How do terrible books get published?

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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by Sommer Leigh » December 6th, 2010, 11:19 am

Margo wrote:
sierramcconnell wrote:The point being, I see this as a terrible book. But look how many don't.
Yep, count me in for greatest book ever on American Gods.

Any of us with the luck/skill to get published will certainly find that someone things our book is the best book ever and someone will think it was a crime to kill a tree to print something so awful.
I am also one of those who loves American Gods (though I do remember it being a little slow in the beginning.) Neverwhere is also a wonderful book by him. ALL of his comics blow me away and Coraline is one of the scariest books I have ever read.

However, The Graveyard Book won a Hugo award, a Newbery Award and the Carnegie Medal and is loved by everyone but me. I didn't like it at all and it took me months to drag myself through it. I was sure *I* must be broken because I love all of his books. And yet I've rarely had to slug through a book the way I did with this one.

This just proves that one person's trashy, predictable, bodice-ripping romance is someone else's guilty, gotta-have pleasure reading.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by BetweenTwoWorlds » December 6th, 2010, 11:23 am

Popular != Good

I don't deny that a popular book can be liked by many people. I just say that there are some books that are terrible. Badly written. Bad development. Trite characters. A plot that can be seen a mile away. A pasted-on ending. (I am not speaking of Gone with the Wind.)

But yeah, badly written books can be popular. I am OK with that; I just won't call them "good" in the sense of "well-written."
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by Margo » December 6th, 2010, 11:28 am

sierramcconnell wrote:Then maybe you can tell me when it picks up? XD
The bad news is that I never thought it was slow. I think it's just a matter of interest and natural affinity for certain symbology. Most of the people I know who love it are fans of mythology and history, myself included, with maybe a touch of Jungian psychology. Most of the people I know who are turned off by the book either don't like very dark subject matter or are uncomfortable/unfamiliar/unimpressed with the mythology or symbolism employed. And for sure it's more literary than most of what's out there in contemporary fantasy. In his case I'm good with that. With other books I'm not so patient and spend the whole book waiting for events to pick up, just like you are with American Gods.

Short answer, I don't think it will 'pick up'. It's probably just not your cup of tea. But it wouldn't hurt to read some of the glowing reviews to see what it is about the novel that they love and look at how you could apply that to your work in your way. I usually find it a worthwhile exercise to look for reoccuring themes in reviews.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by sierramcconnell » December 6th, 2010, 11:38 am

Margo wrote:
sierramcconnell wrote:Then maybe you can tell me when it picks up? XD
The bad news is that I never thought it was slow. I think it's just a matter of interest and natural affinity for certain symbology. Most of the people I know who love it are fans of mythology and history, myself included, with maybe a touch of Jungian psychology. Most of the people I know who are turned off by the book either don't like very dark subject matter or are uncomfortable/unfamiliar/unimpressed with the mythology or symbolism employed. And for sure it's more literary than most of what's out there in contemporary fantasy. In his case I'm good with that. With other books I'm not so patient and spend the whole book waiting for events to pick up, just like you are with American Gods.

Short answer, I don't think it will 'pick up'. It's probably just not your cup of tea. But it wouldn't hurt to read some of the glowing reviews to see what it is about the novel that they love and look at how you could apply that to your work in your way. I usually find it a worthwhile exercise to look for reoccuring themes in reviews.
See, that's the thing. I love dark. I write dark. And I love mythology. I used to eat it as a kid. So I thought I would like this. But it's not pulled off in an interesting way, it's pulled off sort of...meh. Overdone. Tissue box. Maybe I'm burned out by how many people have tried the dark and mystical. Or maybe it's because it's too much like my own writing that I get it, and it's not unique. I see it, and it's not magical. It's like reading myself and I hate that.

Like at the beginning with the Songbirds of North America Calendar. I had that calendar. Two years ago. It came with a CD. (Which I still have on my computer.) Gah. I think the problem is that the writing is too similar to my own tastes. And so it's predicable. Better than mine, yes, but known.

Am I making any sense? No, probably not. Damn Advil.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by Margo » December 6th, 2010, 11:46 am

BetweenTwoWorlds wrote:Popular != Good
Yeah, pretty much. I might hate a book. You might hate the book. But if it's wildly popular then it managed to focus in on something that the audience found valuable. What's the point of something beautifully written that puts everyone to sleep by page 13? A book can be good because of its storytelling or its craft or its plot or its theme etc etc etc, or any combination thereof. Judging one to be more important than the other is a personal taste, and it's pointless to rail against the fact that a few million people don't agree with a personal taste.

