Has anyone noticed that most popular novels are all really badly written?
What's the use of going to literature program, creative writing program etc...the most popular authors are all pretty bad at writing. E.g. Stephanie Meyer, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King. Actually, I can't think of one popular novel that isn't badly written. The better a novel is written, the less likely it will sell because most likely the mass majority of people won't get it.
The only one of those I've read and can comment about is Rowling. She's a fantastic story-teller and a (barely) passable writer. Repetitive, excessive, tedious description of everything, action sequences written practically to be movie ready. You'd almost think she was being paid by the word at times. But she develops her characters well and the story lines (sometimes stolen from mythology and literature) are engrossing, which makes you tolerate the writing. Of course, that's not really an issue for the books' primary audience, young adults and children. I've heard several parents over the years say that their kids (elementary to H.S. aged) never deigned to crack open book and keep reading until the HP books.
If it gets them reading, it's a good thing.
I haven't read Meyer's books, but I have read Rowling and King, and I think they're fine writers. I'd be willing to bet that their books will stand the test of time better than some of the current award winners (most of which I enjoy, by the way).
What have you written, OP?
Not everybody who writes wants to nec. be that kind of bestseller. Many want to write the stories they have to tell knowing they are not going to achieve that level of success and tell them well.
Not everybody who writes and wants to be a super bestselling author telling stories that might sell big time succeeds at all, let alone on the level of the megastars you've cited.
OP, don't forget the worst of all, Fifty Shades of Shit. It reads like a 13 year old girl's diary. That cow not only can't write, she is a plagiarist. She couldn't even come up with her own story, so she ripped off Twilight (another shitty book) making just a few changes to protect herself from getting sued. You can find better romance fiction written by fangurls on LJ.
Neither Rowling nor King are very good stylists, although both are great at plotting, and Rowling is very good with character development.
Most writers coming out of creative writing programs lack spontaneity and can't tell a story for shit.
"What have you written, OP?"
So you can only comment on writing if you've published a book of your own? You stupid cunt...
I believe it's too soon to evaluate the listed authors.
I didn't appreciate Hemingway in high school because his style had been done to death.
"Yes, but he was the first!"
"Nobody told me we had to read everything in chronological order."
I tried to get through an Anne Rice back when she was popular. Terrible.
Anne Rice is far too in love with the word "preternatural."
King has written some real gems with very good writing. "'Salem's Lot" is a great and perverse satire/homage/take on the already perverse "Peyton Place," "Misery" is probably one of the best books he's written and "Dolore Claiborne" is a free form monologue in a woman's Yankee dialect.
Don't forget Stieg Larsson. I liked the novels, but that was despite the clunky structure.
Here is the opening of King's "The Gunslinger":
[quote]The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
[quote]The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts, huge, standing to the sky for what looked like eternity in all directions. It was white and blinding and waterless and without feature save for the faint, cloudy haze of the mountains which sketched themselves on the horizon and the devil-grass which brought sweet dreams, nightmares, death. An occasional tombstone sign pointed the way, for once the drifted track that cut its way through the thick crust of alkali had been a highway. Coaches and buckas had followed it. The world had moved on since then. The world had emptied.
Is this your idea of "really bad" writing?
You forgot Dan Brown.
Stephen King doesn't belong in this category. In terms of popular fiction, he's in a class by himself.
The Godfather was the big book when I was young--everyone in high school was reading it. Was it well-written?
I have noticed community college English majors tend to have lofty opinions of themselves
Stephen King, like Ray Bradbury, is at his worst when he's trying to be literary. When he sticks to just plain clear direct prose he's just fine.
R17. Curious....what is your education and how many books have you published?
Please, must we have directed a movie to critique one?
I don't agree that Stephen King is a poor/bad writer.
R8, who has written in the style of Hemingway? I'm interested in reading them.
King is a much better writer than Rowling or any other contemporary writer. I am not a fan of his books but he is a good writer.
I think both Rowling and King are better than Meyer. I loved when King bashed Meyer and one of those Twilight fangirls posted a video bashing King and I remember it went viral and people were laughing at that girl.
I like all the books that don't have red pictures in them.
King and Rowling may not be the next Hemmingway, but it's completely unfair to compare them to Meyer. Harry Potter will have a shelf as long as Narnia at the very least. As for King, books like Misery and Pet Sematary will be looked on favorably, even though he had published a lot of duds.
rowling wrote harry potter for children and young adults, and did a very good job.
Re: 'The Godfather', I recall that Puzo turned it out as a job of work for two reasons: he'd tried 'literary fiction' a few times without financial or critical success, and also had gambling debts.
Here in the UK the proudly populist scribbler Jeffrey Archer at least now insists he's 'a storyteller, not a writer.' This from a man who when turning to thrillers (having failed in politics and business) solemnly asked a publisher his chances of winning the Nobel prize for literature.
Yes he works hard, and no I've never written a book.
