You get a whole load of of websites that’ll tell you, with ultimate authority, which book you should or should not be reading. Book reviews; fiction and non-fiction, articles, essays, interviews, thoughts and opinions. There is no need for anyone to read a badly written book anymore. All you need to do is a wee bit of research. And anyway, who’s got time to waste on a badly written or even a badly edited novel?
However. For a wannabe author, I say you should make time, now and again, to read a badly written book, for several reasons:
- Most obviously, it’ll show you how not to write your own manuscript. And if you persevere, purely to enlighten your own sense of right and wrong, It’ll show you in spectacular detail the mistakes you should never emulate. Use it as an exercise; highlight where it goes wrong and write down why—you’ll never make the same mistake.
- It will give you an impression on what passes these days for an editor/publisher, or more precisely: that specific publisher and you will have a benchmark on what you should not present to said publisher (or vice-versa, depending on your own level of selloutability).
- If you can recognize a badly written book, be it the story-line, the prose, the editing, the characters, the plot or the dues ex machina, then you know you can do better and this is a verification of your own superior writing ability — which should advocate some kind of reward.
- Figuring out where a book has gone wrong is an exercise in creativity and writing awareness which is, in itself, a skill required when you come to edit and rewrite your own manuscript.
- Then there is the feel-good factor. This is self-explainable.
I’m always amazed when I read what I believe to be a badly written book which has been published by a reputable publisher. I don’t think my standards are too high as I’ve been reading for more than 30 years and I can recognize good or bad writing in the first few pages. But something has gone wrong somewhere and for some reason a shitty book has been published and some lucky author has been given a paycheck.
This goes a long way to say that there may be more than just an element of luck involved in getting a book published. Maybe it’s all about knowing the right people, who knows? But the one thing that is for sure is this: if some of these books can make the grade then all you need to do is work hard on your own manuscript, keep sending it out to agents/publishers and it’s surely gonna find it’s way onto a shelf sooner or later.
So, I guess the moral of the story is this: Write whatever the hell you wan’t to write, edit the shit out of it and treat every rejection as one step closer to signing a deal. You can’t go wrong.
∗Raises a glass to all the badly written books out there∗
Easy reading is damn hard writing.
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne