Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dumb readers or lazy writers?

Yeah, I know that's about to tick some people off & I hope it does. 'Cause I got to be honest, ya'll. I've read and heard some really bad books these past couple of weeks. It's left me wondering WTF?? These are not self-published or vanity books. I'm talking about books written by multi-published authors, sometimes (shivering in fear) NYT best-sellers. I'll give you an example but I'll change the words a little to protect the innocent (me) & avoid the wrath of the guilty (author).
"I'm hungry. You're hungry. We are both very hungry." Seriously, ya'll, this is a true, printed & published sentence.
Now I know not everything I write is golden & not everyone will love or even like my books. I get it & I'm okay with it :) However what I don't get or refuse to accept is the need to dumb down my books for readers. Umm, hello I AM a reader too & I'd be pissed if I knew an author did it to me. So here's the question do we enjoy our favorite authors because of the stories they weave or the fact that's their books are easy to understand and follow? I'll tell you right now there are some books out there that make my head hurt, too many people, plots & other crap thrown in. Other people adore these books. Yep, I know whatever floats your boat, but still...
Have we as readers become so lazy that we can't take the time to expand our vocabularies and/or boundaries? Where do we drawn the line from "Dick see Jane. Dick like Jane. Dick have freaky sex with Jane." And that's supposed to be a romance? Where? Did I miss it? Maybe I blinked or sneezed? Could be I'm old fashioned, but I like to have my sex with a little side of emotion. Prime example of what I don't enjoy: Heroine captured by bad guys. Hero wins her in a battle of strength. Hero & Heroine have never met before. Hero carries heroine into his man cave of love. Hero tells heroine they will now have sex. Heroine begs him not to. Hero touches her boob. Heroine begs him to have sex with her. BOOM after glow & they are in llllloooooovvveeee. I think I threw up a little in my mouth just typing that. YUCK!
Please explain it to me 'cause I'm must not be getting it. Maybe I'm too dumb to understand the intricate yet simplistic plot above?
Hey, don't throw frogs at me yet. I love a good hot m/f sex scene as much as the next hetro women, but I want a little more than slid slot A into tab B.
Then again maybe it is just me. Opinions, accusations, thoughts, brain farts? Anyone?


Nicole Austin said...

You left out part of the caveman act, like the growling and chest thumping. LOL! I'm with you, there's a lot of crap getting published. Just read something by one of those NY biggies and cringed over the repetition and how the whole story had been slapped together and no real effort made during editing. Its a damn shame because they're short changing the readers who have enough sense to know crap when they read it!

Maggie Nash said...

I am so with you there Allie. Sometimes I just get into a book and wonder why I even bothered. It's especially frustrating since I work very hard to make my own stories and characters authentic and believable, even if their situations are fantasy. I get the impression that some authors and publishers drop the ball after they sell a few good ones and then it becomes all about volume. It is so easy to see where an author has written something quickly just to get it out there, and good for them for doing that, but it shouldn't be at the expense of good writing and believable characters. Because at the end of the day, if the characters ring true, you can believe any story, but if they do something totally against anything you would ever think of, then the story tanks as far as I'm concerned.

So hears to great stories with wonderful characters like we write!

Maggie Nash said...

Doh! I mean here's not hears...sheesh! I should preview my posts before I post them!

Paul McDermott said...

Maggie, Nothing wrong with "Hears to a good story" You should ask the sanch'ai of any village in Ireland how important the Oral Tradition still is when it comes to storytelling!! LOL

While I don't approve of the demure
"He swept her off her feet ... "
new para: "The next morning ..."

'non-event' in a poor Mills & Boon potboiler, I agree that there can be too much graphic detail which leaves the reader unchallenged, not needing to use ANY imaginative powers whatsoever.
[Gets on hobby horse}
What ticks me off more than this is the sloppy standards of GRAMMAR AND SPELLING, for which the editor/publishing house must accept just as much blame as the author.
I spoke to a tattooist last night who was in tears when she discovered that she'd just tattooed a line from a Beatles song on a client, which now reads "All these places have THERE moments ..."
(from: "In My Life I love her so")

Harlie Williams said...

