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View Full Version : Why Do Established Writers Get Away With Being Boring?



Michael Panetta
02-09-2016, 01:48 AM
I recently read a short story by a certain well-known horror author. The first two pages were spent on nothing but scenery, and it was irrelevant to everything that came after it. The only reason I plowed through those two pages was because I had paid for the book it was in and money ain't cheap. He's one of my favorite writers, but if this story had been in some online magazine for free, I would have quit reading after the third half-page paragraph describing the color of the leaves in autumn or whatever.

I guess the obvious answer is that the established writer brings in the big money and his or her fanbase is mostly tolerant of such writing. I'm not, though. I usually give up on an author after they start getting rusty. There are too many good books being written by new guys to waste time on old rust buckets.

Does anyone feel similarly?

Cyia
02-09-2016, 01:50 AM
What you call rusty, others call atmospheric, and the author might call experimental. Once someone's name is the deciding factor on whether or not their material sells, they're given more leeway.

Also, you can't expect to always like things written by the same person. Eventually, it's likely that they'll venture into territory where you don't want to follow.

Kerosene
02-09-2016, 01:55 AM
What's boring to you might not be boring for other folks.

I also think this stems from, "How can big authors get away with [X] when everyone is told not to do [X]?" That's because [X] advice is not always the best advice and anyone can get away with anything as long as they do it well.

Edit: Second thought: This was short story collection, right? Sometimes not every short story in the collection was deemed good enough to publish individually and included. Perhaps because the author liked it, perhaps to fill pages. It happens.

rwm4768
02-09-2016, 01:58 AM
I've seen this same thing in long series. Take Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time or George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Both series started out really strong, but then it felt to me like both authors got lost in boring minutiae. The middle of the Wheel of Time is particularly guilty of this. Don't get me wrong. I love the series overall, but it was a struggle getting through some of those books because they became very boring. If the first book had been like that, it would not have been published.

lizmonster
02-09-2016, 01:59 AM
There's a particular best-selling author who is very hit or miss for me, and my opinions seem to have nothing to do with which of his books sell well.

There are authors I've dropped because their prose style seems to me to have changed in ways I don't like, but I've yet to notice any of those authors experiencing a huge career crash. Quite the opposite, in some cases.

Chacun à son goût. There are thousands of books I do like, so it doesn't matter a bit if I disagree with mainstream tastes on others.

Michael Panetta
02-09-2016, 02:03 AM
I just get disappointed when a favorite author starts losing their bite. I always have the earlier works to enjoy.

I hate to single an author out, but Haruki Murakami is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, everything after Wind-Up Bird Chronicles kinda sucked. I couldn't get through the first couple of chapters of IQ84 or whatever it's called.

Curlz
02-09-2016, 02:15 AM
The first two pages were spent on nothing but scenery...
Does anyone feel similarly?
Yes, there are a lot of readers who feel similarly. But let me tell you another story (it was in a movie): so we got these thieves, and the police stops them and checks their vehicle for suspicious stuff. There is nothing in the van, just an white sheet of fabric, splattered with paint. So the police lets the thieves go, which the thieves are super-happy to do. Because what the police thought was a sheet of fabric with some paint splatter, was in fact a $50million oil painting, cut out of its frame. Point is, you see "nothing but scenery" while another reader would see awesome use of language. Sometimes a story is just that, something happens, some people do things. But sometimes a story is a work of art and some readers enjoy it because they like the way words are weaved into sentences, regardless of whether something actually "happens" in these sentences.

buz
02-09-2016, 02:15 AM
What's boring to you might not be boring for other folks.

I also think this stems from, "How can big authors get away with [X] when everyone is told not to do [X]?" That's because [X] advice is not always the best advice and anyone can get away with anything as long as they do it well.


Well, maybe, but sometimes they don't do it well. :D

Sometimes even when an established author tries something a little different, it doesn't quite work out. Happens. I've never bought a music album that didn't have at least a couple songs on it I didn't like, no matter how much I liked the band. ;)

mccardey
02-09-2016, 02:17 AM
I just get disappointed when a favorite author starts losing their bite. I always have the earlier works to enjoy.
If it's an exceptional writer, I tend to think the problem lies with me as a reader and my expectations. Going back and trying the read later can be very rewarding.

blacbird
02-09-2016, 02:31 AM
Some writers do seem to run out of gas, sometimes for periods, sometimes for good. It seems to have happened to Hemingway, after The Old Man and the Sea. But, I agree with what WillSauger said: What's boring to you may not be boring to somebody else.

caw

Michael Panetta
02-09-2016, 02:40 AM
I sort of suspect that editors are afraid of correcting the manuscripts of the big names for fear of losing the meat ticket to a more lenient publisher lol.

brainstorm77
02-09-2016, 02:45 AM
It's just a matter of opinion.

Samsonet
02-09-2016, 03:08 AM
Try reading one-star reviews of the books you don't like. That might make things seem better.

shadowwalker
02-09-2016, 04:07 AM
Perhaps we should also remember that authors are not robots - they don't always churn out one Really Really Really Good Book after another. And sometimes a book just doesn't 'take' with a reader. I've got favorite authors who have branched out into other areas, or done things differently, and no, sometimes I don't care for those books as much; some not at all. But that doesn't mean the author has gotten lazy - it just means I'm not willing to follow them down that particular road.

andiwrite
02-09-2016, 05:00 AM
While liking ultra-descriptive writing is a matter of opinion, there seems to be an agreement that a story should start off with something happening. We're told time and time again that our opening scene needs to hook the reader. So yes, an established writer starting out with two pages of scenery description would, in my opinion, be getting rusty. Unless there's some important reason that the scenery needs to be described. There are always creative ways that things can be done, but if they work, they wouldn't be considered boring.

Lillith1991
02-09-2016, 06:09 AM
I sort of suspect that editors are afraid of correcting the manuscripts of the big names for fear of losing the meat ticket to a more lenient publisher lol.

