal is better than I could ever make than it is excellent. If the meal is so bad. So very bad I almost puke, then, I won't be back.

What is bad cooking?

So many things. laziness to commit to the task at hand, ignorance of the tools in the kitchen, disrespect of the customer, throwing in the wrong spice at the wrong time. Lack of creativity. Not enough time in the kitchen. Conflict with the waiting staff. On... and on... and on...

So for me there are many ingredients that cook up a badly written stew. Difficult to list all of them but you know them when you taste them.

And chefs and writers can and do improve. The main thing is they have to want to.

As for the 'badly written' works that sell? I guess they weren't that badly written.

BethS
02-02-2013, 05:37 PM
okay, I admit I recently threw Game of Thrones across the room

Giving into my curiosity.

Why?

Ken
02-02-2013, 06:52 PM
... the novel Twilight is often cited as an example of bad writing.
So are books by some current bestseller, mentioned here a lot.
But there are many readers who beg to differ.
Or at least say the stories are very good even though the prose might not be.
So opinions on what qualifies as bad writing are somewhat subjective, like lots of things.

archerjoe
02-02-2013, 09:33 PM
How many TV shows has Paris Hilton had? Didn't she have also record some music? There are many under-appreciated actors and singers who are much better but never had the same opportunities. One cannot judge quality by the public's taste, only popularity.

Wilde_at_heart
02-02-2013, 11:00 PM
Someone tell me that what Stephanie Meyer, Dan Brown or even EL James wrote didn't work and I'll point to sales numbers (a majority, by the way) that would beg to differ.


While they may be lousy writers, they each struck a chord with a particular zeitgeist...

Vampire romance
'Kinky' romance along with some catchy memes like 'inner Goddess'.
Vatican Conspiracy

To do the same thing you have to be far better than they were though. And who knows how many are bought by people who are otherwise non-readers and therefore have fairly low standards?

There's always been popular dreck that is huge at the time but nobody reads it decades later - Valley of the Dolls for example.

bearilou
02-02-2013, 11:51 PM
While they may be lousy writers, they each struck a chord with a particular zeitgeist...

Vampire romance
'Kinky' romance along with some catchy memes like 'inner Goddess'.
Vatican Conspiracy

To do the same thing you have to be far better than they were though. And who knows how many are bought by people who are otherwise non-readers and therefore have fairly low standards?

There's always been popular dreck that is huge at the time but nobody reads it decades later - Valley of the Dolls for example.

So...that gives the opinion more weight?

I'm mostly objecting to the quality of the opinion part of his discussion, I'm not arguing that the writing is or isn't better or worse, or that it will or will not stand the test of time.

'Many people think Hemingway is a good writer' to which I say 'many people thing Meyer/Brown/James is, too'. As to whether they have low standards or not, we start to get into the discussion about why their opinion is now given less weight than someone who likes Hemingway.

muravyets
02-03-2013, 12:10 AM
...

Overuse of similes. So many of them. Everything is like-a-something. Let’s take a look at some of the ones I saw in the first fifteen pages!
Something was like: a thousand fireflies, a herd of buffalo, a water balloon with a leak, an alien, duck feet, a stealthy cat, having a seizure, an angry wolf, a spent cobra, a fat man on a bicycle, crack, Whitney Houston, red lace doily, biting into a carrot, uncooked tuna, etc.
(I actually liked the fat man on a bicycle one :))

...
A "spent cobra"?

No, don't tell me. I don't think I want to know.

I agree with your whole post, by the way.


...

But the part about that that really just ruined the book for me? The idea was so damn cool. I loved the concept. There was so much that it could have been. It was like each page was a disappointment that failed to reach my ever lowering expectations.

...
I hate that! There are certain authors who I find terrible but who are (to me) so inexplicably popular that when they've used an idea it may be years before that concept opens up for other writers to use (and hopefully put to better use). Every time I look at one of their books, I think, "Another great concept bites the dust." Frustration at the waste of a good concept just adds to the irritation of bad writing, for me.

That said, I'm pretty forgiving and will keep reading a badly written book, if there are other, redeeming factors. I just finished a novel that suffered from:


action scenes that read like stage direction from a stunt choreographer,
repetitious dialogue,
head-hopping galore,
under-developed supporting characters (a stage full of cardboard cutouts),
loose ends (characters introduced but then dropped, as if they were just flashed on stage as set-up for later appearance in a series but had nothing to do with the present story),
two different but unrelated main action plots (the story began with the hunt for one big bad but ended with the hunt for another, only Big Bad A and Big Bad B were not related to each other at all; instead of giving short shrift to two, he should have gone in depth on one), and
general failure to maintain horror in a horror story (though he did hit some good notes a few times).

