HOW NOT TO WRITE

HOW NOT TO WRITE

Today’s blog delves into bad writing.

A few years ago I spoke at a meeting where we were discussing someone’s book (name intentionally withheld). The book was full of foul language and filthy sex. I had agreed to review the book not knowing the author’s tendencies. In fact, I started to back out because it offended me greatly, but I had agreed to read and so I read it, although it was a struggle. My conclusion, it was a terrible book. I would never recommend it to anyone.

But it was a best seller!

If it was a best seller then how can I say such hard things about it? And if my views are correct how come it was a best seller?

I’ll answer the second question first. Sex sells. So does filthy language.

I said bad things about the book because they were true.

Back to the meeting. In my review I condemned the book for the language and excessive graphics. One attendee, obviously a fan of the author, objected. She claimed to personally know the author who she claimed was a great person.

Now understand this, I never condemned the author as a person. I condemned the writing. There is a difference, but this attendee attacked me anyway. There were others in the room who agreed with my analysis, but this woman was obviously type A and wouldn’t back down.

Since that meeting I have talked about writers not using profane language or excessively graphic scenes. I mentioned it once in a blog and a reader commented that I was imposing my religion on the readers.

Not true. I believed that writing should not contain profane language or excessively graphic scenes long before I ever accepted Christ as my Savior. In fact, I wasn’t even attending church. I’m not talking religion I am talking about what makes a great writer.

Sales doesn’t make a great writer.

There is a constant flow of pornographic books that sell. Mankind is attracted to such books. But they are not good books.

Before I got saved I read well written books of all types. I even read books that had great plots, fantastic characters, while also leaving little to the imagination. And the interesting thing is that these books were great even if the bad stuff was left out. In fact, I would contend they would have been better.

You read any of my novels and I leave out the excessive graphics. That doesn’t mean there’s no sex, violence, or anything like that. When I write a scene I leave the excess up to the reader. Which brings up an important maxim.

A writer’s job is to stimulate the reader’s imagination not replace it!

So I always have a stopping point. This is true whether it is sex or violence.

But what about language? Well, let’s take a look at that. Those defending the practice contend it is more realistic, that everyone swears. But that is a false statement. There are a lot of people who don’t swear. Hollywood and TV has created an image that says swearing is normal, but we all know people, a great many people, who don’t swear.

So, first of all, swearing is not as prevalent as advertised.

Secondly, even if it was prevalent, we need to ask why most people read. It is to escape the reality of their lives, to imagine, to relax, and to be uplifted. Sure some are drawn to the dark side (a little Star Wars there), but I doubt that is the majority.

So, how do you the author show passionate characters and/or events without crossing the line? Believe it or not there was a time when authors actually solved this dilemma. In the case of language they simply used symbols, such as !@#$%^&. The reader automatically knew they represented a swear word. Some readers probably substituted their favorite swear word if they liked to swear. But the key here is that the reader didn’t feel deprived, but simply read on.

In the case of violence or sex the authors highlighted the activities leading up to the event. For example, in Perished I wrote of a battle where a sword fight took place. Read it for yourself:

Akkub turned and saw Meremoth rushing at him. He blocked the initial strike although staggered by it. Meremoth used a two-handed grip to force Akkub back. Suddenly Akkub lost his footing and Meremoth’s sword came slicing downward unblocked.

Everything seemed to stop as the general looked at his severed hand still gripping the sword.

Here we have a sword fight that results in one man losing his hand. The amount of detail provided is not too graphic, but it is enough to stimulate the reader’s imagination. And different readers have different levels of imagination, so each reader may picture the fight differently. In any case, the scene is full of action yet not too graphic.

In the case of sex, my usual approach is to focus on the events leading up to the act and to the events leading away from the event. Again, I let the reader’s imagination fill in the gaps.

In truth, the reader’s imagination is a valuable tool available to every writer willing to make use of it.

It is a tool that needs to be sharpened. You do that by using it. Moreover, you experiment and see what works. As deeply as I believe in what I am saying I have had people who reviewed my rough drafts tell me that I needed to back off in this or that scene. So you need people you trust to review your rough draft before you submit it for publishing.

My final thought on this is: what is your ultimate goal? We all want are books to sell. That is a given. But what is your ultimate goal?

Is it to simply get rich? Then you’ll probably reject everything I’ve said.

Is it to simply write? Then you may or may not care about this blog or about sales.

Is it to write your very best book? Then I contend you want your writing to be above reproach. Fame and sales would be nice, but you want to be able to say to yourself, I did my best. And that brings a deep sense of satisfaction!

 

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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books. For more information on him visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com.

Did You Know #1 Selling Book?

Did You Know #1 Selling Book?

The Bible is listed as the world’s best selling book. I recently looked at an atheist website claiming it is not, but their arguments ranged from silly to just plain untrue.

So what are the facts?

For starters, the Guinness World Records estimate that over 5 billion copies of the Bible have been sold. That puts the Bible head and shoulders above any other book printed!

In a list compiled in Russell Ash’s The Top 10 of Everything 2002 it was estimated that the Bible has sold over 6 billion copies. Second place was Mao Tse-Tung’s “Quotations from Chairman Mao” at 900 million. Quite a difference!

Both the CBA (Association for Christian Retail) and ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) agree that the top three Bible versions are: 1) New International Version, 2) King James Version, and 3) New King James Version.

One dealer in Bibles makes this statement: “The King James Bible remains the greatest book in the English language, and the best-selling book of all time.

What I find interesting in all of this is the fact that the KJV Bible is no longer pushed by major publishing houses. They may print and sell them, but their marketing is aimed at their own version. For example, Zondervan publishes and sells KJV Bibles, but their marketing efforts are aimed primarily at the New International Version, which they own.

So in spite of the publishing houses moving away from the KJV it still is one of the top selling Bibles today. It seems to come in regularly at second place. That’s pretty good considering the lack of real marketing.

But since 1611 A.D., when it was first printed, the KJV has dominated the market and is the number one all time sales leader. How do we explain this?

In a Christianity Today article back in 2014 it said this, “When Americans reach for their Bibles, more than half of them pick up a King James Version (KJV), according to a new study advised by respected historian Mark Noll.

“The 55 percent who read the KJV easily outnumber the 19 percent who read the New International Version (NIV). And the percentages drop into the single digits for competitors such as the New Revised Standard Version, New America Bible, and the Living Bible.”

55 percent to 19 percent. That is crushing! But, again, I ask why?

Why is it that the NIV, which has dominated sales for decades, is a poor second to KJV Bibles being read? Or why is it that the ABS’s State of the Bible report points out that 52 percent of Americans read the King James Version while only 11 percent read the New International Version?

Among several reasons given, one study noted that 56 percent of women, 39 percent of men, and 70 percent of African Americans are more likely to read the Bible. But still no answer regarding the KJV.

In my search for an answer I found many pros and cons relating to the King James Version, but never an explanation of its power. But if you think about it, we don’t need experts.

I think that most Christians who have and read their KJV do so because it speaks to their hearts. Forget the so-called  difficulty of the language. Children learn to read and memorize it from all over the English speaking world.

The true power of the King James Version is not its accuracy (often dismissed but never really disproved), nor its poetic form (which enables easy memorization), nor its strong supporters. It is powerful because of all of that, but more so because historically God has used it in countless thousands, hundreds of thousands, yes, millions of lives!

No other version can make that claim, although they try to do so.