Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bad Books

Time is running out and I keep getting myself distracted by writing up pieces not meant for today’s post. And so I will make this a brief one because I need to get back to some editing for my WIP.

Books have the same enemies as people: fire, humidity, animals, weather, and their own content.
– Paul Valery

When you read a published book only to discover it was a waste of your time and money, are you discouraged as a writer? Or, do you feel encouraged because you know deep down you could do better?

What makes a bad book?*

*amendment: what I'm asking is what is it about a book that will more than likely fail to keep your interest?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

46 comments:

  1. Strangely, it doesn't discourage me as a writer. I know it's something which has been written and therefore the writer in me can appreciate having this to study.

    However, and this is a very big however, there have been numerous stories known to have made the reader in me demand a refund.

    As a reader I don't really want to be bored, which is how I found myself recently reading a literary classic.

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  2. I don't believe any book is really 'bad' I think it's all based on preference. I don't get discouraged when I read a bad book, only disappointed that it wasn't what I wanted.

    I do have books that I was disappointed, I knew they could have been better but they weren't. Still you have to remember it's your opinion, not everyone feels that way. I'll be honest, some of the best sellers I don't understand how they got there unless they were just amazingly advertised.

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  3. Jeffrey, I've never tried to get a refund for a bad book. I've thrown themn into a corner or given them away.

    Even classics sometimes bore me to death. I can appreciate them for what they are, but still get bored ;)

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  4. Jen, anything creative is subjective. And yes sometimes the best sellers are best sellers because people wonder what the fuss is about and buy them which in turn adds to their best seller status.

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  5. I guess bad books upset me less than they used to. Before, I'd get bitter. Now, I focus on the excellent ones and wonder if I'll ever write so well.

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  6. It's all so subjective. I mean, I recognize that as a reader, I'm really picky. I don't feel better about myself as a writer - actually I think about how many people will feel MY book is bad. It doesnt make me feel bad or good. They just werent for me.

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  7. Maybe they aren't really bad books, just not good for me books.
    I know why classics are classics but I can never get through them.
    I used to feel bad but not any more.

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  8. I haven't come across a lot of bad books, but there was one I remember specifically. The heroine was a supernatural being, a demon to be exact, but the biggest pansy I've ever read about! It was so disheartening. I finished the book, but gave it away to my aunt for her to read. I will not keep books I'm not impressed with.

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  9. Theresa, great attitude! There's no sense getting bitter :)

    Melissa, you sound like a true writer..we always have that's niggling doubts ;)

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  10. Mary, well, yes, the term "bad" is always subjective unless we are talking about prawns that have gone off. Good to hear you don't feel bad about it anymore :)

    Natascha, lol! you made me laugh. It's true, sometimes characters aren't depicted the way we want them to be depicted. I don't keep books I'm not impressed with either.

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  11. I don't get discouraged as writer so much as disappointed that a book that initially drew my attention didn't live up to my expectations.

    When it comes to "bad" books, I think content is subjective, but the mechanics of writing cannot be ignored.

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  12. If I start reading a book that I begin to see as "bad," in my opinion (which could mean different things - it doesn't grab me, the grammar is awful, it's all telling and no showing, or whatever), I quit reading. On the other hand, there have been great books that didn't grab me, or that were way off in their grammar or did a lot of telling. "Bad" is a vague word.

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  13. Like what the saying goes, "you can't please everyone..." So some reader might like a book or not. When I don't feel motivated or some topics become boring along the way, that's when I lose my interest in reading the whole book. I don't think of it as bad but just not enough to catch my interest. Blessings.

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  14. Kelly, yes exactly. I can't help it when i read I also mentally edit. Its harder to gloss over the rough sections but as long as I'm enjoying the story I'm more forgiving ;)

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  15. Helen, poor grammar, too much telling, yep these are things that keep a book from the top of my reading pile.

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  16. Rcubes, yes lack of motivation and boring topics. Yep, they make me put a book down as well :)

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  17. I don't get discouraged because I know that I can do it better and so I do.

    I hope your WIP editing goes well.

    CD

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  18. Clarissa, I got distracted making new buttons for this blog -- lol).

    Good to hear you don't get discouraged. I don't either, but I've heard a few writers say that they do.

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  19. Such a great question, Lynda. I'd honestly have to say it doesn't affect me either way. I've read "bad" books that made me wonder how they got published, but never thought to compare it to my work, really. Usually I'm disappointed as a READER... that I spent on a book I didn't enjoy.

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  20. ah, Lynds that's a great question you've posted here.
    To be honest, while reading bad books, and especially while translating a few books that in my own opinion didn't deserve to be published nor read, not less translated, I did develop a feeling deep down in me that one day even I could write a book :)))

    I mean I read a book from a guy who worked in some big company as a clerk, and become redundant and fired at the age of 40. Since he didn't know what to do, he decided to write a historical book, even though he admits the last book he read was in his high school, and that all he knows about history was learned from Wikipedia. He sold his book to PENGUIN BOOKS in Britain for a six figured sum!!! And the way he wrote his "masterpiece" truly convinced me that I could've been a millionaire if I lived in UK and wrote books :))

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  21. Tawdry and formulaic plots. Characters that are one dimentional, too perfect, or too shallow, or just plain annoying without a right to be.
    Books where all is action without character growth.

    These things always challenge me when I have to read them, but I find they are great inspiration. I just start thinking: "If I wrote this book..." and see where it goes.