I would have to agree with you on this one. I realize that sex sells and that's fine with me but come on, show a little bit of build up. I don't want my h/h having sex in the first ten pages of a book. I have noticed that even some of my favorite authors are being pushed for more unrealistic sex in books and that the "cute meet" and build up aren't happening. Its a shame, too because I think that they writing suffers and the pubs just want to make money.

Harlie Williams said...

Also, on the other side of the coin...some writers are getting lazier because they are multi-published.

Gerri Bowen said...

I agree with much of what you said, Allie. And I realize not everyone will like the same read, but there have been some dogs out there. What were the publishers thinking? I tend to skip sex scenes after the first encounter, and in some books those sex scenes I skip take up a lot pf pages.


There are just so many blogs I can answer in a day, but I HAD to respond to this one. There is no NEED to worry about ticking ANYBODY off because you have just espoused what a lot of us are thinking and have said in the past.
I love the way you just put it on "out there" no cover up words, no sweet "round the bout" innuendos, just out there.

You might run the risk of pissing off (authors in your case) (publishers in mine) when you say what you really feel, but damn it somebody has to.
I'm old as pyramid dirt and I think I have earned the right to say whatever I want as long as it doesn't really murder anybody (grin).

Like you, I read and heard (big audio person here) novels that I cannot believe was ever in print let alone bought by an agent (the same ones who are always looking for something "new") or a publisher whose editing team is less then up to "code".

Not too long ago I read a book where the heroine was on her way to a family function (Martha's Vineyard) and on the ferry going across she meets a guy and within five minutes he was giving her a tongue sandwich the likes I have never seen, then he just walked away leaving her blinking. (oh I must admit there was about two minutes of conversation prior about where she going etc) and in love. When I questioned the author, she said that her editor told her that the particular house she was writing for DEMANDED that the hero and heroine have amorous interaction by page four (4).
I don't know about you but I did NOT do the wild belly dance with ANYBODY I knew four minutes, hours or days. (well there was this one guy, but it was within six months and I was younger and "smitten").

Thank you for saying it.. Somebody had to.

Anonymous said...

Wow!! I say, "Thank you!" for calling out the guilty. I love to read, but I have to agree that I have been reading less than normal based on soley on this post. I get so mad when I purchase a book that becomes a disappointment. There are several new books in series that I have kept up with and have been hesitant to buy because of this problem. And yes, they NY pubbies! And also a few have mentioned, the grammar aspect along with dumbing down and bad or non existing plot is beyond irritating. I know all reviews on books are not always agreed on, but I do hope these guilty authors get some of the not-so-subtle hints being thrown their way!

Great post, Allie!!


Kenzie Michaels said...

I've been reading erotic romance now for almost 4 years, and when I was first introduced to it, I devoured every word AND was amazed by the stranger sex. So I tried my hand at it, and patterned my heroines after (ahem) college me, who yeah, had a few wild encounters with men I'd only met an hour or two before.

But after a while, I got tired of stranger sex, so now I take the time to 'build' to it.

And when my daughter asked what my most recent release was about, she (age 17) said, 'So all of your books are about women who are basically whores who don't have any self-control? Geez, Mom!'

I explained to her that in the last 3 books I've had published, yes, the women 'just couldn't control themselves any longer' and gave in for 'a moment's pleasure'. But NOT with every man she met afterward; no, turns out she'd been with her Mr. Right, though it takes the next 50 or so pages for her to see it:)

And this is the child I let read my 1st book back when she was 14 and her comment was, 'I've read worse at school.' So at least I'm on the tame side, lol!

Lynn Chantale said...

Great post! I don't mind a book where I have to grab my dictionary to look up an occasional word I've never heard. And it is frightening to think or read bestselling authors are too lazy to grab a thesaurus, or find a better way to say the cliche.
One of the reasons I became a romance writer was so I could write a better story. Who wants to constantly read about the same naive woman and the more experienced older man?

Nina Pierce said...