But I kept reading because the author was doing something very interesting with his MC and I was enjoying watching him do it. He managed to portray a delusion born of trauma with fair but not excessive subtlety, with compassion, and even a step towards insight. This allowed me to enjoy reading his book, despite all I was finding wrong with it. I did wish, though, that he'd put as much thought into those other aspects of his story as into this one.

But overall, I'm in the camp that says bad writing is writing that knocks me out of the story. Good writing delivers the story and its impact. Bad writing interferes with it.

Raventongue
02-03-2013, 12:25 AM
Well, there's bad writing technique, and then there's writing that's bad because of storytelling. Like there's no discernible content, or very little, or because the concept is laughably idiotic. These can overlap, of course- writers who have nothing to say run the gamut from technical experts to technically dreadful.

Also, if it wasn't trying to make me angry, and it did, it's usually an example of poor story-crafting technique.

Wilde_at_heart
02-03-2013, 01:28 AM
So...that gives the opinion more weight?

I'm mostly objecting to the quality of the opinion part of his discussion, I'm not arguing that the writing is or isn't better or worse, or that it will or will not stand the test of time.

'Many people think Hemingway is a good writer' to which I say 'many people thing Meyer/Brown/James is, too'. As to whether they have low standards or not, we start to get into the discussion about why their opinion is now given less weight than someone who likes Hemingway.

It's a matter of fashions - people read some books simply because other people are reading them. There are plenty of books I've checked out only because I wanted to know what the fuss was about and some authors and marketers are brilliant about generating 'buzz'. Normally it boiled down to a good or salable concept. That certainly seems to be the case with 50 shades...

In addition most of the people I know who read that book AND thought it was good, seldom crack anything open. Often the only other book they'd read in the past decade was good old Twilight. I find that many fad books are especially popular among people who don't normally consider themselves 'readers'.

kaitie
02-03-2013, 01:49 AM
It seems that most people I know who read Twilight or 50 Shades actually (and enjoyed them) admit that the writing is awful. I can't think of anyone I've met who said "the writing is great." Everyone said "the writing is awful but I still loved it."

CChampeau
02-03-2013, 02:33 AM
(b) When the writing is convoluted or florid, and the author is saying, 'Never mind the story. Look at me, what a clever writer I am'.


Uck, I hate it when I read prose like that. Usually you get the feeling that the author is trying to appear clever when they use phrasing that sounds contrived.
Brilliant phrasing, on the other hand, just comes off as effortless, and feels "right", rather than artificial.

Dorky
02-03-2013, 04:50 AM
Brilliant phrasing, on the other hand, just comes off as effortless, and feels "right", rather than artificial.

I agree :)


A "spent cobra"?

No, don't tell me. I don't think I want to know.

If you’re curious, the line in question is:

“Instantly, my tongue lurched out and grabbed hold of the chip, recoiling into my mouth like a spent cobra.”

It’s probably not as bad as you thought (but still pretty bad for other reasons, IMO)

SomethingOrOther
02-03-2013, 05:12 AM
Needless adverb —> contrived drama? Check.

Discordance between the speed of motion implied by said adverb and that by the action it modifies? Possibly.

Nonsensical verb? Check.

Prehensile tongue? Check.

Present participial phrase error, one that goes far above and beyond normal PPP errors by describing not just a regular pair/trio of physically impossible actions but instead actions that *negate* one another? Check.

Super-mundane event described with narmy rhetorical flair? Check.

The spent-cobra bit might be the best part of the sentence. But I haven't read the book so I might be missing some crucial detail—e.g., the protagonist's tongue is a toy truck with forceps.

kaitie
02-03-2013, 07:32 AM
I thought the dick metaphor I imagined was bad. The actual line managed to be worse. :tongue

Btw, I must know what this book is. Rep me?

archerjoe
02-03-2013, 07:47 AM
I thought the dick metaphor I imagined was bad. The actual line managed to be worse. :tongue

Btw, I must know what this book is. Rep me?


I was curious, too. Try an internet search for the sentence in question - it showed up as the first item in the results.

cmi0616
02-03-2013, 08:02 AM
Bad writing is defined by too many things to list, and most of those things would be hard to put into words anyway. I will say that when I say something is 'bad writing', the main culprit is often poor economy.

muravyets
02-03-2013, 08:06 AM
I agree :)



If you’re curious, the line in question is:
“Instantly, my tongue lurched out and grabbed hold of the chip, recoiling into my mouth like a spent cobra.”It’s probably not as bad as you thought (but still pretty bad for other reasons, IMO)
*does the google search of the line* Oh, dear. Yes, other reasons. I see what you mean. Yikes.