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  22. i'm belong to "no such thing as a bad book" camp... some are just better quality than others, while some just appeal to others.
    that said, i started trying to write professionally after reading a popular series, and thinking, "I could have written that." super arrogant, i know! (it's a lot harder than i thought back then!)

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  23. I think a bad book lacks creativity and leaves you feeling blah at the end. Or when you're reading it, its like you can SEE the marketing plan.

    But if someone read it then the book did it's job.

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  24. Depends on the book. I always feel the need to write when I read a good book. When I read a terrible book, I just want to chuck it across the room.

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  25. Great question. "Bad" is entirely subjective. I know a book is what I consider "bad" when I don't even finish reading it--usually I feel compelled at least to skim the rest if I'm not into it. I solve the money issue by reading most of my books through the library, and not buying them! I only buy them after I've read them and know I like them. Weird, huh? ;o)

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  26. If a 'bad' book gets published, it's because someone thought it was 'good.' So, while I might be annoyed to see something I think I wcould've written better, I have to recognize that the author did something right, or he/she wouldn't have gotten published. Now if I can just figure out what it was...

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  27. I guess I don't look at any book as being bad. It might not fit my taste or I might think that publisher might not be my cup of tea...Or I could never write that genre, but I cant write in someone else's voice or with their experiences, so I don't think I could say their work is bad...I'd just say it wasn't my cup of tea...

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  28. To me, books are a matter of taste. I think sometimes we just make a mistake in choice.

    I find often, if a book doesn't appeal to me right away, I'll pull it out months later and I'll like it. Mood? Who knows. But I give them a second chance.

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  29. Lynda...for me a bad book is one where the writing is of a poor quality and there are loads of grammatical errors and where I feel the writer has not realized his/her full potential. Meaning the storyline has not been developed fully.

    Actually it does not discourage me, but the reverse. I feel if such books can be published then why not ours.

    http://rachnachhabria.blogspot.com/2010/09/unleashing-our-creativity.html

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  30. Lynda, I'm not discouraged when I read a bad book, only frustrated that something so bad should have anyone pay attention to it.

    I catergorise something as bad writing when a. The characters are two dimensional, b. The plot is unbelieveable, c. The writer doesn't seem to care about the story, or d. The writer doesn't seem to care about the reader.

    Jai

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  31. Dezzy, yes it's amazing what gets published...truly amazing sometimes. In many ways it's like a lottery. If you hit the right numbers (send your ms to the right people) then it's a win. But I also find that encouraging because I know I too can win the publishing game if I keep at it :)

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  32. Misha, I always thought i'd not like a book with all action and no character growth and then I read one a few years ago and loved it. Admittedly it was the one book of its type that I enjoyed. I must have read it at the right time ;)

    Yes, they can be a great inspiration

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  33. You want the truth? I'm excited! If that piece of trash sells well, then I know I'll be okay.

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  34. aspiring, well it got me started as well. And yes it's way harder than it looks :)

    Erinn, haha yes! being able to see the marketing plan is a bit of a downer ;) Sometimes it works anyway, but a lot of the time it doesn't.

    Carolyn, "good" books are incredibly inspiring..like good art.

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  35. Carol, hehe, I won't even skim a book if I'm not enjoying it -- oh, well, I did once but I got nothing out of it... it was in the hope that the book would improve. But it didn't.

    mshatch, for those books I sometimes think the marketing was really good or their query letter was exceptional or their timing was spot on for the genre ;)

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  36. Sharon, yes, but what makes a book "not your cup of tea"?

    Terry, mood definitely is a factor. One day I will love a pulp fiction and the next I shudder at them. Sometimes I'm looking for beautiful writing and sometimes I don't want to think :)

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  37. Rachna, grammatical errors never used to bother me but now they scream out from a page (anything written except my own writing of course-- for some reason I'm blind to half my mistakes haha)

    Jai, yes you make a good point. When the writer doesn't care about the story it shows. I recently read a fourth book from a newish author and it was so clear she was merely fullfilling a contract. The passion she had for her first three books just wasn't there.

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  38. Alex, I think you will be ok anyway ;)

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  39. Bad books don't bum me out. Everything gets published for a reason.

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  40. Interesting question. I just read a book the other day which had a horrible ending so I kind of felt like I wasted my time investing in these characters.

    On the other hand if I read a book that I think I could have written better, it gives me hope.

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  41. What a great quote! So funny and so true.

    Hmmm . . . a bad book is one that lacks a coherent plot or throws in garbage that doesn't belong, just to please the masses.

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  42. Improper motivation of the characters. I know the ending and middle of the book before I finish the first chapter. Yaaawwwn.

    Some sort of logic flaw I can't forgive - ie, why are vampires in school?

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  43. Patti, that reminds me of an old book I read where only horrible things happened to the characters and none of them dealt with their situations well. I just knew the ending would be worse so I stopped reading. lol.

    Janet, oh yes!a coherent plot is so important.

    M Pax, sometimes I don't mind knowing the middle and ending as long as I'm willing to take the journey with interesting characters. That's the catch otherwise, yep, it's a huge yawn.

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  44. I don't get very bothered by it. I understand that some books just don't appeal to everyone. I usually give it away to someone else that I think will like it.

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  45. PBs: I dislike telling and lack of plot; I dislike stories that are basically one long conversation where the grown-up educates the child.

    Novels: I dislike preachy sections. I'm smart; you don't have to spell it out for me.

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  46. Oh, but those things don't discourage me. On the contrary, they fire me up - I KNOW I can do better, and I want to get right on it!

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I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.