Wednesday, January 04, 2012

When Flawed is Good Enough

I'm reading a YA novel right now that I shall not name, but it was one of the big anticipated books of 2011 and while I don't think it hit high on any bestseller lists (or as high as it was expected to) it did pretty well.

I can't quite decide what I think about this book. (Am waiting for Sinead to finish it, so we can discuss.) In parts it's amazing and creative. In parts it seems cliched. Parts are graceful and breathtakingly beautiful. Parts are clunky and awkward. Parts I've skimmed. (I'm not a skimmer.) And ultimately I've decided, reading it through writer's eyes, that the author, while clearly very talented, didn't know that much about writing. I'm guessing she didn't go through the "apprenticeship" that many of us go through writing multiple books that gather rejections and criticism through which we learn the craft of writing.

But the book is entertaining. And I keep turning the pages. So like other bestsellers that weren't considered "well written" clearly the story is making up for the muddy POV's, the occasional lazy choices, like repeating the same scene from two different points of view, or adding of a random POV for no reason other than to explain something she couldn't figure out a better way to explain... The things that stand out like sore thumbs to me as a fellow writer.

It almost makes me think I've wasted my time learning all that I have about "good" writing. But then I remember. I actually care. I know not everyone will like or appreciate my style or agree with my choices in storytelling, but no matter what criticism I hear in reviews, I know why I made the decisions I made in my books.

And in contrast, a study in perfection... I saw an absolutely wonderful film tonight that I highly recommend. Do not let the fact that it's a silent film made by a French filmmaker scare you off. It's very commercial and very entertaining and at its core is a really simple and believable and very sweet romance. Of course I'm talking about The Artist. The lead actor, Jean Dujardin, is favored to get an Oscar nomination and if I had a vote I agree. I'd also nominate the jack russell terrier in the movie for best supporting actor. Awesome.

10 comments:

Stephanie Doyle said...

See when I see things like this I'm wondering - where is the editor? Now I am in no way shape or form blaming the mistakes and lapses on her/him. I know they are overworked, over committed etc. I just think it's sad that publishing has gotten to that point that they no longer have the time to take a good book and make it great.

Karen Whiddon said...

Maureen, I think I'm reading the same book. One word title, author initials ML? It has its moments of brilliance, but I can so clearly see where it could have been better.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Or Steph - what if she made a terrible book good? There's only so much an editor can do...

I think sometimes when there's nothing for a reader to grab onto, to really pick them up and take them away from uneven storytelling, those books fail. While books like The DiVinci Code and The Girl Who Repeatedly Gets Raped - for all all thier flaws, there's a driving question that burns through those pages.

I don't know, clearly we're past the point of being accidentally great. If we're great now, it's because we figured some shit out...

Stephanie Doyle said...

And I agree Molly. Maybe what Maureen found to be the best elements are what the editor focused on. Who knows.

But sloppy POV? It's those things that seem to slip through that I wonder.

Then again it is all perspective. And maybe what one person thinks "work" another reader may say WTF?

Sinead M said...

Karen, we are reading different books, but I am fascinated to know which book you're referring to...

Maureen, have made no progress on this book. Some of it is fascinating, but parts are a little meh for me... will finish it soon so we can discuss...

I think this book is a product of a growing genre and a book that is different but recognizable maybe...

Eileen said...

This is the stuff that makes me want to weep. Why do we bother learning our craft when it seems like we're the only ones that care?

I think different editors and different houses do different amounts of editing. I have one editor who does a really thorough line edit on every book I write. I've learned SO much from here. I have another editor who corrects my grammar and my typos with an occasional logic question on the plot. Very different experiences.

Maureen McGowan said...

I wondered about the editor too, Steph. But also wondered if this is the post-edited version, I wonder what it looked like before...

Or maybe the writer was just super stubborn.

Karen, it's not the same one... Now I'm scrambling to figure out which one you're reading. :)

Maureen McGowan said...

Sinead, I think you hit it on the head as far as why this book was published and to such acclaim. The same, but very different. So publishers were excited. And if Twilight could be flawed and start a craze, why not this one?

Don't finish it just for me. Life's too short for (bad) sub-par books. :)

Molly... LOL on The Girl Who Gets Repeatedly Raped.

Maureen McGowan said...

PS. I just realized that I called this post "When flawed is good enough" then put the poster for The Artist... Not a combo I meant. D'oh.

Maureen McGowan said...

Okay, took the streetcar down to "the office" and this book got all exciting again. It's so hit or miss... But clearly a lot of people loved it.

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