This is starting to sound like entitlement to me. We won't always like what our favorite writers write. Sometimes they go in a different direction than we want them to. And you know what? That's perfectly ok.

Cyia
02-09-2016, 06:16 AM
And sometimes it's not a matter of an author blocking STET across the front of the manuscript to make sure no one touches their precious, precious prose (A certain vampire-writer being the proud, self-proclaimed exception.) Sometimes it's a matter of "X is extremely popular RIGHT NOW, get that thing to print as soon as it hits your desk!"

frimble3
02-09-2016, 06:26 AM
And, if a writer was experimenting a little, a collection of short stories might have seemed a good place to try out the new material, with the idea that the reader would have plenty of other stuff if they didn't care for the experiment.
Like Buzhidao, I've never bought an album (or a short story collection) that didn't have a couple of songs/stories that I didn't care for. Whether the artist was 'rusty' or just trying something I wasn't interested in, these things happen.

Cereus
02-09-2016, 06:45 AM
If I trust and like a writer, I'm willing to read two pages of description. If it's my first time reading someone's work, I'm not so patient. Earned privilege.


I've seen this same thing in long series. Take Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time or George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Both series started out really strong, but then it felt to me like both authors got lost in boring minutiae. The middle of the Wheel of Time is particularly guilty of this. Don't get me wrong. I love the series overall, but it was a struggle getting through some of those books because they became very boring. If the first book had been like that, it would not have been published.

I think GRRM is really boring more often than not. Some of his books have about 19 povs with 16 of them being completely pointless.


(A certain vampire-writer being the proud, self-proclaimed exception.)

Who?

Roxxsmom
02-09-2016, 06:55 AM
I've run across books by debut authors that contain what I think of is flat or bad writing, and ones that simply bore me too. Sometimes it's just a taste or intended audience thing.

Established writers do have loyal readerships that are based on whatever style established their popularity, though. So even if that isn't what publishers are looking for right now, the author is still selling well, so their editors may be fine with it. Some authors who have been at it a while will modify their style to try and attract new readers, but it can be a hard line to walk between not delivering what your loyal fans want (kind of like the people who go to rock concerts and groan when the band plays more of their new stuff) and what the next generation of readers like.

Also, established writers (and their editors) are often working on contract and under time pressures.

jjdebenedictis
02-09-2016, 07:11 AM
I think GRRM is really boring more often than not. Some of his books have about 19 povs with 16 of them being completely pointless. Er, respect your fellow writer? His books bore you; that's a valid criticism. The man himself is apparently quite a lovely gent, however. :)

Also, I am a great fan of his books, even the ones that aren't as good as some of his previous books, so it's very much subjective whether a a given book of his is boring.

LittlePinto
02-09-2016, 07:53 AM
Er, respect your fellow writer? His books bore you; that's a valid criticism. The man himself is apparently quite a lovely gent, however. :)

Also, I am a great fan of his books, even the ones that aren't as good as some of his previous books, so it's very much subjective whether a a given book of his is boring.

I met him very briefly once and he was quite willing to answer a question I had about one of his short stories, although I'm sure he had other things he would have rather been doing. I appreciated it immensely. (It was a question I'd been dying to know the answer to for four years at that point. I was so excited to have the chance to get an answer.)

Cereus
02-09-2016, 08:01 AM
(kind of like the people who go to rock concerts and groan when the band plays more of their new stuff)

Boring fans.


Er, respect your fellow writer? His books bore you; that's a valid criticism. The man himself is apparently quite a lovely gent, however. :)

Also, I am a great fan of his books, even the ones that aren't as good as some of his previous books, so it's very much subjective whether a a given book of his is boring.

That wasn't a personal attack. I was talking about his writing (which I still like and recommend, whatever that's worth). I actually find him engaging on his blog and in interviews.

Roxxsmom
02-09-2016, 08:24 AM
Boring fans.

Not necessarily. Sometimes they just like the older stuff better. I imagine it's hard for all artists to find that mix between old and new, to continue to evolve artistically without repudiating everything that made them popular in the first place.

There are some writers whose older stuff I like a lot better. Sometimes it's because the new stuff is just so much the same old, same old that I begin to think I've read a particular book before, but sometimes they go off in a completely new direction and start writing in a subgenre I don't even like that much (like when an author who writes EF for adults starts writing contemporary urban stories about vampires and werewolves or starts writing YA stuff that isn't to my taste). Of course, I'm just one fan, but taste is really subjective.

Cereus
02-09-2016, 10:07 AM
Not necessarily. Sometimes they just like the older stuff better. I imagine it's hard for all artists to find that mix between old and new, to continue to evolve artistically without repudiating everything that made them popular in the first place.

I guess. Music is different. I just think if you want the old stuff, you should listen to the old stuff instead of judging an artist based on your narrow expectations.



There are some writers whose older stuff I like a lot better. Sometimes it's because the new stuff is just so much the same old, same old that I begin to think I've read a particular book before

I know what you mean. That's bad writing.


but sometimes they go off in a completely new direction and start writing in a subgenre I don't even like that much (like when an author who writes EF for adults starts writing contemporary urban stories about vampires and werewolves or starts writing YA stuff that isn't to my taste).

EF? And yes that shit annoys me.

Roxxsmom
02-09-2016, 10:27 AM
I guess. Music is different. I just think if you want the old stuff, you should listen to the old stuff instead of judging an artist based on your narrow expectations.

Wow :( Not sure what I said to deserve that.

Did I say anything that sounded judgy or disrespectful about artists who change their style over time? I just pointed out that a fan who likes a particular musician's older stuff isn't necessarily "boring," and I thought I even made appropriately sympathetic noises by acknowledging that it can be hard for any artist to find a balance between old and new that will please everyone. I certainly wasn't trying to condemn musicians who choose to focus on their newer stuff at concerts. And please don't insult my expectations by calling them narrow, especially since you know nothing specific about my musical tastes at all.

