Just Because You’re Published Don’t Mean You Write Good
There seems to be a war of words in this currently hyped self-publishing boom between the self-published and the traditionally published. The self-published go on and on about the success of some lucky few and the traditionally published are always noting that the reason people are published is due to the writer’s talent and that publishers are the gatekeepers of good writing. After all, their standards are very high.
I would say that someone is asleep at the wheel, to use a dead idiom.
I know everyone bashes her, but let us take a careful look at Stephanie Meyer, best selling author of the Twilight series (as if you didn’t know). About plot, Bella and Edward’s relationship is emotionally shallow, the once great vampire mythos of Bram Stoker is reduced to something completely insane (a vegetarian?!), and he glitters in the sun. As far as Meyer’s prose, read this very well researched article that breaks down the numbers for us.
Some highlights of this article: The plot finally arrives on page 372. References to Edward’s beauty: 165. Look at the “number of times” list which is evidence enough that someone was somnambulant while steering.
Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code contains lines like this (actually, these are the first lines in the novel): “Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six-year-old man heaved the masterpiece toward himself until it tore from the wall and Saunière collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.”
As Geoffrey K. Pullum points out: “Putting curriculum vitae details into complex modifiers on proper names or definite descriptions is what you do in journalistic stories about deaths; you just don’t do it in describing an event in a narrative. So this might be reasonable text for the opening of a newspaper report the next day: Renowned curator Jacques Saunière died last night in the Louvre at the age of 76.”
Pullum also holds these other gems to the light:
“On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly.”
“Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils”
Finally, there is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The sentences in this novel flow fairly well and I would say it is not dragged down by terrible phrasing, but really: It is a cliche broken older guy who makes the big bad corporation “pay what they owe us”, then he sleeps with his sidekick (who is cool and is a hacker and is half his age). The sadistic elements of the story are over the top and not really necessary, only thrown in for sensationalism and to most readers with salt feel out of place.
What do you think, dear reader? Have you read a novel lately that was a best seller that was either poorly written or was cliche or generally left you lacking? Has the publishing industry driven the car off the road and into a ditch? Sound off.