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We're not at home to Mr. Rude.

My friend, [info]mikandra, has an interesting post up at wordpress , about aspiring writers who diss successful authors and/or  their books .  
Personally, I can't see the point of trash-talking someone's work, or their success.  It's like my old gran used to say, "Bugger off you little toad, afore I fetch the cattle-prod"... er, sorry, wrong gran.  The other one used to say... "You can't make yourself taller by pulling other people down." 

Sure, it's okay to point out the plot holes, bad dialogue, or any other faults in a book between friends (heaven knows we find them in our own work often enough, I doubt we can help it), but I'm with Patty on this.  It shouldn't be a team sport.

Besides, when books that (in our opinion) suck, go on to make it to the big leagues, shouldn't it give us hope?

Now, thanks to Patty, I have a new aspiration, to write a book that's successful enough to be sneered at.  I'm already halfway there, now I just need it to be successful 

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( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 6th, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
You know, I have read books by new authors and books by well known authors and said to myself, "Self, how did this ever get published?" I try to use it as inspiration, but I would hesitate to ever say the same thing in a public forum.

I like both your grans. They both speak their minds. But I make it a point to stay away from old people with cattle prods.

Jul. 6th, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC)
"...But I make it a point to stay away from old people with cattle prods."

Good advice. I'm three eighths Irish, so it's possible my gran was related to peadarog's (he tells me he had the same problem):)
Jul. 6th, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
Yes, I always wondered why people are doing that. It must be envy + herd mentality.

I've read the Harry Potter series and enjoyed the books very much. I've also read the DaVinci Code and, thought it's not the best written book in the world, I liked the plot. Never read the Twilight series; never will.
Jul. 6th, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
Don't get me wrong. I'm first in line when it comes to talking about how the Potter books got too long as the series progressed, but I can find plenty to admire in them too :)
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 6th, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC)
It reminds me of when I was at school, and there were certain bands that the in crowd (I was never a member) liked because they weren't 'commercial'.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 6th, 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
Except for that one by... No! I must resist :)
Jul. 6th, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC)
I agree with you 100%. I find that people who attack success are generally small-minded and resentful - there's a very specific word to describe them (begins with "L")...

If a book is successful, a smart writer's group (one whose members are on the road to publication) would look at WHY the book is successful, and seek to imitate that success if possible!
Jul. 6th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
"...(begins with "L")..."

Jul. 6th, 2009 05:53 pm (UTC)
Or possibly Lemmings...
Jul. 6th, 2009 06:03 pm (UTC)
That would have been my second guess :)
Jul. 6th, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
I concur with alaneer. Herd mentality and envy. It's good to put books down and even better to find other people who agree with you and then to take it to a public forum so you can show the world how smug, literary and self-righteous you are in your criticism. It's the old "I'm writing important literature, not that poorly written, commercial crap" attitude.

You also come across as arrogant, petty, and small.

I've seen it in a genre community or two where a group will say: "How dare that person steal our tropes and make millions. Who do they think they are? They suck!" When the real question should be: "That person's writing what I write and they're successful. What did they do that I can learn from and become successful to?"

It's a group victim role. "We've been doing this for years and they come around with one book and they make it. How dare they!"

It's always easier to be angry and nasty (listening to one's ego) than to be supportive and open to learning (listening to one's higher self). Some might even say they have nothing to learn from those who've made it, as they know what's what. Those folks will never be confused with true gurus.