I'm well aware that artists don't *have* to create art I prefer. I've drifted away from some old favorites and found new ones both with music and with books. The biggest difference between books and music for me is that I can listen to a song in a few minutes, and I can have old favorites I still listen to fairly often, and others I forget about for a while, then rediscover. I can listen to dozens of songs in a day, often while I'm doing something else. But a book takes a lot longer to read and is a more focused type of entertainment, so while I may reread old favorites occasionally, doing so means I'm making a conscious decision not to read something new by the same author or by a different one.

EF=epic fantasy (broad category, but my cool zone with fantasy tends to be stories set in pre-industrial, secondary worlds more than contemporary or historical).

Cereus
02-09-2016, 10:53 AM
Wow :( Not sure what I said to deserve that.

Did I say anything that sounded judgy or disrespectful about artists who change their style over time? I just pointed out that a fan who likes a particular musician's older stuff isn't necessarily "boring," and I thought I even made appropriately sympathetic noises by acknowledging that it can be hard for any artist to find a balance between old and new that will please everyone. I certainly wasn't trying to condemn musicians who choose to focus on their newer stuff at concerts.

Yikes. That was directed at the 'groaning fans.' Not you at all. I'm sorry. I'll try to be clearer in future.


And please don't insult my expectations by calling them narrow, especially since you know nothing specific about my musical tastes at all.


Exactly. I don't know your music tastes. Hopefully, I wouldn't feel the need to insult them even if I did. Sorry again.



I'm well aware that artists don't *have* to create art I prefer. I've drifted away from some old favorites and found new ones both with music and with books. The biggest difference between books and music for me is that I can listen to a song in a few minutes, and I can have old favorites I still listen to fairly often, and others I forget about for a while, then rediscover. I can listen to dozens of songs in a day, often while I'm doing something else.

My point about boring fans was that a listener will always have the earlier songs to listen to and their desire for more of the same is not fair to artists who want to delve deeper or broader or just make different music. It wasn't personal and I completely understand and even agree with your points.



EF=epic fantasy (broad category, but my cool zone with fantasy tends to be stories set in pre-industrial, secondary worlds more than contemporary or historical).


Thanks. My tastes are similar.

mccardey
02-09-2016, 10:57 AM
EF=epic fantasy



Thanks. My tastes are similar.

And here was I, thinking that EF must be Erotic Something. :granny:

Cereus
02-09-2016, 11:01 AM
And here was I, thinking that EF must be Erotic Something. :granny:

That's what I thought! I could only come up with 'Erotic Fantasy.' A bit redundant.

Roxxsmom
02-09-2016, 11:09 AM
Well, I might enjoy a bit of that from time to time too :Jump:

mccardey
02-09-2016, 11:14 AM
:Jump: Settle, petal...

WriterTrek
02-09-2016, 11:19 AM
Also, you can't expect to always like things written by the same person. Eventually, it's likely that they'll venture into territory where you don't want to follow.
This rings true to me. A lot of authors get pigeon-holed somewhat early on, because they're good at writing a certain kind of thing. You see it with actors too. Then they get name recognition and can venture out into areas that may interest them that weren't feasible before.

John Grisham's non-law books, for example. People who loved The Firm , The Chamber , A Time to Kill, and so on w ere sometimes surprised and disappointed with Skipping Christmas. Harrison Ford is well known for his fun action films, but then you see movies like What Lies Beneath. I'm not saying that Skipping Christmas or What Lies Beneath were bad, but they aren't what Grisham or Ford became known for. But presumably they are things they wanted to do.

So sure. Maybe your author got lazy, but I think it's more likely that they ventured out and tried something different now they're popular, and it's not going to be what all their long time fans were expecting.

Roxxsmom
02-09-2016, 11:46 AM
Some writers use different pen names for different genres. Sometimes it's just a subtle change, like Ian Banks versus Ian M. Banks. Other times they try very hard to keep the name secret (hard to do these days, as Rowling found out). Even when everyone knows the author is writing under two different names, it can help keep their brands separate.

It can also help a writer reinvent themselves or revive a flagging career sometimes. It's often better to have a "new" unknown name than to be tagged with one associated with languishing sales.

mccardey
02-09-2016, 11:47 AM
So sure. Maybe your author got lazy, but I think it's more likely that they ventured out and tried something different now they're popular, and it's not going to be what all their long time fans were expecting.

Sometimes fans are lazy ;)

Jamesaritchie
02-09-2016, 05:06 PM
I sort of suspect that editors are afraid of correcting the manuscripts of the big names for fear of losing the meat ticket to a more lenient publisher lol.

No, editors aren't afraid to edit any writer. Giving that writer the benefit of the doubt is always the best option, though. Big name writers have earned the right to take more chances than new writers. Believe me, readers will let you and the writer know when you get it wrong. But Stephen King made the publisher give him a new editor when he thought the one he had wasn't doing enough editing. Big name writers usually want edited even more than new writers.


But there is the occasional writer who simply refuses to be edited, other than for typos and the like. Anne Rice is one of these writers, and was, even before becoming famous. Good for her. She felt this way from the start, and that's fine with me. It's always the writer's name on the book, and contrary to what many think, and editor is not always essential.

Jamesaritchie
02-09-2016, 05:16 PM
And sometimes it's not a matter of an author blocking STET across the front of the manuscript to make sure no one touches their precious, precious prose (A certain vampire-writer being the proud, self-proclaimed exception.) Sometimes it's a matter of "X is extremely popular RIGHT NOW, get that thing to print as soon as it hits your desk!"