Allie, I was just blogging about this the other day. I happened to pick up two well known authors in a row and their books were predictable and boring. Both were full length and to say nothing happened was an understatement of the highest magnitude.

One of the books, the hero and heroine were in love by chapter two. I had 46 more chaptes to wade through and the biggest angst they had was whether he should wear a condom or they should try to get pregnant.

I can suspend belief for novellas and erotic romance. Characters often fall in love at first blush or tumble into bed by page four, it fits the genre. But a full length contemporary? Really, I need more than the horizontal mamba to keep my attention for 350 pages.

AJ Nuest said...

Bravo, Allie! Loved this post, and boy, have I ever been there! As a writer, I personally like to read authors that help me improve my craft. I find the better the novel, the more my own limitations are stretched, so I pick and choose my nightstand stack very carefully. If I put garbage in, garbage comes out. But that doesn't mean I haven't read some real clunkers, by multi-published authors of a very well-known reputable romance house (guess who)? The experience left such a bad taste in my mouth (the throw up you mentioned)I swore off that particular publisher. Sorry, I like a little more character development, a lot more realism, and a plot that hasn't been rehashed so many times I know what's going to happen before the story ends. Thanks for hanging out the dirty laundry. About time.

P.L. Parker said...

Great post! Recently I tried to read a book by a multi-published author. It appeared to be right down my alley. Took me 4 months of agonizing reading to finally give up. Every little detail was described in great length - way too much information. The actual story part was quite short - it was all the in-between stuff . . .

Judi said...

What a great post. Like someone else said, I can't keep up with all the blogs out there, but this one definitely caught my attention.

The main reason I have chosen to go and stay with small presses is that the editors actually EDIT. Strange concept, I know, but every story I've had published with Wild Rose Press and Whispers has been strengthened by my editor and I'm exceedingly grateful.

I think volume has won the battle over content. If you can pump out 3 or 4 or 5 books a year, who cares whether the grammar is correct or the author has used the same word on every page. They're on the shelves and that's what counts.

Not for me. I want to read something that's fun and smart and sexy.

Thanks for pulling the rug off this little writing world secret.

Cindy Skaggs said...

Allie, I agree with your opinion. Authors need to write as they wish and use vocabulary, detail, and storyline as they want the reader to experience.
Another tactic of lazy writers I dislike is when they write a short story and leave the ending a cliffhanger because it is in a series. I have to buy several short stories paying full price for each to complete the reading adventure. One book didn't even indicate it was a series on the cover!
That's a dirty author scam. When an author does it, I won't read another one of their books.

Lissa Matthews said...

There are books out there that suck. There are many that are so popular with others that I sit back and wonder what I missed because it took all I had not to chuck it across the room. I read many books that I don't finish and want my money back for. I know people have read some of my books and wanted their money back. But, I learn from my mistakes. I don't think a lot of people do. Then again, if everyone is telling them that their book is awesome and only a handful of us are scratching our heads in bewilderment and confusion as to WHY... (shrugs)

I typically have pretty high standards for reading. I have been known to stop reading some of my fave authors because their books started to sound like, well, as you said, a sexed up (and not even a good sexed up)version of Dick and Jane.

What gets me and makes me it the plot that people love and the author just couldn't pull off the execution, but we'll give her top props and 5 stars for the idea? Or is the simplicity of the 5th grade vocabulary and story telling really what's got them hooked?

My writing is not without its problems and I can definitely always use improvement and constructive criticism. I'm not one that thinks I don't need harsh and hard edits on my books. I'm not one that thinks everything I write is golden and wonderful. Are we afraid to tell someone, "Hey, you need to work on that because while 99 people are telling you that it's great and wonderful, 1 person, me, doesn't think so." My ego (small thing that it is) has been stomped on more than once and I have had to take a good hard look at my books and my writing and I hope I've improved. Not everyone is going to like a book, but we're not doing any author in the industry any favors by refusing to call them on writing that my 12 year old could have done better on.

I want great books to read. I want the books that are getting the top reviews and applause to find their way onto my Kindle and my Nook. But they don't because blurbs, and excerpts and covers will kill that purchase.

