Saturday, July 16, 2011

Welcome our Guest, Elizabeth Black

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. 


Janice Seagraves said...

Well, for what it's worth . . . I did like yours better than numbnuts.

And I agree the man was way out of line.


Betty said...

Oh give the guy a break!. Maybe he's from the era when authors got paid by the word.And come on:

Beetling (beetle like bugs) over the rocky precipice that overshadowed the noisome...

Makes sense to me..perfect nonsense.. GO GET HIM GIRL! :)

Betty Carlton

Elizabeth Black said...

Thanks, Janice. :) I couldn't get over that dude mansplaining to the little woman about how to write properly.

Elizabeth Black said...

Betty, I couldn't resist. Had to hand his ass back to him. Bah hah! "Beetling" just made me snort iced tea up my nose. :)

Kellie Kamryn said...

I've had people say to me as well, "I've always wanted to write a book." I tell them to go for it. Either they will or they won't, and mostly they say it b/c they're jealous that you do and they can't or won't. They're just trying to bring you down, and I won't let them!
Great post Liz!

Unknown said...

Strange man to do that. He must have been a bit off

Elizabeth Black said...

Same, here, Kellie. I've run into the "I'm going to write a book, too" people. I figure get off your ass, write your damned book - and then get it published. And not by the likes of a vanity press like PublishAmerica. A valid publisher. Yup, they're jealous. I agree with you.

Elizabeth Black said...

I wondered why he did that, too, Sara. I don't know him. Never heard of him, either. And he's not even a Facebook friend. I don't even know how he found me. He just mansplained out of the blue to a perfect stranger. Very odd.

kender said...

Wow. I have never seen a sentence starting with beetling. Now that I think about it, it's one of those words you know exists and have seen but never consider using because it makes you sound, well, ridiculous. Great article.

Elizabeth Black said...

Thanks, Kender. I agree with you about beetling. Now, I must use it in my next WIP and make people's heads explode. LOL

I see "beetling" and I think of those scenes in "The Mummy" when the bad guy gets devoured by scarabs. Ha!

Tess MacKall said...

He picked the wrong author to screw with. That's a fact. LOL Oh God...yeah, purple prosey for sure.So damn wordy. Very confusing. You're so busy trying to figure out each word and how it relates that you lose the meaning of the sentence. Sometimes LESS really is more. lol

Give 'em hell, honey!

SueW said...

I like yours better. I am doing my own writing - If you sent me an email asking that I edit, I missed it. (Just kidding about the editing)

Elizabeth Black said...

Oh, yeah, Tess, I'm the wrong author to mess with. That was the worst purple prose I'd seen in years. Even more purple than the Bulwer-Lytton Purple Prose winners. LOL!

Speaking of Bulwer-Lytton, here are the Purple Prose winners for 2010, for comparison purposes to Beetling Precipice Man. His purple prose isn't even as good as the really bad stuff.

Winner: Purple Prose

The dark, drafty old house was lopsided and decrepit, leaning in on itself, the way an aging possum carrying a very heavy, overcooked drumstick in his mouth might list to one side if he were also favoring a torn Achilles tendon, assuming possums have them.

Scott Davis Jones

Valley Village, CA


The wind whispering through the pine trees and the sun reflecting off the surface of Lake Tahoe like a scattering of diamonds was an idyllic setting, while to the south the same sun struggled to penetrate a sky choked with farm dust and car exhaust over Bakersfield, a town spread over the lower San Joaquin Valley like a brown stain on a wino’s trousers, which is where, unfortunately, this story takes place.

Dennis Doberneck

Paso Robles, CA

Elizabeth Black said...

LOL SueW. I just might hire an editor someday for an upcoming novel. Who knows... ;)

Dana Fredsti said...

HAHAHAHAHAH!!!! Ooh, this made my morning... "Beetling." Thank you, Elizabeth. You done good.

Elizabeth Black said...

Thanks, Dana. Glad you make your Sunday morning an enjoyable one. Just don't choke on your breakfast over all the "beetling". LOL

Anonymous said...

Great post, Elizabeth. I can practically see the smoke coming from you ears when you were reading your unsolicited critique :)

Missy Martine

Unknown said...

What a turd.

And that drives me nuts. I'm all for anyone who wants to write taking a shot, but sweet hell, don't assume it's easy or that your first attempt will be gold. It's not.

Purple prose has its place, but that was just bad writing period.

Lady Gina Kincade said...

Well not much left to say except perhaps my favorite word..."dumbass."
Or wait, could say "duh" if reworked properly!
As my three year old once said, "Some people are just stupid mommy."

Way to tell em Elizabeth!

P.S. Not sure if this will post this time, as it hasn't the last two tries, and not sure if it's as funny as it was the first time either, but I suppose since I am stubborn, I just had to try one last time! Lol

Elizabeth Black said...

NNP, I couldn't resist telling him off. I developed a talent for insults in grade school and it's been improving ever since. That talent has done me well. :)

Anonymous said...

I have an acquaintance that continually says, "Well, isn't so-and-so a writer, too? I looked up his/her books..."