SomethingOrOther
02-03-2013, 08:15 AM
The next sentence of that book: "Sam quirked a less-than-amused brow ... ."

My obvious interpretation. (http://i.imgur.com/NUwU9Ct.png)

The Sam in the book is apparently a girl, but Google cut off before the pronoun.

Dorky
02-03-2013, 08:36 AM
The next sentence of that brow: "Sam quirked a less-than-amused brow ... ."

My obvious interpretation. (http://i.imgur.com/NUwU9Ct.png)

The Sam in the book is apparently a girl, but Google cut off before the pronoun.
Oh my god. I laughed so much at this image :D

ETA:

The spent-cobra bit might be the best part of the sentence. But I haven't read the book so I might be missing some crucial detail—e.g., the protagonist's tongue is a toy truck with forceps.
Yup, it's my favorite part as well.
The tongue is, apparently, eating things up of its own will because the FMC is stuck under a shapeshifting spell. Never mind the fact that she can control all the rest of her parts well enough (head, extra eyes, arms, massive body, etc)...

I particularly love the fact that I'm supposed to get an image of a frog snatching a bug out of the air with its awesomely fast tongue. At least, I think that's what it should be... Instead, all I can see is an awkward and slow prehensile tongue-tentacle that is moving both in and out of her mouth at the same time.

JKRowley
02-03-2013, 09:29 AM
Sometimes I wonder what is bad writing and what is bad editing. EL James, for example, wrote a compelling story that millions of people clambered to buy, along with the sequels.

She told a story people wanted to read, ate up and wanted more. The purpose of writing is to communicate with readers, and she managed that in spades.

There were some flaws in construction, but I think that should have been addressed by her editors.

I read a lot of indie books that could benefit from a good editor.

DreamWeaver
02-03-2013, 09:43 AM
If I've gotten caught up in the story, I can and do fail to notice bad writing that would drive me crazy when reading something less fascinating. I don't ignore it or pass over it; I simply don't realize it's there.

But for lesser fare, given decent grammar and punctuation, the writing characteristic that will make me craziest is verbose overwriting, when every single bloody noun or verb has to have its own entourage of modifiers.

"The tall blonde maiden, a shining vision in willow green and faded puce, rode her prancing grey horse swiftly and gracefully over the newly planted fields, just beginning to show the first signs of young green growth, that extended from the charming but isolated small cosy village all the long dusty way to the ancient unheralded city of Saint Engelmeyer of the Excruciating Headache."

OJCade
02-03-2013, 09:55 AM
To me, bad writing is writing that treats the readers like idiots.



"Oh, every other word is spelled wrong? Why should I worry? You're too thick to see I haven't bothered to proof-read. Let's face it, you can't spell either."

"There's a plot hole you could drive a truck through? Come, my slack-jawed friend, you won't notice that I've half-arsed it."

"My character's personality changes wildly without explanation? Don't worry your pretty little head about it."

"I've used every trope, cliche, and hackneyed device known to man? How will you know, dear reader, when you haven't read anything but the back of a cereal box (and that reluctantly) for years?"

"What, you don't like my info-dump? You should be glad I've taken the time to educate you, you halfwit ingrate."


Writers don't have to assume that their readers are all at the tippy-top of the IQ scale, but once they start treating them as the mental equivalent of a half-dead stick insect, Bad Writing ensues.

DreamWeaver
02-03-2013, 09:57 AM
I was curious, too. Try an internet search for the sentence in question - it showed up as the first item in the results.I love the serendipity of searching. I looked for the lurching tongue (which I found), but also got this, from poet John Canaday:

My stomach lurched. The taste of rotten lemons stained my tongue. I love that imagery. See, I went looking for something bad and found something good. Thanks! :)

Wilde_at_heart
02-03-2013, 07:33 PM
*does the google search of the line* Oh, dear. Yes, other reasons. I see what you mean. Yikes.

OMFG...

I don't even picture cobras even having recoiling tongues that they ever use in that manner. I'm guessing she was thinking of a frog or a chameleon?

I'm guessing the ideas behind it or good but I doubt it's something I could get through...

Wilde_at_heart
02-03-2013, 07:36 PM
Sometimes I wonder what is bad writing and what is bad editing. EL James, for example, wrote a compelling story that millions of people clambered to buy, along with the sequels.