I think authors churn out a lot of books. Sometimes if an author has a really good handle on her writing, that can work, and I know quite a few authors that can do this successfully. Sometimes though, it doesn't. My writing suffered when I tried to do that, keep up with the demand of my readers, so I had to pull back and go for the quality over quantity.

I think I'll hush now. Great topic, Allie.

Regina Carlysle said...

I just wrote a long long response and blogger ate it...DAMN. I know there are some writers out there who write like 13 yr olds and have the emotional maturity to match. And people will buy this drivel and scream to anyone who will listen about how wonderful and amazing it is. Makes you wonder if you shouldn't dumb down your work but I just can't do it. I try to write stories about real women and their issues (both in and out of the bedroom). My audience is NOT 13 yr old girls. That being said, I also don't like writing a book that requires readers to constantly dig out their dictionaries. After hearing one of the "dick saves jane. dick screws jane five minutes after meeting. Jane looooves dick instantly' being read aloud, I am tempted to read my own work out loud just to check myself. If I ever write like that, I might as well give up now.

Joanne Stewart said...

I hear you. I read some of the stuff that gets published and wonder how it even made it past the editor's desk. I picked up a well name author once, b/c my mother and grandmother used to love this author and i wanted to see what hullabaloo was about. I couldn't get past the first chapter. The writing was just horrible. And it's not just big authors either. There is just a lot of crap being published.

Harlie Williams said...

I just thought of something else...what's with books that have no plot, little characterization and the characters only have sex? I'm all for that sometimes but come on, for some authors that seems like that's all they write.

I want plot, characterization, the build up. Shoot, they don't even need to do the deed as long as the writing is strong.

Calisa Rhose said...

Tough love subject Allie. But it is (sadly) true. I recently spent more money than I normally would on a book because it 'sounded' good, exciting. Shapeshifters thrill me. But these characters never 'shifted'. They simply took on an animalistic mentality and most of that was about sex, sex, sex. Can we say 'doggie-style'? It actually disgusted me. The plot build up was strong, but somewhere along the way even that faded to the back and I don't think the main plot point that seemed to need to drive the story was ever resolved. I realized a couple of months later that that book was one of a series by that author. Who knew? It read like a stand alone, but didn't end like one. I'm not the least interested in discovering the beginning or end of whatever the main plot of a series was because I was too sick of the one I read. I admit, I have my select fave authors that I read because I know I'll get my money's worth (most from AJ's big pub house). I trust those authors because I've read their work for years. So far I haven't been disappointed by them.

But I have picked up a bad book w/i that same house and was left scratching my head and wondering what the hell just happened.

It's that kind of story though that I give thanks to. Really? Yep. Because of those 'bad' books it made me determined to write a better book. I can, I will, or I won't write at all.

Just Nancy said...

I recently did a workshop at our RWA chapter on self-editing, and someone asked me why the BIG NAMES can get away with multi-POV in a paragraph/sloppy grammar/misspellings/HORRIBLE plot holes/on and on and on and WE can't.

Another member said she asked her editor that question and the answer she got was after you get so many books under your belt, you can have a "No Edit" clause in your contract. So, what? After you've written 10, 20, 50, 100 books, suddenly, everything you write is golden? Don't see me asking for that clause, no matter how big I get (Please, God, let's test this theory!)

Tracey H. Kitts said...

I'm in complete agreement also. I try very hard to make sure my characters have believable motivations and that the plot isn't so cut and dried. Then I pick up something very popular and can't make it past the first 20 pages because it's CRAP. I'm sick of transparent heroines that are hung up on themselves as much as they are the hero, or worse yet have no personality at all.

On a slightly different note, it bothered me when I went to great lengths to create an intricate and original plot for one of my books and had a reviewer recently say the plot was "not very novel."

Really? A witch who dates three vampires while trying to prevent an evil wizard from sacrificing (certain) people in order to use their blood to resurrect a demon whose essence he plans to capture. (That's about all I can say without giving everything away.) They do that all the time? Really? Never mind the intricacies of the personal relationships. Oh, and I forgot the fact that the night club owned by one of the vamps is modeled after Dante's Inferno, 9 levels underground. If that's been done before, I've never heard of it.