Yes, and good for her. It sure didn't seem to hurt her sales any, and while most seem to feel otherwise, while there are some excellent editors out there, many editors can screw up writing more than they help it. Some can completely ruin it. Even the really good ones often want to alter an writer's style. Good editors want a clean book where typos, grammar, punctuation, and construction are concerned, but good editor make suggestions, and that's it. It's the writer's name on the cover, and more writers need to have the courage to say no to changes.


Too many new writers say yes to everything an editor wants for fear of being rejected.

Jamesaritchie
02-09-2016, 05:32 PM
I recently read a short story by a certain well-known horror author. The first two pages were spent on nothing but scenery, and it was irrelevant to everything that came after it. The only reason I plowed through those two pages was because I had paid for the book it was in and money ain't cheap. He's one of my favorite writers, but if this story had been in some online magazine for free, I would have quit reading after the third half-page paragraph describing the color of the leaves in autumn or whatever.

I guess the obvious answer is that the established writer brings in the big money and his or her fanbase is mostly tolerant of such writing. I'm not, though. I usually give up on an author after they start getting rusty. There are too many good books being written by new guys to waste time on old rust buckets.

Does anyone feel similarly?



I think it's mostly a matter of taste. I've read pretty similar complaints about the opening of The Talisman by King and Straub, but I think it's the second best opening of any novel I've ever read, and I've read thousands. I suspect what you call "getting rusty" is the opposite. The writer is simply moving in a direction you don't like, and precisely because he doesn't want to get rusty.


You pretty much said it yourself. The writer, even according to you, is doing something different. He's opening with two pages of description, and you don't like it. He didn't use to do that, but is now. That isn't getting rusty, it's staying fresh, even if you don't like it.


Writers often leave old fans behind, but if they're doing it right, they pick up new fans to replace the old. I suspect it's the fans who are rusty. They want the same old thing the writer did when he first started writing. The "I like his early books better" syndrome. Sometimes this is justified, but more often than not, I think the writer is moving on, and leaving the rusty fan
behind. My experience is that few readers tolerate much at all. Either they like what they read, even by an established writer, or they go looking for another writer. You just said you do this, so why would you think others do not?


Just for my part, I'd rather a writer open with two pages of description than the tiresome old "There must be action on page one". I think there should be character and story as soon as possible, but very often, good description is character and story. It may not be to everyone's taste, but this does not make it bad, or rusty, or something that simply has to be tolerated. If it really is something most fans don't want, they'll let the editor and the wirter know it.

RedWombat
02-10-2016, 03:23 AM
Eh, there's plenty of musicians where I liked their old stuff better. Nick Cave's ratio of genius to filler seems to have been sinking steadily since "No More Shall We Part," Firewater's last album was too wrist-slittingly sad to make my rota, and I have yet to meet a single human being who preferred later Metallica. And the lead singer of Tool is aging out of his earlier vocal range, which happens to all of us, but I still like the early stuff where he could sound like a demented choir boy.

Frequently earlier albums have a kind of rawness, even unpredictability, because the musicians don't yet have a set way to solve every musical problem. And if you have the connections and the studio time to make complicated multi-layered orchestral extravaganzas, those may be brilliant in their own right, but the listener who came onboard when you had a couple guitars and the ability to scream isn't necessarily gonna make the jump.

Roxxsmom
02-10-2016, 03:48 AM
I'll admit to sometimes rolling my eyes when they're interviewing a musician from the classic rock era on NPR (classic rock seems to have stopped sometime in the early 90s, and all the classic rock stations still in existence seem to have taken a solemn pledge at that point in time to never play a new release again) and said musician gets snappy and cross because the interviewer wants to talk about their popular stuff that still gets a lot of air play instead latest adventures with classical guitar or acid jazz.

I don't like acid jazz, and if I want to listen to classical guitar, I'd choose musicians who are really good at it because it's been their passion and focus throughout. It reminds me of what happens (sometimes) when someone who doesn't write a given genre, like romance, mystery, SF or whatever, decides they're going to show the world how it should be done. But it turns out they're really just covering old ground or treating it in a shallow, condescending way (http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/02/14/277059042/author-isabel-allende-apologizes-for-comments-about-mystery-novels).

Dreity
02-10-2016, 04:03 AM
/derail

You know, I actually thought Load and Reload had some of Metallica's best riffs, most mature lyrics, and biggest musical variety. That said, I totally understand why the people who had their world rocked by Ride The Lightning weren't thrilled. I also think St. Anger was an interesting experiment that could have been a neat concept album given another few years in the studio. Hetfield's voice is too far gone for me to enjoy Death Magnetic, though, despite the attempted return to thrash.

/endderail

RedWombat
02-10-2016, 05:35 AM
/briefly re-derail

I stand corrected! There's one!

...and I kinda liked their cover of "Whiskey in the Jar." But that's as far as I'll go.

/re-end derail

R.K. Blackburn
02-10-2016, 05:57 AM
I just get disappointed when a favorite author starts losing their bite. I always have the earlier works to enjoy.

I hate to single an author out, but Haruki Murakami is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, everything after Wind-Up Bird Chronicles kinda sucked. I couldn't get through the first couple of chapters of IQ84 or whatever it's called.

Today's writers have to take into account that most readers no longer have the patience to be good readers. The short story format offers successful writers a venue that doesn't require them to worry about that. IQ84 is a great read if you have the time and you like Murakami.

blacbird
02-10-2016, 06:05 AM
Today's writers have to take into account that most readers no longer have the patience to be good readers.

Oddly perhaps, my great enjoyment of reading is that it does slow me down, allows me to relax, allows my brain to engage at a level not usually possible during the normal chaos of everyday goings-on. I read almost exclusively at night, an hour or so before going to sleep, if I'm lucky, maybe a bit longer. And I thoroughly enjoy not having to hurry at that activity.

