HOW NOT TO WRITE

FeaturedHOW 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.

Review of Book Blueprint

FeaturedReview of Book Blueprint

Rating: 5 stars
Special thanks to Jacqui Pretty for sending me a review copy.
I am an author of Christian fiction, but I have written a couple of non-fiction books. More importantly I am always willing to learn how to write better. That said, I thought I knew how to write non-fiction. This book was an eye opener for me.
The author appears to favor publishing houses while I favor Indie Publishing and am now publishing my own books. But I found that her wisdom applies across the board. Her book is filled with cogent and practical words of advice.
I also found the book extremely easy reading. She stated principles, then proceeded to build upon them. An example of this technique is her discussion of a book’s Introduction. She not only stated the principle, “your introduction in arguably the most important part of your book,” but she also put her principle into action with an excellent introduction.
Repeatedly she demonstrated a solid understanding of her subject. By the time I finished the book I was thoroughly convinced that this blueprint is a valuable asset for me. Especially since I am seriously thinking of rewriting one of my books and may write a new one as well.
In rating this book I examined it from several angles:
Cover: 5 stars – I generally like more eye appealing covers, but while this didn’t measure up to that, it did measure up on such things as Title (great title), positioning, and promise.
Fulfillment: 5 stars – This book makes some great promises, such as: “The goal is that by the time you finish all of the exercises you will have blueprint that’s so detailed your book will write itself.” As a reviewer I didn’t work the exercises, but I could tell by the comments and instructions that these were concepts that would actually work. I believe this is a promise that any committed student would find fulfilled.
Readability: 5 stars – As I stated in the review it was easy reading. It moved along at a quick pace and was easily understood.
Structure: 5 stars – Perhaps the most important as the way she structured the book transmitted the information in a way that both informed and built upon itself so that the next bit of information fell into place naturally.
Content: 4.5 stars – The only reason I didn’t give it a 5 was that the author didn’t really address self-publishing. The principles laid out are good for both professional publishing and self-publishing. But in all honesty I am being a nitpicker.
The overall rating is therefore 4.9 which rounds off to 5 stars.
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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.