I’ll Pass, Thanks

We all have our passions and there are times when those passions get the better of us and we spew verbal poison. I’m guilty. My favorite punching bag is Twilight and all things that come with it. I am (relatively) unapologetic about it, and where there are merits, I will admit them. There aren’t many, but I give credit where credit is due. Part of the reason why I don’t feel too awful about beating up on Meyer or her franchise is because of its rampant success. My bitching is but one drop in the ocean of its fan-dom, and I realize that it’s only relevant to the people who agree with me. Rabid fans see no flaws, or reject them because of the “quality” of the story and most will try to defend it.

But no, I’m not talking about the bad fiction that becomes a mega-success. I’m talking about the small publications that you come across that are either the shallow end of the mediocrity scale, or the ones that plummet into the depths of bad. Small press publications and authors can be broken with negative comments. Sometimes this is justified, but even when it is, it’s not professional. In a very broad, sweeping generalization, let’s say there are two kinds of authors; those willing and able to identify their mistakes, and those who chase their name in print. The former do everything they can to read, educate themselves on their craft and fine tune their writing as a matter of professional pride. They seek opportunities to push themselves, to learn and to not only figure out what’s broken in a manuscript, but how to fix it. The latter are those who swell with uncritical pride when they hear an unqualified “it’s good” from a friend, or who don’t see the value in pushing their limits to make what’s good into something “great,” or “amazing.” I feel sorry for those people, especially the ones with talent for telling a story.

I get it. Really. Bad writing happens. It’s a fact of a writer’s life, and something that we try to grow through and out of. The problem is, thanks to the digital age, bad writing gets published, bought and sold every single day. Even in the larger market where publishers are reading, buying, printing and selling so fast in the interest of seizing a trend to grab the interest of a target market, decent stories get pushed out without the polish or attention they need to make them great. Mistakes happen. Plot holes happen. Typos are par for the course, and when the digital eyes of spell check don’t grab the word taking the place of the one the author meant to use because it is actually spelled correctly, they can happen in abundance. The author bears the brunt of the responsibility for this clean up before it ever leaves the sanctity of their desk, but every author needs help picking the nits from the manuscript once in a while. When you’re too close to the subject, you miss things or you interpret what’s on the page as the visual drama unfolding behind your eyes, even though the actual words may be missing. The trick is to have a support team to help find these nasties BEFORE the reader finds it on the shelves, digital or otherwise.

One of my favorite e-book haunts is Amazon’s Top 100 Free list. I have gotten great classics and based on what I’ve skimmed through on my Kindle, I’ve scored some pretty good reads from reputable publishers promoting new works on limited time offers. (I’ll let you know once I’ve actually gotten through them.) I’ve also downloaded some really poorly written “stories.” I believe I have realistic expectations about what I’m getting there most of the time, since I know you usually get what you pay for. But on the other hand, I also understand that self-pub and vanity press in the e-book market are pretty damn cheap – and it shows. The ones that have been bad have been really bad and I don’t include them on my “What I’m Reading” or “What I’ve Read” lists. I don’t feel right being honest about them with my standard blurb, and I don’t want to be asked why they’re there without one. I can handle mediocre with a diplomatically worded blurb, but with the truly awful, I’ll pass, thanks.

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