But, to be truthful, I am older have experienced a greater degree of chronological success at organic vitality than most people here.

caw

jjdebenedictis
02-10-2016, 06:30 AM
Today's writers have to take into account that most readers no longer have the patience to be good readers. I think that's unfairly slandering today's readers. Readers have other things they could be entertaining themselves with, but they have as much patience as ever for things they enjoy. If GRRM can write his door-stoppers and have them be immensely popular, then no one has lost their capacity for patience. Today's readers are, after all, the former-teenagers who demolished each Harry Potter novel as it came out, and some of those books were only slightly smaller than cinder blocks.

People remain quite patient. They just have a higher standard, these days, for what they're willing to be patient with.

Latina Bunny
02-10-2016, 07:32 AM
Today's writers have to take into account that most readers no longer have the patience to be good readers.

Err...

What's a "good reader"?

quicklime
02-10-2016, 07:44 AM
Here's the really un-glamorous truth:

1. everything is subjective. One man's trash, or back-story, or scenery, is another man's treasure.
2. presence matters, and the longer you've been a "force" in any industry, the more you can get away with. That's why King could sell millions of copies of "Dreamcatcher"; it wasn't because the reading public lost its fucking eyes in some freak lawn-dart accident, and it was even less likely to because that book was good....it was because King was King (I suspect he may also be the author you refer to.....so see Point 2, and read it twice....)



Those two may not be fair, and they ARE not representative. Too bad. Everyone (including King) earns their stripes. But they ARE reality. Not everything published is good....and you can't set your bar, as a newbie, on what has been published without some eye to that. But sometimes bad stuff get published. Sometimes, good stuff is under-valued by a pedantic newbie eye likely to base evaluation on specific segments instead of the whole.


Either may have happened here, but neither should validate, or invalidate, your writing. It should only inform it.

quicklime
02-10-2016, 07:47 AM
Today's writers have to take into account that most readers no longer have the patience to be good readers. The short story format offers successful writers a venue that doesn't require them to worry about that. IQ84 is a great read if you have the time and you like Murakami.

Also gonna call BS on this. You either write to an audience, or you don't. And we have a free-market economy. I suspect reading levels and attention spans have changed since the cotton gin. That said, you're always writing a product, plain and simple, and you either write something other folks want, or you do not. To dismiss them is the salve of the folks who need to justify their failure, imho: I know lots of folks languishing, and none of the ones I respect have written it off as a result of the "idiot masses'"....

quicklime
02-10-2016, 07:49 AM
But, to be truthful, I am older have experienced a greater degree of chronological success at organic vitality than most people here.

caw


Said just after a 40-minute phone call to a daughter asking how to program a DVR, and just before telling kids with skateboards to "get off my lawn, hippies!"

RedWombat
02-11-2016, 05:11 AM
I listened to the audiobook of Dreamcatcher while driving across Texas, in a dog-grooming van, as part of a convoy that could not go over 60 miles an hour. This means I am possibly the only person on earth who has a fond memory of Dreamcatcher, because it meant that I was paying attention to something other than Texas.

Don't get me wrong, every time King writes aliens,* God kills a kitten, but have you ever driven across Texas? At sixty?


*Except From A Buick 8, and that was Lovecraft pastiche.

Quillheart
02-11-2016, 05:13 AM
Maybe a lack of inspiration? It happens even to the best of us.

Chris P
02-11-2016, 05:27 AM
Today's writers have to take into account that most readers no longer have the patience to be good readers. The short story format offers successful writers a venue that doesn't require them to worry about that. IQ84 is a great read if you have the time and you like Murakami.

To add to the dog pile, I don't exactly see the short story taking off as the dominant media for fiction.

Claudia Gray
02-13-2016, 03:52 AM
A friend of mine said that you have to think of writing as batting in baseball: Doesn't matter how good you are, you're going to strike out once in a while. The point is to keep going up to bat. Even the best writers turn out something uneven once in a while; the deadline pressure was too tight, the ideas couldn't quite gel, the author never managed to bring out something essential in the MC, whatever. It happens. As writers, we have to recognize when we've struck out, but we also have to step up to the plate once more and be ready to swing again. And as a reader, when I hit an uneven book by an author i generally enjoy, I know something hasn't quite gelled--but the next book or story may be something that blows me away.

Roxxsmom
02-13-2016, 04:33 AM
I know lots of folks languishing, and none of the ones I respect have written it off as a result of the "idiot masses'"....

Found myself nodding as I read this post. People have been decrying and despairing of popular tastes for forever. I suspect that the increasing popularity of novels in the 18th century was probably regarded as a sign of cultural demise in some circles.

It does seem to be fashionable to rant about the tastes of readers and the skill or premises of popular writers on the web. If I had a buck for every time I read a blog entry where someone says "Readers should (http://lj.libraryjournal.com/blogs/annoyedlibrarian/2013/01/03/do-public-librarians-have-any-standards/)" (reading for escapism (http://themissingslate.com/article/literary-or-not/) is considered especially bad) or "Writers must (http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2016/02/staying-on-the-cutting-edge-of-science-fiction/)," or which tell readers which books they must read and love (http://www.abebooks.com/books/features/50-essential-science-fiction-books.shtml) (regardless of their generation, gender, cultural background, or tastes) something, I'd be rich.

Samsonet
02-13-2016, 07:14 AM
That science fiction article is the reason I don't like to mention I like sci-fi.

shivadyne
02-13-2016, 10:37 AM
i do think an established writer's name will get someone to read a little farther than usual. i've done that before with one or two of stephen king's books, even when they were dragging on a lot.

it can be a matter of opinion, but that doesn't mean that the name has nothing to do with it. a lot of people are more receptive to books by big name authors and sometimes they will put up with something they wouldn't have with an author that wasn't well-known.

jjdebenedictis
02-13-2016, 11:14 PM
There have been studies done on what factors cause people to buy books, and the top two are always name recognition (i.e. "I've enjoyed books by that author before.") and word-of-mouth recommendations (i.e. "My friend/mom/bookseller-who-knows-my-tastes thinks this is a book I'll enjoy.")