Gary . . .
Jul. 6th, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC)
'... I concur with alaneer..." That Sophy's one smart lady :)

As for commercial crap, I just wish I could write some my own self :)
Jul. 6th, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
I like your grandmothers.
I sometimes try to steer a person towards a book I enjoyed, but I wouldn't try to steer someone away from a book I didn't like.
Jul. 6th, 2009 05:01 pm (UTC)
For a writer, steering someone away from a book you don't like, is a bad, bad thing to do :(

Especially if you believe in Karma.
Jul. 6th, 2009 09:09 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear. To get published takes talent and luck. I wouldn't begrudge anyone for having either.
Jul. 6th, 2009 09:11 pm (UTC)
I'm just glad there's no limit to the number of success spots available :)

Edited at 2009-07-06 09:12 pm (UTC)
Jul. 6th, 2009 11:53 pm (UTC)
I'm going to go against the grain here. I am not a jealous person and am always happy when my friends' books and stories are published, even if mine are form-rejected by the same venue on the same day. I do not begrudge Rowling or Stephenie Meyer, or anybody else for that matter, their success - and I am not really interested in riches or crowds of adoring fans.

However, if I happen to read a book that I think fails on the level of plot, language, dialogue, characterization, faithful/unfaithful representation of various groups, etc., I will surely discuss that with friends who read the same book. I think understanding where a writer fails in mechanics ultimately makes me a better writer. I also have a habit of dissecting the good bits of books with my friends. That does not, emphatically, mean I am jealous. That just means I am interested in the mechanics of writing.

Not all books are going to work for all people. It is only natural. Ulysses works for most of my friends and not for me, but it doesn't mean I have pedestrian tastes. Stephenie Meyer works for many people but not for me, and that doesn't make me snobbish or envious. It just makes me a person with a set of preferences.

I understand my preferences pretty well, but I also want to understand what makes other people like or dislike a specific work. Harry Potter 1-3 works for me, later books do not; but I understand why they work for other people. I dissected the 'Life of Pi', a book I acutely dislike, with friends for many an afternoon, trying to understand why it worked for them. Similarly, I spent a fair amount of time discussing finer points of Cordwainer Smith and Ursula LeGuin with my friends. A writer, by putting his or her work out there, opens their work for criticism - and thoughtful criticism is a good thing, since it indicates that people actively engage with your work.

Besides, when books that (in our opinion) suck, go on to make it to the big leagues, shouldn't it give us hope?
I don't see how it does, unless one thinks "my work sucks, sucky work gets published, which means there's hope for me." Imho - and this is only my opinion - if a writer thinks his or her work sucks, a writer has an obligation to attempt to improve it before inflicting it on unsuspecting masses. Someone else's bad writing, no matter how highly paid, does not give one the moral licence to happily compose crap (again, just my imho).
Jul. 7th, 2009 10:18 am (UTC)
I don't think you're going against the grain at all. There's not a single point in your comment that I disagree with :)

However, there's a world of difference between recognizing the flaws in a published work - which I think all writers do - and having a group 'haha, what a pile of crud that was' session, which was the kind of dissing Patty referred to in her original post.

As for a book that sucks giving me hope, perhaps it's just me, but I tend to be over-critical of my own work. Whilst I'd never waste an editor or agent's time by pitching something I thought sucked, I doubt I could ever write a perfect novel. It's comforting to know that the best I can possibly do, might still be sufficient :)

Edited at 2009-07-07 11:34 am (UTC)
Jul. 7th, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC)
Self-critical is good, it helps you grow. It is, imho, much better than thinking your first (second, third) drafts are solid gold - I've seen this attitude and it ain't pretty.

There is no such thing as a perfect novel. They are all imperfect. Your best is probably good enough. :-)

As for jealousy vs criticism, it is a fine line. So many times I've heard or witnessed a criticizing person being put down by others who say, "but [SOMETHING] is so successful! You are just jealous!"

Success is not an equivalent of good. McDonalds hamburgers are successful but that doesn't make them good, nor are they particularly good for you.

I doubt most people are jealous, actually. When something they think is brilliant succeeds, most people are very happy. When something they think is crap succeeds, they are not happy, often to the point of having a dissing section - which is not pretty, but most often is not, in fact, jealousy.

Problem arises when Writer X starts feeling that everything is crap
just because it is published, while the full collection of Writer X. "Works of Genius" is still languishing in the drawer. I've seen this happen, and it is not nice, and spectacularly bad for one's development as a writer, not to mention one's friendships.
Jul. 7th, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, but now I have to disagree.

