The biggest problem with learning to be a writer…

booksI take classes, I read self-help books, I read articles on the do’s & don’ts of writing and I’ve learned so much.  Most of the general rules are easy to follow so why is it when I read current fiction now I see these common rules broken?

I always have a book open on my nightstand and I always have an audiobook in my car CD player. I’ve been trying to mix genres to experience a broader range of authors, of recent authors, not all our old favorites like Austen and Tolstoy.

I realize I will recognize these mistakes easier now that I have this new knowledge. I’m not criticizing because I think I’m a better writer then most recent published authors…the truth is I’m feeling slightly cheated as a reader.

If I have to learn these things to become the best writer I can, and if I have to learn these things just to claw my way through the writing world then why shouldn’t these published authors have to follow the same rules.

I’m a writer, but I’m also a reader who wants to read quality–not crap.

Here are a few phrases I’ve read lately that have made me shake my head and say, “What?”

He asked with token interest.

”What?” I don’t even know what this means. What exactly is ‘token’ interest anyway? I’ve been told emphatically not to use bad tag lines and this has to be the worst tag line I have ever read.

Standing, he pulled his pants on as he walked across the room.

“What?” Who can stand, pull their pants on and walk all at the same time? Not me…

One book I read recently had every character using the same phrases over and over.

“That damned cat,” Jane said shaking her head.

Two pages later…

“That damned detective,” Bob said shaking his head.

Four pages later…

“Those damned kids,” Mrs. Bracey said shaking her head.

Rule #1: Your characters must have character!! They should have their own phrases, voices and distinct personality flaws, not the same for each person. I felt like every character in this book was a clone.

Young adult book are the worst, don’t get me started on the awful tag lines and gazillion typos I found in the Twilight books. But even people writing for kids should care about good writing.

I understand that published authors sell books which makes them exempt from the rules we have to follow as new writers, but shouldn’t they want their best work published? Shouldn’t they want smart readers to be impressed or at least satisfied?

Do any of my writing friends feel as cheated as I do?

Share with me some of the awful things you’ve found in books now that you’ve taken a few writing courses.

3 thoughts on “The biggest problem with learning to be a writer…

  • I’m sorry nobody warned you, but that’s the price of your art. My favorite author is now Nora Roberts quite simply because she has the cleanest writing of any major author. She still overuses the word “fisted” and begins her novels with a report on the weather.

    Dick Francis ends almost all of his chapters with the same sentence. “It was [unexpected name].”

    The author of the warrior’s series has a serious research flaw, and I’m not even going to talk about Dan Brown’s writing.

    In short, there is no such thing as a perfect book. I don’t enjoy reading as much as I did because of the flaws I notice. Just keep that in mind when you finally send your work out for publication. I’m still sending Uninvoked out for critique, even the already polished chapters. -.-

  • dayner

    I can get through a Nora Roberts book fairly satisfied but I don’t think I’ll ever look at another Lisa Jackson book. If I can finish the one I’m on. I’ve been trying to read debuts lately and of course they’re usually nearly perfect. The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum is very well written.

  • It seems quite unfair doesn’t it. My frustration level rises everytime I pick up a book and glance it over, just to find that there are a number of mistakes and poorly written dialogue.

    I think the dialogue portion is the biggest frustration for me, because it is the element in my writing where I am aware I need more practice.

    When I see a published author that treats dialogue as a filler, it makes me want to rip out the pages and flush them down the toilet.

    Not to pick on YA, but I have found, (having teenagers), that they do not purchase or read books based on whether they are good or not. Unfortunately, they purchase them based on whether they are popular. Anything vampire or magic is in right now, although I do see them quickly loosing their popularity. Even my son has made the statement, “Not another vampire story.”

    I believe the next big YA author will be the one who can find a new subject that appeals to teens and young adults. Who ever can find that niche’ will be allowed to write crap, as long as it sells.

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