Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Story - craft vs story

No titles mentioned in this post because I know how hard it is to put your work out there.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately - some good, some bad, some frustrating - and I need to vent a little (or a lot).

Sometimes a book can have a great story, fabulous writing, and then one little niggly thing will whip me out of the story quick as a blink. And then it's difficult to get back into it, no matter how much I try. The other day it was a great story about a guy who'd lost an arm. The point was made about how many things he couldn't do - like put on a condom, and how he'd have to practice. Cool. I liked it. And then after a most delicious sex scene, he flicked the condom off and tied it before dropping it on the floor. Man!?! He tied it? One handed? When he couldn't put it on one handed? Such a tiny thing, yet it bugged me all through the rest of the story. I was believing every word, until then.

And I know that stuff happens. I do it myself. Recently I had a guy who didn't drink visiting wineries. Yep! No idea what he'd do at one of those. A trusty editor picked it up. There are so many things to think about when you write that slips like this happen. And maybe a little slip like the tied condom will make me always remember what a great book that was, and how that scene pulled me out. So maybe it's a good thing - a lot of other books just get swallowed in my head!

But my real vent is on books that have so many mistakes in them - in the story line or with the writing craft. The ones with story line issues send me demented and I've stopped reading a lot of them, especially the dark, almost abusive, ones. I don't want my reading taking me to the brink of death by some self-serving dick of an alpha who's only wrapped up in himself. No thank you. Reading is subjective. I don't like that, but if you do, that's fine. It tweaks my buttons so I keep away. Easy done.

When it's the writing craft that lets a story down, that's harder for me to walk away from (or to pick before buying). I'm reading one now and it's totally frustrating. Spelling errors, typos, grammatical strangeness and horror, sentences that don't make sense, first person to third person flicks, POV shifts within a sentence/paragraph sometimes, past vs present issues. It drives me bats reading it - yet I want to read the story. The story is interesting and the subject something I'm keen to know more about...but I don't know if I can keep going.

Usually a few typos, or the odd weird thing, I can overlook. This has mistakes on almost every page. The scariest thing is that the acknowledgements thank quite a few editors. Did the author actually use them and listen to their advice? That's terrifying if they did. I know it's the author's final say, but if I was an editor, I wouldn't want my services listed in a book with this many mistakes. Maybe a good proofer would help...but I really consider this story a first draft and not a publishable piece.

But should I be making these judgements? I'm not sure, which is why I'm not naming these books.

I have had extensive training in being anal about publications. In the world of science, mentoring with an older scientist is almost mandatory (or it was for me anyway!), and the mentors I had didn't let a thing through. One guy even went so far as to mark up my Ellinkisms in my thesis - things that I wrote (like creative writing - my opinions, my observations, my colloquial comments, whatever) that were not appropriate for the document. These guys were harsh. My first drafts of anything came back with more red pen from their scribbles than typed words. It was horrifying...but I learned. I don't think I'm at their standard of anal-ness (I got out too soon for that) but I know I have issues :)

Maybe I've learned too well. Maybe my expectations are too high. I don't know. But reading is subjective and those are my standards.

Do you have issues when you read?


  1. I would have issues about the one-handed tying of the condom that's for sure! I don't like typos, but I've learned to overlook them, pretty much. It is a pet peeve of mine though, that ebooks seem to 'get away' with more than a fair share of typos. I also find it funny that I'm reading away sometimes on an ebook, and I'll think... wow, this has so few mistakes. This author/editor team got something right. It should be the norm shouldn't it, not the surprise to find a well edited ebook!!
    I agree with you (no surprises there, I usually do).
    I also chuckle at the thought of Ellinkisms... ;)

    1. Thank you, Miss Lily. It is true about ebooks, I've noticed the same. Plus I think ebooks and self-publishing has created a rapid world where some people are putting out stories almost as fast as they write them, which means the work that's done behind-the-scenes in the print publishing industry (quality control so to speak) has been left lapse.

      It's kind of sad when you notice how few mistakes there are in an ebook. Doesn't say much for a standard does it. But then again, price of ebooks are so cheap, maybe we're not paying for quality.

      Such a dilemma now I think about that!

      Thanks for the thoughts, as always,
      Cate xox