Sorry to go on a total rant. lol But when I work so hard and then pick up utter crap that's on the bestseller list it really pisses me off. Obviously, I liked your post. lol

Desiree Holt said...

Lordy, I don't even know where to start. You are so on the money here. So many times lately as a reader I feel cheated when I read a book because (1) there's no real plot, or (2) there's no tension or buildup to the sex scenes, or (3) the characters are so one-dimensional I'm sure I'm looking at cardboard people. Where is the effort made to tell a captivating story with engaging people? We all read See Spot Run in grammar school.I don't want it in my adult life. I also don't want a story that reads like the author phoned it in between noon and lunch. I ask all of you out there who are my readers, if I ever start doing that you have my permission to slap me upside the head.

Regina Carlysle said...

Just to add a bit more...I don't write a lot of quickies these days because I love building characters. It's not so easy to do in a book that is less than 40 pages and it's erotica. I sincerely hope those who buy such a short length erotica don't expect a whole lot of character development.I just finished one of these and I know that as I wrote I kept wishing it could be longer so I could do more with it. Alas, not possible in this instance. Hopefully I'll have enough though for readers to care about my characters. Sometimes we truly ARE trapped by the genre in which we write. Still I hope my work NEVER sounds like a teenager wrote it.

Marianne Stephens said...

So true...everything you said! I'd say lazy writers. Some use filler after filler sentences to make the story longer...and only prolong the agony of a reader (if they keep reading).
One NY pubbed RITA entry I was unfortunate enough to judge had a hero and heroine I wanted to shoot by the end of chapter two to put us all out of misery. And, I had hundreds of pages left to read. But, it was written by a well-known author and I guess she could get away with writing anything and it got published. I kept thinking "Who edited this?"

Tracey H. Kitts said...

Continuing to enjoy reading these comments:) It's nice to know I'm not the only one who's had these thoughts. It seems the market is flooded with "bestselling" books I would put in this category. Worse still, many of them have been turned into movies or television shows. lol

One in particular I tried to read because of this and just couldn't. It was awful. (But on TV) I kept thinking, "Wow. She must have a really great agent."

Pirate Princess Eve said...

I agree completely. I can't stand when authors dumb things down for readers. Readers are smart. They get it. They will understand the nuances. Good writing works on many levels.

When authors 'phone in' a story because they are 'so and so' and know it'll sell anyway aggravates the hell out of me. Put some effort into it. I work hard for every word I write. Do me the same courtesy of caring about the work you put out there.

I'm glad you brought up this topic, Allie! It's one whose time has come!

Allie Standifer said...

Here's hoping third time's the charm. As in I've tried to respond twice before without results. Hmmm, think the universe is out to get me? Thanks to everyone who commented here on the blog or to me personally. It's amazing what a talented bunch we've got out there!
Serious side, I am forever grateful no one started heating the tar or plucking the chickens in response to my post.
As a writer I write pretty much as I speak or so I've been told. My question now is the Dick & Jane writers...umm what the heck do they sound like in a normal everyday conversation? With so many books flooding the market authors need to be honing their craft not spitting up peas and carrots only to call it brillant. I hate wasting my money on a crappy book. I really hate the thought of one of my readers doing the same thing.
The big question is how do we, readers & writers, change the illiterate, overly sexed, tiny word genre? Because obviously there ARE some people buying the heck out of that crap. Do they not know better? Is it restful after a hard day of thinking? 'Cause I'm still not getting it. Maybe I never will because I think it's an insult to my readers to 'dumb' my writing down. I'd let them smack with dead frogs if I ever pulled that stunt :)

Mia Watts said...

I know an author who told me to quit using big words. She said that the general reading public reads at a 6th grade level. Well, my 5th grader could read my books (if not for the sex) and I don't dumb down. It WOULD push her vocabulary, to be sure, but I also can't write pretending I'm not me. It's part of my voice in a work.

I'm with you. No dumbing please.