Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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An entertaining defense of a bad book, but I don’t buy it

I found this at Pub Rants, which you probably already know is agent Kristen Nelson’s blog. I gather it was a comment left in the previous post, but I didn’t go read through the comments, so I won’t swear to it. Anyway, check it out:

I’ll man up. I read the hell out of it [FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY, which apparently started as a piece of erotic fanfic]. All three installments in two and a half days. 800,000 words. BOOM. Just like that. I think I gave it four stars on Goodreads or something.



And here’s why: 

I couldn’t put it down.



True, it’s technically a mess. It’s randomly punctuated. The dialogue is all over the place. The characters are bipolar. The sex is vanilla. Typos abound (at one point Christian stared at Ana like “a bacon in the night” which made a weird sort of sense, actually). Ana has this really weird habit of doing figure skating jumps off gymnastics apparatuses….



Here’s what I think people don’t understand: Good hardly ever factors into popular or entertaining.

And then the commenter goes on to explain what she loved about this book and how little the poor writing bothered her. And that’s fine. I don’t care if people love books even though they’re poorly written and hideously edited. Much.

Except really I guess I kind of do mind. Because if punctuation is random but that doesn’t bother you, and typos abound but that doesn’t bother you, either, then, well, I guess the fact that you don’t care does bother me. Not so much because of what it says about you as a reader, though I think I would actually be happier if all readers everywhere were pickier. No.

I care because of what the reader’s lack of discrimination says to the author. And what it says to the author is: It’s okay to be lazy. It’s okay to be a slob. It’s all right if you don’t know the rules — just throw punctuation in any old place, no on cares! Sure your writing will be less effective and your readers will often be confused and have to figure out what you mean — but whatever! Close enough!

And I hate that. I think it’s insulting to your readers to not bother to edit your manuscript. I think it’s insulting to be too lazy to bother trying to put out the best book you could produce. And if your book is popular despite the fact that it’s a mess? That is nice for you but it is more than you deserve and you should be ashamed to blow off your readers that way.

Humph. Mood: Grouchy. I’m going to go eat chocolate and read something that was written BEAUTIFULLY and has EVERY SINGLE COMMA in exactly the right place.

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2 Comments An entertaining defense of a bad book, but I don’t buy it

  1. Elaine T

    i couldn’t stand up in public and proclaim I liked something so riddled with error as the Grey thing seems to be. I’d be ashamed for settling for so little effort from the writer. I don’t think the selling point is camp, it’s something else. I like camp and pulp at times, heck I still have some Tarzan books somewhere… And you know what? They’re literate. Campy, but literate and more grammatical than some best sellers I’ve picked up and put down again, Dan Brown, for instance. I don’t understand what people see in many best selling books. I must be on a completely different wave length. i’ve tried to figure out what they do that people like so much and I can’t. I can intellectually dissect all sorts of points, but I can’t find anything that would explain what the writers are doing right to be so successful. Color me baffled.

    So what did you go off and read, Rachel?

    Cute puppy!

  2. Rachel

    And cuter every day!

    Actually, I just saw The Hunger Games . . . so I re-read that. And enjoyed it very much, again.

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