Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wish I Was There But I'm Not. Yet.

Recently I skimmed through the most recent edition of Writer's Digest.  I have an on again, off again relationship with that resource.  Sometimes I'll look through it when I'm at my local Borders and decide to purchase a random copy because it has something in I know I'll want to read in more depth. 

In this issue, a letter to the editor caught my eye.  The writer complained about a well-known writer (without using a  name).  The best-selling author changes POV from paragraph to paragraph in her books, uses adverbs liberally and still sells lots of books.  The letter writer said she found herself being pulled out of the story as she backtracked constantly to figure out who's head she was inside.  The inquiring person wanted to know why some authors get away with these big faux pas.

As authors it is difficult not to notice mistakes in books we read.  A recent bestseller I read had dozens of typos and misspellings.  I wondered where the proof readers were.  I understand a few getting through but this was more than I would expect in a polished manuscript I had prepared to send out.  And like the letter writer, I notice all those adverbs it's okay for successful authors to use.  All those passive verbs.  POV changes abound.  Yet you'll find those books on the displays in the front of book stores.  They'll be on the best seller lists and the author will receive six figure advance money for them. 

If I tried the same thing in my book, no agent would read past the third or fourth adverb.  They'd throw it off the wall at the first head-hopping I did in the middle of a scene.  Let's not even talk about the words, 'was or be,' I'm likely to have sprinkled about the manuscript.  Why can they do that and I can't?

Because I'm not there yet.  I still must follow those rules.  I can't tell my editor to leave it alone. I can't guarantee my faithful readers will pick it up even if I use lots of adverbs.  My publisher doesn't have mega-dollars invested in so they'll promote my work even if it's not my best.  I'm not there and most of aren't.  So I'll keep on following those rules and maybe someday I'll be there.

Have you read any books by famous authors who blatantly ignore the rules we're taught to follow? (No names, please) Do the breaking of the rules distract you when reading?  Which one would you like to break?


  1. Yes! yes! yes! oh my god I pull my hair out over these things. It's just not fair, is it?

  2. It's not fair, Jessica. Someday it will be us allowed to set our own rules. LOL

  3. I think it is disgusting when they no longer take pride in their work.

    When I see the vast errors they make, I think arrogance has crept into their personality, and laziness into their publishing company.

    It then boils down to money, such a shame.

  4. And yet people still buy the books and the publishers keep pumping them out, Glynis.

  5. Too true. It's sad. It infuriates writers who struggle and fight to get it right and have their dreams come true. But, though I have seen it and my blood boils, I try and look at it this way: If someone who failed at being a great writer can do it, so can I. And I will be able to be proud of what has my name on it because I did work so hard. Right?

  6. I think readers still buy the books b/c the vast majority of non-writers don't know to look for it--they are just looking for a good plot or to feel connected to the characters, ya know?

  7. I've read books like that--it frustrates me, since it seems like those kinds of "mistakes", for all authors, should be caught and taken care of.

  8. I guess they've just reached that level where people now 'cut them some slack.'

  9. I guess at some point certain rule breaking becomes a "style" of famous authors.

    One of my favorite crime writers uses absolutely no dialogue tags. The way he writes its clear who is speaking...my critique group went bananas when I did it.

    Guess I'm not there yet either.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  10. I am put off by those who ignore punctuation rules or use sentences that go on forever. Personally, I’d like to be able to overlook the POV rules – it would make writing so much easier.

  11. I've seen some books from smaller presses do this too. I like it. It gives me hope that I may get published sometime soon.

    I think to myself, "If this got published, then why not mine?"

    Hope your hobbling days are soon over, Sue!

  12. I'm in the same club as all of you. Not too shabby, I must say. :)

    Frustrating? Yes. But the thing is this. We WILL all get there. Stay positive, be happy.

    Good post!

    Marie, http://marierearden.blogspot.com

  13. I guess most of us feel the same. Thanks for the good wishes about getting better. I'm so late reading all these interesting comments because I had my doctor's checkup. He did major restructuring inside my ankle joint so I have to wear a clunky big boot for five weeks but after the crutches I feel so free. I clomped around the house saying, 'I'm free."

  14. Oh you've hit a chord here! It is hilarious all the 'no nos' we're told yet every time we read a best seller these 'no nos' abound. I always say that once an author has a contract for a 3 book deal, say, they just don't have the time/energy to pay the attention needed to present readers with a polished tome.

    I just finished getting the first two chapters of my first novel critiqued. I was pulled apart because of my PoV, head hopping.

    I just finished reading a best selling authors who I love, head hopping every paragraph. Hmm.

    I wonder about proof-reading too. It is off putting to come across typos and misspells. Surely editing was a more polished art in the past????

    Great post.