I love how popular books are greeted with such scorn and condescension when most of these "critics" would give both testicles to have written one of them.
I feel like that's not the point, R27. As long as someone provides reasons for their opinions, criticism is important--especially regarding popular things. A lot of people too quickly dismiss criticism and opinions as pure scorn, when that's not always the case.
Why must you be so vulgar and common, r7, especially in a thread about good writing?
R27 sounds like a delusional "pretty" girl who can't allow any criticism, so she claims everyone is just jealous if they can't stand her.
Some of my very close friends that I went to college with and I thought were really well read, GUSHED about 50 Shades of Grey.
Now I really look down on them
I think we're forgetting Nicholas Sparks here. He could easily give Meyer and that hack who wrote 50 Shades of Grey a run for their money.
I have a friend who was a Rhodes scholar, worked as a diplomat, etc, but what he reads in terms of fiction are Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and stuff that Hollywood blockbusters are based on.
You can't fairly compare writers of today with writers of fifty or a hundred years ago.
The world was different then. If you want to know what the slums of India are like now you can probably find a webcam showing you in the moment. We don't need writers to paint pictures of the world for us any longer. Images of it are easily available.
Still, the basics never change. A good story that can be believed (in the context of the genre), good dialogue, good flow and a deployment of words that takes hold of the reader. Those things hold. I seldom read popular writers but I don't read literature, either. I just want to be taken away from the real world and into another one.
Excellent thread OP, for me, since I've remarked on this several times.
Anyone can write a book now.
Think "World War Z", any Sookie Stackhouse novel, et al--no prose, no methods, just blurbing out your imagination.
r18, as a matter of fact I have no education and can neither read nor write. I'm only managing to type this by randomly hitting the keyboard with a Bratz doll.
At the link, an old thread (2010) about middlebrow writers.
lol, "Fifty Shades of Shit"
Every once in a while, I hear so much about a popular novel that I check it out...and it is full of terrible and clichéd writing.
Stieg Larsson had some interesting stuff in his books, and good plot twists, but there was a lot of bad writing. And James Patterson is worse. I haven't touched the Twilight or 50 Shades books; I will take people's word for it that they are terrible. Tried to read Dan Brown because I like art history and conspiracy theories, but I could not get past a few pages, it was so terrible.
I think they are popular because people that read them are interested in plot-driven books... and clichés. And they may not realize there is stuff out there that is better. Or maybe they would not appreciate stuff that is better. Kind of like music.
These books are pushed by the publishing companies the same way Katy Perry, Rhianna, Bieber, etc are pushed by record companies, so that is a big part of why they sell.
R35. Makes sense
While I know his books aren't high art, I actually think Steven King is a very good writer from a technical standpoint. What happens is that he can't plot a novel to save his life most of the time. As classic examples, the first 3/4ths of The Stand and It are terrific, but then he just kind of runs out of steam. It also probably suffered because he was still clearly deeply into his cocaine problem when he was writing it. Of his most recent works, Cell is one that works pretty much from start to finish, although that probably didn't hurt that he was borrowing (by his own admission) from I Am Legend and Dawn of the Dead.
In fairness, I've yet to read 11/22/63, but I can say I'm looking forward to the Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep when it comes out in the fall. Assuming I still have time for pleasure reading at that point.
The Voice of the Night
My mother has a Master's degree in English Lit and runs Master classes on creative writing. She was OBSESSED with Twilight and the sequels. We fought about it for years.
When someone writes that "most popular novels are all really badly written,". I find it impossible to pay any attention to his assessment of writing skills.
When someone writes that "when someone writes that 'most popular novels are all really badly written,'. I find it impossible to pay any attention to his assessment of writing skills," I find it impossible to pay any attention to his assessment of assessments of writing skills.
You have to remember too publishers know that they are competing with movies,tv and video games (especially for children). They will market to the lowest common denominator in order to get the most eyeballs.
As for Rowling, maybe she's no Tolkien but anybody who can get kids who've never known a world without the internet to fight over 400 plus page books, she's damn good.
I'm just saying: if you followed supposedly "brilliant" people on twitter, etc., including very successful writers (some very educated), you will see that they, too, make idiot grammar or spelling mistakes sometimes.
It's been years since I read the the first two or three books in the HP series. Does anyone think that quality of the writing declined over time? I recall the first couple of books being more streamlined and the writing less tedious or ponderous. Later the books become longer and she went seemed to go into overdrive with the excess description and verbosity. I definitely recall being more annoyed with some of the later books and skimmed or skipped over parts that could have used editing. Maybe they were being rushed to print and suffered in quality of writing as a result?
I tell ya, you give a girl an Associates Degree in English from Santa Monica Junior College and she things she owns the world.
The Godfather was well-written.
Fifty Shades is terrible.
I recently re-read the first page of an Enid Blyton Famous Five and that was terrible as well.
