Well, another topic cued up by a comment on a post over at Dean’s place.
The original post was about Dean’s streak of posting to his blog for over 2100 days straight. Somehow it turned to reading for pleasure vs. “looking” for errors as you read.
Of course, I agree with Dean that a reader should read fiction in the chosen genre strictly for pleasure.
I also agree that sometimes a bestseller is a wonderful writer whose “style” is simply not the reader’s cup of tea.
But I also believe culpability for bad storytelling and bad writing should be placed firmly where it belongs. And the simple fact is, sometimes even a best-selling author jerks the reader out of the story with some inane nonsense, and that is not the reader’s fault.
Unlike Dean, who believes he avoids negatives all the time (grin), I’m willing to use examples of both good and bad. Here are a few:
Lee Child is one hell of a storyteller. Every now and then he makes a gaffe that I notice as I’m reading for pleasure. (I don’t look for them; they pop out at me, i.e. pull me from the story.)
His errors usually are factual errors that are common to writers, like calling a magazine for a semiautomatic weapon a “clip” or calling a Texas Ranger the “state police.”
Also, his paragraphs are so long that I sometimes have to backtrack and reread them. However, his overall story is generally good enough to hold my attention, so I skip over those minor gaffes and keep reading.
In science fiction, Robert Heinlein holds my attention until he goes deep into a description (usually engineering stuff) that has little to do with the actual story and bores me. But again, the overall story is good enough that I scan over the boring stuff and keep reading.
On the other hand, I’ve sampled several (7 or 8) James Patterson books from both when he was writing alone and after he started taking on writing partners.
I was never able to get past the first 4 or 5 pages of any of his books because what was written there was just so ludicrous. Not only did it jerk me out of the story, it never let me in.
In the middle ground is Stephen King. I’ve read and loved almost everything he’s ever written. But when I happened across The Dome, I was unable to finish it. That was mostly due to formatting problems (for example, ALL BOLD ALL CAPS FOR SIGNS).
Again, these aren’t things I was consciously looking for. They are problems that popped out at me and destroyed my suspension of disbelief.
Consider, you don’t have to suspend the reader’s sense of disbelief. The reader does that for himself when he chooses to buy your book. The writer’s task is to allow the reader to go on believing and enjoying the story.
Jack Higgins, for me, is the ultimate thriller writer. His stories pull me in immediately and never allow me to surface until the end of the book.
My favorite cozy mystery writer is a relative unknown named Nora Barker (pen name). Again, her writing pulls me directly into the storyline and never allows me to surface.
The point of this topic:
I never look for “mistakes” or typos or any of that when I’m reading for pleasure. I get more than enough of that when I’m editing.
But there are a few bestselling writers out there who I swear are only bestsellers because they know marketing. Patterson is the best example of this.
When I’m reading along for pleasure, down in the story, and I’m suddenly jerked out of the story by something stupid (usually the writer talking about something he obviously knows nothing about) I put the book down and move on to another author.
When some idiotic formatting choice jumps out at me, like the aforementioned ALL BOLD ALL CAPS, I put the book down and move on to another book, often by the same author if I usually like his writing.
To be fair, formatting is usually a choice that’s out of the (traditionally published) writer’s hands.
But glaring factual mistakes or lack of knowledge of the subject matter cause me to mark that writer off my list for future purchases.
You the reader owe the writer Nothing. You paid money for the book; you deserve to be entertained.
It’s the writer’s responsibility to hold the reader in the story, to not shove the reader out.
Correction: Apparently the advice-giving writer I ranted about yesterday DOES have some published books. (Though to be fair, I didn’t say he didn’t; I only said I couldn’t find any.)
However, I still can’t point you to any of them.
NOTE: I heavily edited the following paragraph after the original posting to avoid liability issues. Edits below appear in bold italics.
I’d like to tell you to see for yourself. At [name deleted due to liability issues] ‘s own site, scroll down to “So Where Are Your Books?” ([URL deleted due to liability issues]):
“You might have noticed that there are NO authors on KDP named [name deleted due to liability issues] …. [the rest of the excerpt is deleted due to liability issues]“
The person in question goes on to say that he or she published each new book he or she wrote under a different pen name. The “writer” still provides neither the titles of any of the books nor any of the pen names.
To me, that alone completely pegged my Bovine Excrement Alert meter.
The writer goes on to claim he or she has created several bestselling books and that he or she will not keep them a secret, but will use them as an example of the lessons he or she offers.
Okay, fine. But I still don’t have the name of a single book, much less a single novel that would show me [pronoun deleted due to liability issues] knows anything at all about writing novels or even fiction.
If I were just a little more annoyed with this person, I’d spin my wheels asking for the titles of the “consistent bestselling books” and/or the pen names. But frankly, I’m betting they don’t exist.
In my opinion, [URL deleted due to liability issues] is just another scam designed to separate writers from their money. If anyone can offer actual evidence to the contrary, I’m all ears.
Finally to the Hovel at 9:00, ostensibly to write.
Well, I dabbled a bit until noon. I think maybe I just don’t have the kind of mind to comparmentalize writing on one hand and editing on the other.
The edits bring in money, which helps give me the freedom to write. And I don’t get all that many edits, anyway, though I currently have one and another one waiting in the wings.
Anyway, the whole time I was writing, the edit (and other stuff) was lurking in the back of my mind. So I think I’ll concentrate for a few days on finishing the edit(s), then go back to my own stuff afterward.
And of course I’ll keep up these almost-daily Journal entries as well.
See you soon.
Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1130 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 1130
Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXX
Total fiction words for the month……… 2946
Total fiction words for the year………… 237162
Total nonfiction words for the month… 6440
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 85616
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 322528
Calendar Year 2018 Novels to Date………………………… 5
Calenday Year 2018 Novellas to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2018 Short Stories to Date……… 11
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 31
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 6
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………………… 193