I Can Write Better Than You! No, You Can't
By Elizabeth Black
Jean Joachim has a great post up at her blog called Ten Things To Not Say To A Romance Writer. I've heard them all before, including #1 (Did you model that character after me?), #6 (Does your mother know you write this stuff?), and especially #9 (I could write something like this … it isn't hard.).
I want to talk about #9 because I recently had a rather amusing experience with it.
Every writer out there has heard from countless people that they too are going to write a great novel. The problem is they've talked about it for years but they've never actually written anything. Sometimes when someone finds out I write horror, dark fiction, erotica, and erotic romance, they say, "Oh, I want to write a novel, too." As if magically words just fly out of my ass and anyone can do it. Well, words do fly out of my ass because I'm damned good and I'm prolific, but no… not "anyone" can do it..
That said, recently I've encountered a numbnuts who actually rewrote my own work in progress. Without my permission. Without being asked. Without even knowing me! Get a load of this. This guy saw my opening sentence of my WIP entitled "The Oily" I posted on my Facebook page and he just had to send me a private message. He is not one of my Facebook friends. He couldn't post his "correction" on my wall because I don't permit non-friends to post so he just had to pontificate to me in private.
For comparison purposes, here is my original sentence. Pretty straightforward, moody, and simple.
"Winwood House stood on the high hill butting up to Strangeman's Swamp, a five mile pit reeking of desolation on the island of Caleb's Woe where animals and sometimes children disappeared never to be seen again.
Here's what he sent me in private mail:
Out of amusement I reworked your first sentence, as it didn't really work for me, but couldn't post it to the thread -- so for what it's worth: Beetling over the rocky precipice that overshadowed the noisome, mist-shrouded pit that was Strangeman's bog, Winwood House's sinking porches provided a wide-ranging vista over the festering muck which -- were the tales of Caleb's Woe islanders to be believed -- had lured many a head of cattle, and children unnumbered to a mysterious and appalling fate.
WTF? Can you say "purple prose"? First off, he had the gall to "correct" me, probably thinking that any moron can write fiction. This isn't even erotic romance. It's horror fiction. It's bad enough some people think writing fiction is a breeze, but some think any moron can write erotic romance. It's like the old joke, "Those who can't act, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym."
It's not like he's a New York Times bestselling author. If he were a reputable, best-selling, talented writer I might listen to him but no respectable writer uses words like "beetling".
So I wrote back, not sure if he was serious because his "correction" was so God-awful I couldn't believe he thought it was good. Turns out he was very serious. Here's his response, verbatim including misspellings and bad grammar:
No, I was absolutely serious, now let me tell you about a great real estate investment oppurtunity, Caleb's Island...
If I had really wanted to go for purple prose I would have used o'er rather than over, and thrown in a few 'nigh unto'
I'd had enough so I went in for the kill:
"It's Caleb's Woe, not Caleb's Island. Feel free to change the name of any location you wish as long as it's of your own creation, not someone else's. How very kind of you to "correct" another author's writing unasked for. And you are a stranger to me. You're not even a Facebook friend. So polite of you.
You also used words that haven't been in common usage since Elizabeth I was Queen. Beetling? Noisome? Seriously? Even H. P. Lovecraft avoided words like beetling and noisome, and he was prone to using "eldritch".
You really should submit something for the Bulwer-Lytton awards but those submissions are supposed to be a joke, not serious like what you wrote.
By the way, don't quit your day job.
So, no, not "anyone" can write fiction and write it well. It's hard work and exhausting. This guy's reworking of my first sentence is worthy of the Bulwer-Lytton Awards but you're supposed to write jokingly bad entries for that contest – not stuff you seriously think is good. I never heard from Numbnuts after my final message to him. Maybe he's rewriting "Pride and Prejudice" but making it better than that hack Jane Austen ever did.