So authors who have sold well in the past are attractive, commercially. They have a larger number of people who fall into the first category.

Dennis E. Taylor
02-13-2016, 11:54 PM
I bought Forty Days of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson. I'm ambivalent about mentioning the specific book/author, but it's kind of relevant. I think it's a good example of an established author being able to publish a book that would have been rejected outright if written by a noob. The reviews on the book are almost universal in their condemnation-- so much book, so little payoff. For something that was supposed to be about climate change, the actual weather-related part is one bad storm towards the end of the book. And when I say bad, I'm talking New Orleans bad, not Noah's Ark bad. You'd actually be very hard-pressed to call it science-fiction, really. Of course, it's the first of a trilogy (IIRC), so it's really just a setup for the subsequent books.

However, what saves the book (sort of) is that it's well written, and I guess this is where being an established author is relevant. The characters are believable, the dialog is believable, the narration flows. It just isn't about anything for most of the book. So, in this case, I think it's about expectations. I expected post-apocalyptic SF, I got Pride and Prejudice.

CassandraW
02-14-2016, 12:25 AM
I think much of this is a matter of taste. I enjoy a lot of writing many people find "boring." An opening page or two of well-done description that sets a scene and perhaps weaves in a metaphor or two? Bring it on. I love Henry James and Thomas Hardy and all number of writers, modern and classic, that I've heard condemned as "dull."

I won't call readers who don't enjoy such things lazy, but I do think such work can be an acquired taste. I also think that if you're going to open a novel with a couple of pages of description, you'd better do a damn fine job of it.

Michael Panetta
02-14-2016, 03:15 AM
The reason why novels of the past had a slower pace and more description is because people back then didn't have much in the way of entertainment or travel. People read to literally "get away" to a new place. Starting a novel with scenery today is just boring.

CassandraW
02-14-2016, 03:19 AM
The reason why novels of the past had a slower pace and more description is because people back then didn't have much in the way of entertainment or travel. People read to literally "get away" to a new place. Starting a novel with scenery today is just boring.

And I disagree. So do others. Not everyone shares your taste.

Roxxsmom
02-14-2016, 03:31 AM
That science fiction article is the reason I don't like to mention I like sci-fi.

I love it too, but jeesh some SF fans (and writers) are snobby. Is there any other genre that's so filled with people who seem to think the world will be in mortal danger or something if authors don't predict the scientific future perfectly and if they can't convince fans to only like whatever it is they think the genre should be? Fantasy bloggers can be bad too (I ran across a rant about writers and naive readers who just don't get that it's impossible to have gender equality in a pre-industrial, class-based society the other day).

I detect a note of panic in some of those posts that I don't understand. I mean, what horrible thing will come of women fantasizing about being knights or warriors in a romanticized medieval world, or from readers imaging themselves in a "pewpewpew lazers" space opera setting peopled with improbably humanoid aliens?

As per the starting with scenery thing. It may be true that the presence of visual media means that the average reader is looking for something different in a novel than they were 100 years ago (it's one argument about why more character-driven povs have become so popular too), but things also go in and out of fashion for no good reason. And tastes are always varied. One reader might be bored with a book that spends verbiage establishing setting at the beginning, but another reader may be confused or annoyed with one that jumps straight to the action or dialog without establishing any context.

jjdebenedictis
02-14-2016, 03:53 AM
Snobbery is the public face of insecurity. When people try to position what they like as superior, or what other people like as inferior, that's always coming from a place of fear within them.

And speaking as a nerd, I grok how someone who has been ostracized just for being themselves, and then found a safe space where they are welcomed exactly as they are, might fear that safe space changing to accommodate people who are unlike themselves. But even understanding it, I think it's vicious to try to exclude others from also landing in the safe harbour that accepted you -- to effectively make that harbour unsafe so you can have it to yourself. In fact, I think that's the one sin for which you should get turned out of the safe space.

In other words, I've got zero patience for people trying to box SFF into being only what it once was, instead of what it should be, or can become. It was always meant to be wide open.

Fuchsia Groan
02-14-2016, 10:22 AM
I read a lot of discussion of movies. Many cinephiles grant certain directors and stars what they call a "lifetime pass": If the Coen brothers directed it, I will see it. (And then complain bitterly and threaten to "revoke their lifetime pass" if I don't like it). That sort of thing.

And I just don't get the "lifetime pass" concept. Never have, never will. It seems particularly inappropriate for film directors, because many of them aren't "auteurs" and don't write their material, but I think it's inappropriate for authors, too. Why should liking their past material mean I will like their present material? I mean, that can certainly happen, but given that both I and the author will change over time, it hardly seems like a foregone conclusion. There are authors I've gotten bored of, or outgrown, for reasons that had everything to do with me and nothing to do with changes in their output. In fact, for me, authors who keep doing the same things can get boring.

Maybe it's because I read a lot of dead authors that I can't accept the "lifetime pass" concept. I mean, Stendhal is one of my favorite authors, but I'm not a huge fan of anything he wrote other than The Red and the Black. I dunno. I guess I'm generally more excited about discovering new-to-me artists than concerned about staying loyal to old ones. Fickle, in short. But I never know when life might bring me back to appreciating an old favorite again.

ETA: And yes, being an author has given me a very different perspective on all this, because of course I want to retain readers from book to book. But I also want to write what I want to write, and easily start boring myself when I keep doing similar things. I can imagine that being a bestselling author with a ton of fans is, in some ways, quite a burden. A lucrative burden, but a burden nonetheless if you don't want to keep writing what your fans want to read.

