Bad Writing

4 04 2011

From the Self-Publishing Review:

At the risk of sounding like a snob: non-sophisticated readers will not care if writing is non-sophisticated, and there are a lot more non-sophisticated readers than sophisticated ones. That’s millions of potential readers.  Publishers might like to believe that they have the finger on the pulse of what sells – or what should sell – but when mediocre writing is becoming a bestseller, this pretty much renders the slush pile meaningless.

I couldn’t agree more, though many of the comments there correctly point out that bad writing makes its way through the publishing houses all the time. The difference, I suspect, is that in most of those cases, such as with Snooki or the various Tumbler to Book Deal conversions, these represent just a money grab for the publishers. You can’t really fault them for that. They need the money or they’ll go under like any other business. The more serious literary imprints and presses aren’t doing that and, consequently, they don’t bring in the big money, either.

I also saw the point made that great storytelling trumps great writing. I am not so sure. I’d even venture to say it’s impossible to have anything more than the barest kernel of what could potentially be a great idea for a story without having it written down and stories, my friends, are made in the telling of them. It might be a really grabbing concept, but it’s not done until it’s written and half-thought out ideas are compelling and worthless at the same time. I might have a really great idea for a painting that would knock your socks off. Unless, however, I somehow find the talent, dedication and time to put that image onto canvas, the idea isn’t worth anything. Technique and craft matter, at least as much and sometimes even more than raw gifts. What makes a great story is, frankly, a great story in all of its magnificence and splendor, a great idea perfectly massaged onto the page, be it pixels or paper. That’s inseparable from the writing.

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