Why Almost All New Writers Suck

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in defense of ripening

Light, nurturing, and time ripen your writing like succulent fruit

WriterBeware is one of my favorite blogs because owner Victoria Straus gives something of value to writers and authors in the  majority of her posts. Today, she outdid herself, offering extreme value to writers, authors, and our industry as it is evolving. Her guest post is about how writers and authors are trashing our own habitat by publishing as quickly and easily as we can without regard for knowledge, quality, or experience.

I edit work for many, many writers. I ghost book, and I review books, mostly galleys, for lots of publishers. I served as a judge in an ebook competition this year — that means I read an extreme number of new books, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ll tell you this: About 80% of what I read, eight out of ten books or better, are crap.

They are poorly written, structured so badly you can’t get through them. They make no sense and have no story arc. Their characters are flat or the information they contain is untried, unproven, and indigestible. Grammar and syntax? Pah! Subjects don’t agree with predicates, adjectives and adverbs are weak and sprinkled through every sentence like cheap cinnamon.

Consider the thought that must have gone into this gem — “Get over they’re by that wall and don’t move,” hissed the thug.

Hissing requires sibilance. Hissing, like the sound a snake makes,  is characterized by the letter s. Show me the s in the sentence hissed by the thug. Even if I can accept non-sibilant hissing, I can’t live with they’re for there, or the juvenile placement of the attribution — said the thug instead of the thug said.

Those sorts of things are every-day, in fact, every –sentence occurrences in writings flooding our marketplaces. I see more of it in the digital world, and way more in self-published work, but reading pre-press novels and non-fiction from the biggest NY publishers has the same sort of distasteful air, though to a lesser degree. Books are losing their magic. You have to dig deep and search long for a gem of a book, one that steals your heart or captures your imagination, or makes you want more. Now, readers skim quickly through as many books as they can cram on to their Kindles and Nooks and move on, hoping the next might not suck.

How to Fix Everybody

And what the heck do we do about this, if anything? Since the phenom is making a few lucky noobs rich when they stumble on to a tribe willing to buy into marketing hype, it’ll be tough to convince newer writers and authors to learn their craft and look into themselves before they slap pixels into software and push the publish button. But read what Ms. Strauss’ blog by Marcia Yudkin has to say and consider which way you’d like your books to go. In Praise of Ripening

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7 Responses to “Why Almost All New Writers Suck”

  1. I have read a few good first books, but they were written by people who had experience in some other form of writing. It could be anything – journalism, business writing – as long as they had some idea of how to write a sentence and organize their thoughts.

    Also, too many books are written by juveniles – people barely out of their teens – often published by doting parents who think their little angel is a genius. They are making a mistake. If my own children wanted to publish one more book about zombies, for instance, I would advise them to write it as an exercise, but wait until they finished college before attempting to publish the masterpiece. I trust that four years later, they would have the sense to revise the childish thoughts, and their language skills would be improved by their education.

  2. Thanks for coming by and for your input. I can’t argue your points one bit. I’m not saying no one can write when they’re young or when they’re inexperienced, but I’m pretty sure any writer, especially a noob, can benefit from thinking, reading, practicing, and paying some dues.
    –mkp

  3. There is a huge difference between writing and publishing. I would tell the young persons to write as much as they can, but NOT TO PUBLISH until they read many good books, studied the art and craft of writing, attended colleged, and gained some life experience.

  4. Unfortunately, I don’t think this criticism can be limited to younger writers. Visit almost any writers’ forum (for example those associated with content writing sites), and you may find a wide span of ages and backgrounds that fit this profile. The Internet has not only engaged people’s creativity (which is good), but eased the process remarkably for becoming “published” irrespective of age or motive.

    To a point, it’s a question of what the writer really wants out of being published. If it’s to be able to point at a screen and note that he has been able to print his assembled words for everyone to see, then I guess his goal has been met. For me though, that falls short of really being published and commanding the respect and singularity that comes with the true notoriety of a writer. That status is reserved for those who really touch their readers with insight, style or a knowledge of how to write.

    I agree though, that poor quality degrades everyone’s ability to make a living as a writer and cheapens the craft. The only answer I can think of is to write more earnestly and more often. So long as there are earnest writers, there will be earnest readers who won’t settle for the detritus of sloppy writing.

  5. Thomas W Devine July 29, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    I agree with the blogger. Even though my first novel “Reversal Point” was an ABNA semi-finalist & published through CreateSpace I have re-written it to improve its quality and will shortly bring out a second edition.

  6. In defense of crappy first books, those fledgling authors are following the advice everyone gives them.

    “If you want to be a writer, write.”

    It’s repeated so often it’s become cliche. I’m not a novelist, but with the struggles I have to meet my column deadlines every month, I must admit to some semblance of jealousy. I’m not sure I could pump out 100,000 words on a single topic, so good on them for that.

    I completely agree with your point, however. So much crappy writing that should be rotting in someone’s dresser drawer, or living eternally in the “sucky stuff that sucks” folder on a hard drive is now being “published.”

    Part of me hopes it’s all a conspiracy by the publishing houses. Maybe they’re purposefully flooding self-publishing channels with such horrible work so that it annoys readers into only buying books from traditional publishers. Even if that’s not true, what a great idea for a book! I’ll write it when I get home from work, and publish it before dinner.

    “Get over they’re and read my novel,” yodeled the book publishing conglomerate.

  7. Hey thanks for coming by and for taking time to comment. You make some fine points, especially about writing 100K words on a single topic. My point? If you’re going to do it, make sure you do it to the best of your ability. I never thought of publishing houses flooding the market with crappy writing, but it’s an amazingly funny idea!
    ==mkp