Kylabelle
02-14-2016, 02:50 PM
I bought Forty Days of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson. I'm ambivalent about mentioning the specific book/author, but it's kind of relevant. I think it's a good example of an established author being able to publish a book that would have been rejected outright if written by a noob. The reviews on the book are almost universal in their condemnation-- so much book, so little payoff. For something that was supposed to be about climate change, the actual weather-related part is one bad storm towards the end of the book. And when I say bad, I'm talking New Orleans bad, not Noah's Ark bad. You'd actually be very hard-pressed to call it science-fiction, really. Of course, it's the first of a trilogy (IIRC), so it's really just a setup for the subsequent books.

However, what saves the book (sort of) is that it's well written, and I guess this is where being an established author is relevant. The characters are believable, the dialog is believable, the narration flows. It just isn't about anything for most of the book. So, in this case, I think it's about expectations. I expected post-apocalyptic SF, I got Pride and Prejudice.

I absolutely adored that book and its sequels. The characters are wonderfully drawn, and the facts of climate science are laid in to the story almost invisibly, which to me is a sign of great skill.

So, in this as in all such discussions, YMMV.

ETA: Also, having read the Mars books by KSR, I understood his style and voice. Being set on a terraforming Mars made those books more ordinary in the SF genre, but the way they were constructed and in particular the attention to character as a story foundation, shows up again in Forty.

JHFC
02-14-2016, 05:07 PM
And the lead singer of Tool is aging out of his earlier vocal range, which happens to all of us, but I still like the early stuff where he could sound like a demented choir boy.

And as another example of different tastes, I think late Tool is much superior to early Tool. But I also think that the universally loved AENIMA is their worst album.

Layla Nahar
02-14-2016, 06:09 PM
To the OP (even tho he's been banned) Maybe your taste is changing?

CassandraW
02-14-2016, 06:20 PM
To the OP (even tho he's been banned) Maybe your taste is changing?

Alas, we will never know.

Maryn
02-14-2016, 06:59 PM
Meh. I'm good with never knowing.

CassandraW
02-14-2016, 07:03 PM
*throws a single shriveled stinkweed into thread in memoriam*

Kylabelle
02-14-2016, 07:10 PM
*throws a single shriveled stinkweed into thread in memoriam*

And who's going to clean that up?

:greenie

CassandraW
02-14-2016, 07:23 PM
And who's going to clean that up?

:greenie

cray, of course.

Kylabelle
02-14-2016, 07:30 PM
*snap*

Of course. Silly me.

CassandraW
02-14-2016, 07:34 PM
I mean, why else would we keep him around? Surely he must be good for something.

Latina Bunny
02-14-2016, 07:46 PM
Can be a burnout thing, or it can be just a taste thing.

Name and brand familiarity is how I often choose most books.

As someone who's really picky, I like to stick with the authors I've sampled and enjoyed in the past. I'll often read the first of a series, or the first book of a new author, and then decide from there if I want more from that author, or not.

If I really enjoyed an author's previous book or books, then I feel that I would have a high probability of perhaps liking the future books by that author as well.

Many Romance readers do this a lot. I sometimes read Romances, and I do this:

If I liked something, then I would seek out more by that author. If I really don't like something (or if the author wrote something that made me want to throw or put down the book), then won't pick up the next book by that author. Simple as that. :)

Hapax Legomenon
02-14-2016, 07:52 PM
As per the starting with scenery thing. It may be true that the presence of visual media means that the average reader is looking for something different in a novel than they were 100 years ago (it's one argument about why more character-driven povs have become so popular too), but things also go in and out of fashion for no good reason. And tastes are always varied. One reader might be bored with a book that spends verbiage establishing setting at the beginning, but another reader may be confused or annoyed with one that jumps straight to the action or dialog without establishing any context.

I kind of think it might be the same thing that happened with visual art. In the west, for a long time, visual artists were prized for their paintings and drawings being as realistic as possible. They captured real life. Then suddenly photography came along and made capturing real-life simple and left visual artists with a bit of an existential crisis. And then, bang, came impressionism, abstract art, dadaism, post-modernism, whatever -- because now the artist was bringing to the table things that were not possible in photographs to remake their niche.

It feels like there's some of that in prose, too, in differentiating it from film and TV. Sure there were plays and stuff but those weren't as accessible as film and TV is now and prose was back then. Things like stream-of-consciousness and the obsession with tight POVs are things that you can't get so much in TV and film, sure, but there's also an influence of things that are expected in film being forced into prose, like "show don't tell" and a requirement for starting with action. Also, in art, hyperrealism is making a comeback. So I don't know. But these things definitely influence each other.

andiwrite
02-15-2016, 03:09 AM
Here's the really un-glamorous truth:

1. everything is subjective. One man's trash, or back-story, or scenery, is another man's treasure.
2. presence matters, and the longer you've been a "force" in any industry, the more you can get away with. That's why King could sell millions of copies of "Dreamcatcher"; it wasn't because the reading public lost its fucking eyes in some freak lawn-dart accident, and it was even less likely to because that book was good.....

I really liked Dreamcatcher. I couldn't put it down. Just to prove your first point correct. :)


Can be a burnout thing, or it can be just a taste thing.

Name and brand familiarity is how I often choose most books.

As someone who's really picky, I like to stick with the authors I've sampled and enjoyed in the past. I'll often read the first of a series, or the first book of a new author, and then decide from there if I want more from that author, or not.

If I really enjoyed an author's previous book or books, then I feel that I would have a high probability of perhaps liking the future books by that author as well.

Many Romance readers do this a lot. I sometimes read Romances, and I do this:

If I liked something, then I would seek out more by that author. If I really don't like something (or if the author wrote something that made me want to throw or put down the book), then won't pick up the next book by that author. Simple as that. :)

It's interesting to see how others choose books. I never usually go by author or word of mouth. It's the subject matter that pulls me in. Sometimes, I just want to read a book about a school shooting, or an alien invasion, or a sweet, old-fashion romance, or whatever. Once I have a subject in mind, I keep an eye out for that type of story whenever I'm browsing Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads, etc. I get most of my books that way, and they are usually from authors I've never read before. Unless an author I love happens to create a book I'm in the mood for at the exact right moment.