She told a story people wanted to read, ate up and wanted more. The purpose of writing is to communicate with readers, and she managed that in spades.

There were some flaws in construction, but I think that should have been addressed by her editors.

I read a lot of indie books that could benefit from a good editor.

The only thing that really bothers me is that because she did get such stellar success right away, there's no incentive at all for her to improve her writing.

And I see that mentality in some would-be writers as well. That they are already 'good enough' as is, they just have to push it out more, when they haven't even been bothered with correcting basic spelling errors, etc.

KTC
02-03-2013, 07:54 PM
I recently downloaded a new adult novel that I saw was getting a lot of action on Twitter. It sounded good, so I downloaded it. The spelling and grammar errors were, to be frank, APPALLING. But the story was so good, that I read the entire book. It kept me hooked in until the end. When the wrong words were used, I did my best to figure out what the author meant. She used a lot of the wrong words. As an editor, I would have pulled my hair out by the end of page two. As a reader who recognizes a good story...I LOVED it. I have heard that the author has since landed an agent because of said book. She had it professionally edited and reloaded onto Amazon. She has sold over 50,000 copies in a couple of months...most of those copies were the OLD unedited version.

I don't know what to say about bad writing. Story trumps everything has never been more true than it was with this novel.

BethS
02-03-2013, 08:38 PM
"The tall blonde maiden, a shining vision in willow green and faded puce, rode her prancing grey horse swiftly and gracefully over the newly planted fields, just beginning to show the first signs of young green growth, that extended from the charming but isolated small cosy village all the long dusty way to the ancient unheralded city of Saint Engelmeyer of the Excruciating Headache."

You should enter that in the Bulwer-Lytton contest. :D

CChampeau
02-03-2013, 08:46 PM
I don't know what to say about bad writing. Story trumps everything has never been more true than it was with this novel.

Wow, talk about an extreme case. This is further evidence that a good storyteller and a good writer aren't quite the same thing.

kaitie
02-03-2013, 08:50 PM
I think storytelling and writing are two completely different skill sets. I've been a decent writer for a long time (not great, mind you, but better than average), but I couldn't write a good story to save my life. I've had to spend a lot of time working on that element alone to get myself to a level of actually having books people might want to read.

I definitely think a person can be a fantastic storyteller without having developed the writing skills to the same degree. I'd actually say that, in my reading experience, it's pretty amazing to find someone who is really great at both. Usually one or the other is stronger.

crunchyblanket
02-03-2013, 09:19 PM
I agree :)



If you’re curious, the line in question is:
“Instantly, my tongue lurched out and grabbed hold of the chip, recoiling into my mouth like a spent cobra.”It’s probably not as bad as you thought (but still pretty bad for other reasons, IMO)

And I thought I had a problem with needlessly flowery description :D

MagicWriter
02-03-2013, 10:14 PM
To me, the phrase 'bad writing' when appointed to a novel or something of fiction could mean a variety of things.

What do you specifically mean when you complain about bad writing? Or is it a variant of things?

I think more importantly, would you finish a book if it was poorly written in any respect?


For me, good story trumps all, and I usually keep going. I can easily see past grammar issues. I can see past fact error issues- unless the fact error would change the story in a major major way. Just tell me a good story!

The last book I chose not to finish, was due to the strangeness of the plot. It was like if you took every fiction book on the NYT best sellers list and used every plot from every book to tell a story. :flag: I had no idea which plot to root for and had no idea who the MC was.

Four other books that I almost put down, but didn't, were due to:
I hated the MC, or they grew to be a whiney pain in the ass
Too much telling.
Circumstances that I just couldn't believe in.
Author voice

DennisB
02-08-2013, 01:32 AM
I agree with Katie and Beth on "clunky" writing. I would invite readers to look at the self-published books, and how so many are made up of short, choppy sentences. It quickly becomes iambic pentameter... sing-songy, like a dopey '80s tune you can't get out of your head.

And how many begin with a short sentence designed to shock or intrigue? Like "It was raining the day I attended my funeral." Yes, that does pique my interest, but that interest is dampened by the fear that the author is going to spend a great deal of time trying to shock or astound me with short, terse sentences.

I also think that many "bad" writers haven't learned the balance between showing and telling. Sometimes you want to show, other times telling works quite well.

Balance is a critical component of good writing. Many writers overuse tags and make them a burden to the reader (i.e. "She opined," "he exclaimed") while some never use them and the reader becomes confused as to who is talking.

I don't totally agree that the reader must not be aware of the writing. I believe we read the greats in part because we are delighted (or at least entertained) by their style.