It's the same with food, music... If you have zero taste you will eat junk food and listen to Bieber or Rihanna
i like reading romance/suspense novels sometimes but it has become a real problem lately finding decent ones by searching something like amazon for what is popular.
I couldn't figure it out for the longest time. There wold be a thousand reviews praising a book so I would buy it only to discover it should have been unpublishable it was so bad, much like 50 Shades or Twilight.
I finally figure out that 50 Shades was a "fan fic" that became popular on some community where regular people just write stuff for free for other fans but this became so popular some publisher paid for it.
Now this is everywhere in YA/mystery/romance the books with a ton of reviews are from these self published fan fiction "writers" or real publishers are picking off the popular ones and passing them off as real books. You can't tell who is a real author or who is one of these clowns.
I used to only read "real" literature so I like my trashy novels to at least be up to basic writing standards but it is becoming impossible to sift through all the crap to enjoy my guilty pleasure.
R43 has a point.
Barnes and Noble, also Amazon, don't sell literature, they market books. If they won't sell, they don't get shelf space, or at least prominent shelf space.That skews what the public sees and hears about, what they will buy, then to meet the demand, to get a publisher to take take the book, the authors follow long.
Do skilled editors find it hard to get work? Seems they have been eliminated or the job outsourced to people who don't know good writing.
Pop novels don't seem to have gone across an editors's desk. A computer program checks for spelling not for content, but that seems to be all that happens between the author and the bookstore. An editor would cut out verbiage.
Not criticizing a book unless you are an author? I have never been president, a professional basketball player, or a CEO either. I am not supposed to criticize them?
Re Rowling, my impression is that the first couple of books were sylistically lovely, consdering they were written for under 10s. With the later books in the series she was under pressure to write them fast so one could come out almost every year. Then they got bigger, the plots more complex, the scenes more elaborate. So, considering that - and you can clearly tell in parts that the writing is rushed - they're quite well written. And, sometimes, the sense that the writing was rushed also pushes the pace of the book along, and the reader gets caught up in the action.
I'd like to read the Casual Vacancy, to see how her work turns out when she's not being rushed.
Puzo and King are meant to be masters in their field: clear, crisp writing, short sentences, few adjectives and even fewer adverbs. They may be good story tellers, understood by all, but, as a result of the "simplicity", the experience of the novels seems a bit skin deep to me. King, in particular, despite his weird characters, cannot delve too deeply into them.
Bullshit, who made you the arbitrator on what is good or bad. You probably think "Ebonics" is bad English.
It's just another dialect, none which is superior to another.
The point of grammar is to convey content so it's not misunderstood. If you can convey your message without it being misunderstood, your grammar is sound.
If the only reason is to convey a message so it is understood, why proofread resumes? Just type the thing up, phonetically if you like, and send it off. Why even type it? The H.R. person should be able to read crayon, right?
Good grammar makes your written product look like you care about your work. Bad grammar and misspelled words in a novel makes it look cheap.
Ebonics or Southern drawl with it's 'yawls' is fine within the in-group. But you should know how to switch to proper English, written or spoken when it will help you. Lot of people don't know that or refuse to do it out of egoism or misplaced pride in their group.
I don't know who r52 is responding to but language - at least not in terms of the novels people choose to read - is not just about communicating to be understood. There are different styles for different times. I don't want to read bad or incorrect grammar in fiction (unless it's by a character) - that makes me question the skill of the author. Similarly, as r53 points out, if your only interest when writing a resume is to be understood regardless of whether it's peppered with mistakes then you might not get the job, and deservedly so.
Ebonics and other dialects are fine in fiction if they're used by a character or even if a book is written that whole way throughout if it's targetting a certain audience. It probably won't sell much beyond that audience, though. If you want to communicate with a much larger audience then it's best to switch out of the dialect. For example, even if a television audience can understand a presenter speaking in dialect, it can still be hard work, so better to try and stanardise.
Actually r13 i never thought of King as a bad writer, but that opening you posted from The Gunslinger isn't good.
You are putting yourself in a tight spot if you are white and try to write in Ebonics.
As usual, DL posters cannot distinguish between something demonstrably bad and something they just don't find to their own taste.
[quote]Bullshit, who made you the arbitrator on what is good or bad. You probably think "Ebonics" is bad English.
It's just another dialect, none which is superior to another.
Actually, you'd have made your point more effectively if your grammar and punctuation had been better.
Tom Stoppard made the point beautifully in "The Real Thing." It's rather like playing tennis. (I'm paraphrasing completely, but did feel honor bound to cite the source. Trust me; he stated it beautifully; I'm just going to try to make the same point.) Getting the ball across the next is all well and good, but putting it in precisely the right spot, with exactly the desired amount of force, requires having the skills, knowing the rules, and practicing.
Apparently when there's a paragraph break in a quotation, subsequent paragraphs do not go into the little box. The paragraph about "just another dialect" in R58 was part of the same quotation as the preceding paragraph.
How do you create that box anyhow? For future reference.