Latina Bunny
02-15-2016, 03:29 AM
It's interesting to see how others choose books. I never usually go by author or word of mouth. It's the subject matter that pulls me in. Sometimes, I just want to read a book about a school shooting, or an alien invasion, or a sweet, old-fashion romance, or whatever. Once I have a subject in mind, I keep an eye out for that type of story whenever I'm browsing Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads, etc. I get most of my books that way, and they are usually from authors I've never read before. Unless an author I love happens to create a book I'm in the mood for at the exact right moment.

Well, how do you think I find those authors I love in the first place? :)

Obviously, they were "new" to me at some point. (I sample bits from new authors all of the time, but there are sooo many books out there, so I have to use various methods to narrow down those choices. I'm a slow reader nowadays, my budget is really limited, and I'm picky, so I really don't like to waste time on a book I would most likely dislike.)

For me, once I find a book I enjoy, I tend to want to get the next book from the author. And the next. And the next. (Until I no longer enjoy the author anymore, for whatever reason.)

Meanwhile, I'm finding other books from new authors or from my other favorite authors.

I'm willing to sample the first from a new author, though I have to narrow down my choices. (Soooo many books, so little time.)

Of course, the subject matter has to appeal to me. I read different genres/subgenres, though I do have my favorites and read more of said favorites.

Also, some authors do branch out and do more than one subject matter or one genre/subgenre.
(Romances and General Fiction can have various subject matter, etc. For example, I've seen some Romance authors I've enjoyed go from paranormal to contemporary to scifi or to historical, and back, etc.)

Roxxsmom
02-15-2016, 09:55 AM
Once I have a subject in mind, I keep an eye out for that type of story whenever I'm browsing Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads, etc. I get most of my books that way, and they are usually from authors I've never read before. Unless an author I love happens to create a book I'm in the mood for at the exact right moment.

Now that's interesting, because I don't think I usually have a subject in my mind when I browse for books (aside from genre maybe). I do have certain genres I read more than others, and types of settings or characters or language or themes I'm more attracted to within. But sometimes a book catches my eye for some reason, or I hear one is really good, and I go for it. Previous experience with an author can be a thing too, especially for getting me to step outside my usual preferred story types. For instance, I'm reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik, mainly because it's on a lot of year's best lists, and I'm reading some 2015 releases with an eye to Hugo nominating. I'm enjoying it a lot, even though I don't usually dig fairy-tale style fantasy that much.

Sometimes it's really hard for me to put my finger on what I'm in the mood for or why I like one story a lot and don't care as much for another of a similar type, though. I suspect writing style is some of it, as is my interest in the main character or characters, but it can be hard to put my finger on it, even with all my writer's vocabulary.

TECarter
02-26-2016, 03:50 PM
There are two ways to look at it.

One - subjectivity. If you ask fans of Stephen King what their favorite book of his is, some will say one of his first ten and someone else will pick a new one. I haven't enjoyed his newer work but lots of people do. It's a matter of preference. The idea of opening with scenery is fine for me. I like atmosphere and character building and quiet, internal experiences. Other people like heavy and fast moving plots. I love the characters in ASoIaF but I'm so sick of knowing what they're eating and wearing. Some people love that attention to detail. Subjectivity is the essence of writing and Art.

Two - it will sell regardless so less effort is put into editing it seems. I imagine SK doesn't get the same developmental notes he used to. I thought Dan Brown's Inferno was a mess in terms of research and plot holes and I felt like an editor just let him go. It sold a ridiculous number of copies. Some writers have built-in reader trust and that makes readers more patient. For writers, though, we get frustrated to see things we couldn't get away with it. But nobody is running out to buy a book just because I wrote it. John Grisham and Jodi Picoult and names like that have earned that right!

gothicangel
03-04-2016, 09:05 PM
I found when I started to consider writing seriously (rather than a hobby), I become hypercritical. Especially those in the same genre. I went back to some of those authors a while later, and they have since become some of my favourite writers.

Manuel Royal
03-17-2016, 04:54 PM
I've learned my own mood and mental state have a great deal to do with whether I find a book boring. When that happens, I put the book aside and come back to it a few weeks later. Sometimes I find I get right into it and enjoy it. So, if my different moods can be thought to represent different kinds of reader, I don't think it's a matter of a writer getting away with being boring, so much as writing to a particular market.

(With exceptions, of course. Sometimes even a writer who's done great work in the past just screws the pooch.)

Once!
03-23-2016, 12:11 PM
I think there is something else going on here. We may have unrealistic expectations about what a famous author can deliver in every single piece of writing. That can lead us to "over-notice" the times when a famous writer doesn't appeal to us.

That might be a bit complicated, so I'll unpack it.

Most of us are choosy about what we read. We might like or dislike long passages of description. We may want to know what the characters are wearing or we may not care two hoots and would rather know the exact make and model of the car they are driving.

When we are dealing with an author we don't know, it's often easy to dismiss this as "I don't like this author" or "not my style". This happens so often that it is unremarkable. We don't notice the huge number of times when we reject an author we don't know. How many books do you look at in a bookstore before you choose one that you actually want to buy?

But when it's a famous author we often have higher expectations. Subconsciously we expect everything they write to appeal to us because they are a famous author. Of course that's a pretty unreasonable thing to expect, but then the subconscious isn't always reasonable.

That "boring" piece of writing by the famous author? It may be an early piece they wrote when they were learning the craft. It might be them on an off day. It might be a perfectly good piece of writing but which doesn't appeal to you because it's not your style. It might be an experimental piece. A piece written to order. It might be an area of writing that they're not particularly good at.

If it was a non famous author you wouldn't give it a second thought. It's only because it's a famous writer that we notice it. We over-notice it.