Yeah. That person is an author. A self-published author. Self-published is different from my books in that I have several honest-to-goodness publishers. Does it mean his/her books suck? No. But there's a difference!

Elizabeth Black said...

Anonymous, I agree that self-publishing is getting more street cred but I see your point. Too often, self-publishing meant vanity press that would publish anything as long as the person wanting to get published paid a fee. Or poor quality books that shouldn't see the light of day. That's changing but you still have to separate the wheat from the chaff. And there's lots of chaff.

Gayle Carline said...

Haven't you heard? Everyone's going to write a book when they get the time, or retire, or just one of these days in general.

Although, "beetling" is funny to say out loud. Beetling. Makes me think of Beetlejuice-Beetlejuice-Beetlejuice.

Gayle Carline
Traditionally Published and Indie Author

Anonymous said...

This is the best discussion I've read for YEARS. I'm just writing an article on how NOT to write and there is so much material here I won't have to look anything up. Loved it. Thank you
Jenny Twist

Elizabeth Black said...

Gayle, maybe if I say "Beetling! Beetling! Beetling!" he'll never return. :)

Yes, everyone is going to write a book. Someday. When they feel "inspired". After all, that all it takes to write a book. Feeling "inspired". Hmmm mmm.

Elizabeth Black said...

Jenny Twist, I'd love to read your article when it's finished. Feel free to link to this article if you wish. Also post the link on my Facebook page when the article is ready so all my friends and I may read it.

Judith Leger said...

Good for you, Elizabeth!! Some people don't and can never realize how hard we authors work to complete the books we create. It's not a simple let's just sit down and produce a bunch of words in about a week and say it's done. Takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears; the blood from the wound in my forehead where I've banged my head against the wall hundreds of times. Hugs, babe, and keep doing what you do best! Write!

Molly Daniels said...

There are several in my writer's group who 'play' at writing. 'They've always wanted to write' my fellow authors and I invited them to join our crit group. Three years later, I've got 3 books out; Trav has 3; BC is working on her 3rd. Everyone else is still 'writing', yet only 2 are seriously editing and pursuing publication. And the one who joined a few months back keeps talking about his, revising his 1st chapter. I finally couldn't take it anymore last week and told him to STOP TALKING and WRITE!

Fabian Black said...

Wow, I'm absolutely gobsmacked by the guy's staggering arrogance. I hope he lives in a big house - he'll need one to accommodate his ego!


Tracey H. Kitts said...

I've never had anyone re-write my work (at least to my knowledge). But I did have a former co-worker write to me, begging me to read his blog.

Well, his blog was his attempt at writing fiction. It was horrible. The worst thing I'd ever read. Yes, even worse than numbnut's purple masterpiece.

He stole ideas from Star Trek, had misspellings galore, and used different styles of font within the same paragraph. To make matters worse, he called women who shopped at Lane Bryant fat. I won't even get started on that one.

I tried to be polite by saying that he'd alienated his audience with these comments. He wrote me a two page blow-hard of a letter in which he said that basically anyone could write romance and my work was not his "cup of tea" but he "applauded my success." Blah, blah, blah. The jerk even called my readers knuckleheads and misspelled the word!

Don't worry, I let him have it. My point is, there are lots of numbnuts out there and I think you handled this one very well.

What an idiot.

Mia Watts said...

Wow. That's just special.

David Kentner -- KevaD said...

As one of the recipients of a mass email from Elizabeth Black inviting me to view this blog post she wrote, I thought I'd stop by as I'm not familiar with her work.

This was the invitation:
"Ever have an asswipe tell you how to write proper fiction? I discuss
my experience with one such jerk in my blog post at Three Wicked
Writers. Do you have experiences with such people? Tell me about
yours in comments.

Elizabeth Black"

Not knowing Ms. Black I came in with an open mind, hoping to learn more about an author I wasn't familiar with.

Here's what I learned.

Ms. Black is sexist. Though the person she ranted about at no time made any remark implying gender, Ms. Black, in the comments, made these statements: "I couldn't get over that dude mansplaining to the little woman about how to write properly." "He just mansplained out of the blue to a perfect stranger."

Where in the rewrite did the target of her anger suggest or imply anything sexist? He didn't.

Ms. Black has an obvious temper and penchant for name-calling "asswipe, numbnuts," and apparently takes anyone disagreeing with her prose very unkindly. "First off, he had the gall to "correct" me…" Wow. "…so I went in for the kill." "Had to hand his ass back to him." "I couldn't resist telling him off. I developed a talent for insults in grade school and it's been improving ever since. That talent has done me well. :)" (Those last two quotes are in the comments) Triple wow.

The fact of the matter is, who really cares what the man wrote? What he offered was pure drivel and not worth a second thought. However, not all reviews, critiques or comments are favorable, and it's unrealistic to believe they will or should be.

I'd like to think Ms. Black is a professional and gifted author - she said she is anyway "…I'm damned good and I'm prolific…" – and this very public rant was just some innocent venting. But, as I said, I'm not familiar with her work, and based on what I read here, I won't be spending my money to find out. Sometimes we need to take a breath or fifty before we post something and really consider whether our words will benefit or hurt us in the long run.