As writers, it makes us look bitter and can actually discourage people from reading our work. It certainly turned me off from reading and writing literary fiction a long time ago. It comes off as disdainful of the 'stupid' public for liking a 'bad' book. Hack. Lowest common denominator. Junk food for the brain. I don't think some writers even realize they're insulting their potential audience by ridiculing them for liking something other than that author's kind of work.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by Margo » December 6th, 2010, 11:48 am

sierramcconnell wrote:I see it, and it's not magical.
There you go. All the recipe ingredients are there for you to enjoy it, but it doesn't come together in the right way for you.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by polymath » December 6th, 2010, 12:28 pm

One writer as reader's trash is another writer's cash, or at least the deeply rewarding satisfaction of meaningfully reaching a select niche.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by sierramcconnell » December 6th, 2010, 12:35 pm

Margo wrote:There you go. All the recipe ingredients are there for you to enjoy it, but it doesn't come together in the right way for you.
I think I need psychological help then. So far, the last few books I've read\movies I've seen have been sorely lacking in the magical quality department. Life has become so boring since I've become a writer. It's sort of like a magician's curse. When you know how the rabbit comes out of the hat, it's no longer strange and mysterious.

But I might take it one step further. When you hold a life in your hands and mold it, shape it, and make it beautiful. When you bring people to laughter and tears with mere words and thoughts, it no longer brings you joy to breathe. Because you understand the particles that bring you breath, and you grow to despise them.

Then you wish you could go back to the days when the written word, poorly or not so poorly, was entertaining. When you could pick up an airport paperback and mindlessly lose yourself in its pages. But alas, you're too far gone, and the words, you know them well. You know how they move. How they cry out when you touch them just so. How they breathe. You know them and they know you and they will never leave you alone.

I need coffee.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by Margo » December 6th, 2010, 12:56 pm

sierramcconnell wrote:I think I need psychological help then.
I've heard a lot of writers describe what you're talking about. After a certain point, yes, it is harder to lose yourself in a novel and the novels have to be better crafted than they were before to hold interest. Even when I'm reading a book I'm enjoying I'm still thinking like a writer. Ew, I don't think she needed passive voice there. That line would have had a better flow if she's gotten rid of that prepositional phrase and moved that phrase from the end into that spot. Wow, that said bookism went over like a drunken dental hygenist with a power drill. But in the end I'm also better able to see the really artful things a writer has done.

I also suspect you're in a bit of a tough space right now. Later you might find new interest, even fascination, in the act of creating a world and people and events for someone else to experience. I wouldn't say joy, not in my case anyway, but I would say purpose and fulfillment. Joy is for other aspects of my life.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by sierramcconnell » December 6th, 2010, 1:07 pm

Margo wrote:I also suspect you're in a bit of a tough space right now.
Boy are you not just whistling dixie. Let's just say I'm being pushed around so many doctor's offices and hospitals that I feel like a Christmas Fruitcake that no one wants to claim but everyone wants to stick a fork in to see if she's done.

Even after so long of looking for a writer's group, and having the NaNo group say they wanted to continue, I'm not wanting to go because they're starting to push me into a corner. I get talked over, told to shush, answered for, and walked away from. I feel like I'm not wanted because I'm the oldest member and I'm sick. It's been such a terrible month so far, despite the five Christmas trees and load of Christmas presents we're planning on spoiling my niece with. My joy's been sucked out of me by nasty people and illness.

And all I want is to lose myself in writing and reading (no 'rithmatic, please) and I can't because it's too critical anymore.

GAH. If anyone ever wondered where the real Scrooge came from, it was because he just couldn't handle everyone being such an ass to him. I feel like that right now. I want to enjoy things, but why does the world always have to make it suck so hard?

BUS. COME HIT ME NOW.

[/rant]

Back on topic, I think terrible books get published also because the publisher needs something to make a book fort out of when they run out of pillows. But just what will we do when e-Books run the world? Nook Forts? That might hurt if they collapse, but they will be terribly glowy fun in the bedroom.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by polymath » December 6th, 2010, 1:29 pm

A few years back I'd lost my passion for reading. It was the most excruciating time of my life. Reading has been the one steady, reliable, undemanding, unquestioning companion of my life. In times of crisis, of pain, of loss, of boredom, passing time wherever time needed passing by entertaining distractions, reading always fulfilled my needs.

Making a serious committment to writing ruined all that. It was like a vital part of my being had become infected, festered like a gangrenous wound, and died. I could have amputated an arm and a leg and poked out an eye and the loss would have been less traumatic. I could read lifelong favorites and point out their many small and large shortcomings according to some consensus standard or other, my private standards notwithstanding. Worse, the few companionable and like-minded writer-readers of my social acquaintance were estranged by my hypercritical negative criticism.