As far as I'm concerned, McDonalds hamburgers are excellent :)
Jul. 8th, 2009 12:06 am (UTC)
Go, Jon!
I linked over from greyrose's post. Cheers,I think you nailed it.

And Greyrose, it doesn't sound like you're who Jon is discussing. You don't read like many of the comments I see floating around out there so I believe you when you say it's analysis and critique in the legitimate form. I think what Jon is talking about is different from this.

It sounds like this:

"OMG. Twilight was a piece of crap. I can't believe anybody ever read that book and the worst thing is they all read THREE MORE! Those books were so badly written they should never have been published..." blah blah blah.

Here's the thing. They WERE published, a LOT of people liked them, and not everyone was an English major. I know lots of folks who will tell you they liked those damn books in spite of the writing. Just one example but there's Dan Brown, Rowling, et.al.

It just sounds lame when somebody trying to gain success as a writer lights into authors who have had extreme commercial success without one positive thing to say. It doesn't sound like academic critique when you offer wholesale assault on the intellect of everyone who participated in the process of that book's success from the author to the end consumer.
Jul. 8th, 2009 10:19 am (UTC)
Re: Go, Jon!
Thanks for sharing :)
Jul. 10th, 2009 12:04 am (UTC)
I once read a bestselling novel with seven Tom Swifties on one page.  Seven!

Jealous?  No.  Upset?  Yes!  Why not be honest about it?

As an aspiring writer, reading that dull book was a painful experience and an eye-opener.  How come I have to adhere to the rules when published writers don't?  What editor would allow seven Tom Swifties on one page?  See where I'm going with this.

My first attempts at writing were squashed, stomped on, ripped to shreds.  Time and chocolate healed those wounds, and you know what?  I became a better writer because somebody had the guts to tell me what was wrong.

Bradbury said it best: You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. You go, Ray.

Edited at 2009-07-10 12:06 am (UTC)
Jul. 10th, 2009 11:50 am (UTC)
Re: Moo!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, though I'm not sure exactly what point you're trying to make here.

You seem to be saying that it's alright to find fault with published novels. I don't think anyone would disagree with that, as a matter of fact, I don't think writers can help doing it.

I think some novels get published in spite of the things the writer did wrong. As I said in the post, that should give us all hope.

You say that you became a better writer because '... somebody had the guts to tell me what was wrong...'.

Sorry, but I can't see the relevance. That's not the same as a group of people standing around mocking the work of a writer who they don't know (and who isn't there), sneering at his/her successful novel and those who bought it, which is what I'm talking about.

I'm sorry your first attempts at writing were ripped to shreds. Personally, I think that says more about the lack of class of those who critiqued it, than the quality of your work. Of course you should point out the bad stuff - that's a critiquer's job after all -but if a writer can't do that without leaving the other person feeling like they've been stomped on, they can't be much of a writer, can they?

Andrew Burt wrote a great essay, The Diplomatic Critiquer, http://www.critters.org/diplomacy.html. I believe it should be required reading for every critic.

By the way, congratulations on your sale to Quantum Kiss. I wish you many more :)

Edited at 2009-07-10 11:51 am (UTC)
Jul. 10th, 2009 12:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Moo!
My point? Um...what was the question again.

My apologies. It was late, I was rambling.
Jul. 10th, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Moo!
Lol, I know that feeling :)
Jul. 19th, 2009 06:05 am (UTC)
You know, I keep seeing the suggestion that "criticism = jealousy" (not from you, but in some responses to the original post and even this one) and it never ceases to annoy me. Why is it so hard to believe that someone might just...not like a book?

Now, the suggestion of entire groups getting together and ragging on something - no, I don't care for that; I'd much rather chat about stuff I do like.
Jul. 19th, 2009 12:22 pm (UTC)
You're right, of course, but I think the kind of criticism we make about a book we simply didn't care for, is different in tone and content to the sort I'm thinking of.

As for a group chatting about stuff they did like, I'm always up for those kind of discussions :)
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )

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