Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

A Best Selling Author? Really?!!

I'm reading a book. I'm not going to name the book or the author because I don't want this post to be a destruction of somebody's work.  Let's just say that my husband started laughing at the faces I was making as I read this book, especially after I shared with him some of the truly terrible prose.

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"But you're still reading it," he says.

"I have to finish this. I have to understand why . . . "

The thing I wanted to understand has absolutely nothing to do with the story. I actually understood that about 5 pages in (which is part of the problem). I wanted to understand how something so poorly written could be published by a well-known publisher. I wanted to understand how this person got published. In this particular novel she made every mistake a beginning writer might make including: repeating and repeating and repeating; telling, telling, telling; making characters that you just want to smack and tell them to get over themselves; using adverbs like they are going out of style . . .

Is this perhaps her first book, you ask? No. That's the thing. This author has hit #1 on the New York Times  bestseller list 7 times, including debuting at #1. She has sold over 160 million copies of her books worldwide.

(I'm still not going to name her, but if you really want to know send me an e-mail).

Last May I had my first experience getting feedback from a publisher/editor on 10 pages of my manuscript. One of the more confusing illuminating comments she shared was that she thought the dialogue read like a movie script and wanted more insight into the thoughts of my main character. After I scratched my head and thought about this (I mean everyone else says "show don't tell" and she was pretty much saying "tell don't show") her comments led me to discovering something which I incorporated in a complete revision and, I believe, an immense strengthening of the manuscript.

Evidence, I guess, that it does truly help to have an editor. I'm becoming a stronger writer by swallowing my pride and learning from outside comments. I don't take everything that's thrown at me, but I listen and then I let the suggestions inspire improvements.

That experience, along with several years of teaching writing in college composition classes and the practice of writing in general has made me become a more discerning reader. I'm more conscious of the way a book is written in addition to the content. I am sensitive to misprints or errors, poor writing, and ideas that contradict each other. (On my recent binge re-reading of the Harry Potter series I discovered some contradictions and errors I'd never noticed before--but that's for a different post. I still love the series).

More and more as I venture into the bizarre world of publishing I have to wonder how it possibly works? I've read too many traditionally published books that offer nothing special to the world of books or are just garbage. Of course, I've also read plenty of self-published books that need a few dozen more edits, but those I pass of to the naiveté and ego of the author. Everything we write is not worth publishing,or at least not ready for publishing, and sometimes I think--in the desire to put our work out there--we don't take the time required to see the flaws and make our work stronger.

Yet, I would hope that those who have made writing a career and published numerous works would have somehow mastered the ability to recognize when their writing is good and when it isn't. Or, that readers would become more discerning and demand quality works be placed on bestseller lists.

I guess I'm wrong.

And the most frustrating thing about this is that I know so many truly talented writers whose books will never be found in a hard cover edition in the library, whose names will never reach the bestseller list, whose words will never reach millions of people. Why? I don't know.

I intend to keep trying, but reading books like this makes me almost give up hope.

Do you ever feel frustrated by the books you read? Does it ever make you want to give up writing altogether?