The way I found forward was by hyperfocusing on virtues. It wasn't easy. The hard part was appreciating what is virtuous. Naturally, due to the subjective nature of what is or isn't art, I had to define for myself what is virtuous. I excluded all external values, ideals, principles, writing or otherwise, and focused on how I felt about any given narrative or narrative unit. If a poignant passage made me laugh, made me cry, made me angry, made me sympathetic, made me sad, made me feel, or enlightened me, I noted it and read on, coming back to it to contemplate, dissect, and practice emulating it. If a passage didn't do anything for me, I noted it and read on, coming back to it to contemplate and dissect why and also why the writer kept it in. I questioned whether I'd been too obtuse to appreciate it, why it didn't concern me, and what the intent was and why it didn't rise to the occasion.

I came out the other side of darkness with ever more profound and deep reading experiences. Nothing in the narrative arts and dramatic arts, regardless of whatever, defies my appreciation and understanding for my sake anymore because I approach it all as a reader from a need for enjoying the intended participation mystique. As a writer reading, my approach now is an open-minded focus on what the intent is and whether I can access and appreciate the intent, and whether it rises to the occasion of my enjoyment. If it doesn't, such is life.

I learned a harsh truth about myself along the way. My need for solitude is not merely a personal choice, it's a consequence of interacting with others like I did with reading and writing during the dark times and alienating them. I have other causes of my hermitic nature, but now I'm coping with them better by having less traumatic interpersonal interactions when I do have them. I'm not nor can I be an island. Social beings need society and society is disinclined toward accepting naysayers.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by Cookie » December 6th, 2010, 1:36 pm

sierramcconnell wrote:Even after so long of looking for a writer's group, and having the NaNo group say they wanted to continue, I'm not wanting to go because they're starting to push me into a corner. I get talked over, told to shush, answered for, and walked away from. I feel like I'm not wanted because I'm the oldest member and I'm sick.
It sounds like you need a new writer's group. And a hug. And a book fort. Scratch that, you need a fort made out of massive amounts of delicious chocolate, complete with windows and turrets and parapets and a drawbridge and a moat made out of hot chocolate.
I need to go home and eat chocolate.

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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by Fenris » December 6th, 2010, 4:06 pm

Polymath-

I've gone through the same thing, though more recently. Right before I started writing (about six months ago), I just lost passion for reading, because I found myself editing in my mind as I went, as Margo mentioned. Now, I' m reading again, but like you I'm trying to see what does work rather than what doesn't. And it's helped tremendously. Now I just want to go back to the time when I could just read with no interference from the critical part of my mind.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by Sommer Leigh » December 6th, 2010, 5:05 pm

Oh man, I am so glad I don't have the reading affliction of not being able to turn off my editor when I read. I love reading for pleasure and I would go nuts if I couldn't let go of my analysis brain when I do it.

My husband's first degree was in English with a concentration on film (clearly a really useful degree.) Unfortunately it RUINED movies for him, even to this day and it has been like 6 years since he graduated. He can't stop picking them apart or figuring out the end long before you're supposed to be able to figure it out. He spends the whole time comparing directors and cinematography styles. It makes watching movies with him unbearable.
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Re: How do terrible books get published?

Post by cheekychook » December 6th, 2010, 5:11 pm

In case I wasn't clear enough about this in prior posts, I think anything popular is doing something right---not everyone will like it or agree, but if it's wildly popular it's clearly got SOMETHING going for it. That's not what I was talking about when I commented. The original question here was "published" not "popular published", big difference. There are, in my opinion, books that get published that are not and never will be popular, and not because of bad marketing or poor economy, but because they're not that great. Published does not equal great any more than not published equals bad. Books can get published that aren't awesome...and great books sometimes take forever to find a publishing home or never get published. Same goes for movies, some horribly trashy ones get made while some great ones sit in a can or never get the green light in the first place. Amazing bands go for years without getting signed. It just happens.

As far as writers being too critical about other's writing, yes, that can happen, but you can get over it. I was a film major in college. When you're studying film making and you're actually writing, shooting and editing films it becomes impossible, for a while, to watch a movie without noticing a continuity issue (hey there was a red rose in the vase in that last scene, now it's gone, ooops there it is again), editing flaws, and all the other bloopers. I can assure you, if you'll let it, it will pass. I can now turn that feature in my brain on and off and enjoy a movie without seeing all those goofs...though if I want to look for them I can still spot them. The same goes for writing. You can relearn to read for pleasure and not critique every last thing. It's hard if you're in the middle of learning or if you're spending 90% of your time reading other things for the purpose of editing them, but it can be done.
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