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Old 02-26-2013, 06:01 PM   #1
Dr. Drib
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The Ugliest Truth - Bad Writing

In MobileRead's continuing coverage in all that seemingly sucks, we are currently examining (in two other threads) Reading Snobbery and also Critics.

But hasn't an important ingredient been left out of the discussion? What is the one thing we have yet to consider?

We've all encountered it. In fact, some of us have written it!

I'm not talking primarily about grammar, although that is certainly a part of it. Oh, no: I'm talking about BAD WRITING! Horrible writing! Outlandish writing that makes you cringe in embarrassment or laugh with hilarity! They're out there, my friends, and they're multiplying like Tribbles. There's just no stopping them. You will find most of them available primarily - but not solely - from Amazon.

In addition to grammar, one could also mention these other areas that should be taken into account when encountering bad writing:


1) Bad (inane, asinine) titles.
2) Bad characterization
3) Bad storytelling
4) Bad fiction
5) Bad romance
6) Bad research
7) Bad (to absent) editing
8) Bad (to absent) proofreading


Much of this is subjective, certainly. But much of it might also fall under 'writerly' ineptness, even ignorance.

Bill Pronzini collected some wonderfully inept (read: hilarious) examples of bad writing in two books he wrote revolving around the field of Mystery Fiction. I own these two and they have wonderful knee-slapping howlers in them. Here's an example he used in his book "Gun in Cheek":

"Fire's a damned sight worse," he muttered. "Cripes, my head's like a pumpkin! It's always at the back of my mind."

—Ellery Queen,
The Siamese Twin Mystery


Bad writing belongs not only to fiction. Non-fiction enjoys a rich history of bad, horrible writing. I'm sure you have your favorite example. Here's one example from a philosophy student [http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/writsamp0.htm]:


Existing is being unique. Existence, reality, essence, cause, or truth is uniqueness. The geometric point in the center of the sphere is nature’s symbol of the immeasurable uniqueness within its measurable effect. A center is always unique; otherwise it would not be a center. Because uniqueness is reality, or that which makes a thing what it is, everything that is real is based on a centralization.


What the heck?!

Should this writer be excused because he or she is a student?


In the age of the Indie writer, howlers can be very funny, indeed, although what many readers of Indy writers seem to deplore is the absence (or disregard) of editing. Here's one for your consideration:

Grant ducked down an alley way at the end of the street. By the time Davey turned into the alleyway, Grant was a tiny figure in the distance. Davey ran faster. He flew passed paint peeling paneled fences, his feet dexterously negotiating half-buried red house bricks. He was Steve Austin-the world's first bionic man. The theme music started up in head along with the voice of Lee Majors. I can't hold her chief! She's breaking up! Grant seemed closer now.

Did this author bother to edit his work?

1) alley way = should be one word; used correctly the second time
2) passed = should be 'past'
3) intentional alliteration? Or ineptness?
4) "started up in head" = missing 'his'


There was even a 'Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Writing' contest some years back for a first sentence emulating a popular genre and/or a popular work. You know, this is the guy who wrote, "It was a dark and stormy night." Here's the complete sentence:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.


One winner, a few years back, wrote this:

"The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog's deception, screaming madly, "You lied!"


I had the idea to do a book similar to the contest above and so put together one where I gathered together contributions from MobileRead's members.

Not all bad writing is laughably hilarious, of course. Sometimes, bad writing is merely pathetic, even embarrassingly so in some cases. One can even feel shame in knowing the author. Here's a thought: You may even be the author!

Where do you stand on this?

What are your thoughts - exactly?

It's now your turn. Spew and heave!



Don

Last edited by Dr. Drib; 02-26-2013 at 07:27 PM. Reason: editing for sloppy proofreading. -- hahaha
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Old 02-26-2013, 06:23 PM   #2
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I know we already have a bad cover thread, but I figure if the cover is that bad, the book itself is not one I'm going to bother to read unless it's part of a series that I've already read some of and have enjoyed.
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Old 02-26-2013, 06:36 PM   #3
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50 Shades of Grey has a terrible story, terrible dialogue and there's two more where that drek came from.
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Old 02-26-2013, 06:39 PM   #4
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Oh, how can I say this delicately? I can't.

Poor writing is not only abundant, it is a situation made worse by enablers. Yes! Enablers! I'm pointing directly at the people who read a self-published book and judge it by different standards as though the author should somehow be excused just because they did it all by themselves.

"Sure, there were a lot of mistakes, grammar and spelling problems, and the part with the dog didn't make much sense, but the story was really good! Five stars!!"

STOP IT! People give Stephen King 3 stars because his book is too damn long, but we give an indie 5 stars for crappy writing? This is insane!

I saw a writer proclaim that he saw no need to pay a cent during the self-publishing process for editing or anything else. I made note of his name, then hoped, for his sake, that he has some capable friends that will do the job for free.

I am a writer. I am not yet able to call myself an author. That time may be years away. In the meantime, I make use of places where authors and other writers hang out, such as the subforum here, and some groups on Goodreads. I constantly see authors asking, "Why can't I get reviews? Why is my book not selling?"

The question they should be asking is, "Do I suck at writing?" If the answer is "No", then proceed to other possible problems but, for the love of all that is good, get an answer to that question!

I have a sick hobby. When I see people repeatedly expressing bafflement over lack of sales, I go look at a sample of their books. 90% of the time, there are major issues in the sample. However, if I were to actually point that out, I'd be chased right off the internet. I don't want to be mean, anyway, so I don't know how to constructively address this on an individual level.

I don't even know yet myself if what I write is good enough, but you can be damn sure I'm going to get some kind of a consensus on that before I put it up for sale alongside people that actually CAN write.

/rant
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Old 02-26-2013, 06:42 PM   #5
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Did I miss the Penultimate Ugly Truth thread?

I don't continue reading what I would consider "bad writing." No matter who wrote it. There's no point.

Last edited by DiapDealer; 02-26-2013 at 06:46 PM.
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Old 02-26-2013, 06:52 PM   #6
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Do these books with the really awful covers contain writing that is just as bad?
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Old 02-26-2013, 06:55 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CWatkinsNash View Post
I have a sick hobby. When I see people repeatedly expressing bafflement over lack of sales, I go look at a sample of their books. 90% of the time, there are major issues in the sample. However, if I were to actually point that out, I'd be chased right off the internet. I don't want to be mean, anyway, so I don't know how to constructively address this on an individual level.
Let me do it. I'd be happy to let someone know the sample is not good.
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Old 02-26-2013, 07:26 PM   #8
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Do these books with the really awful covers contain writing that is just as bad?

I sometimes wonder if there is a correlation between the two, but that issue is certainly debatable.



Don
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Old 02-26-2013, 07:28 PM   #9
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This entire thread can be summed up in one sentence:

"90% of everything is crap."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon's_Law

(Sturgeon was an optomist. Far more than 90% of everything is crap.)

What's next? A thread on the Ugly Truth of routine weather? The crappy drive to work? That the only two unavoiable things in life are death and taxes?
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Old 02-26-2013, 07:29 PM   #10
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Do these books with the really awful covers contain writing that is just as bad?
Not necessarily. Baen is legendary for their bad covers, but have some excellent writers.
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Old 02-26-2013, 08:56 PM   #11
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50 Shades of Grey has a terrible story, terrible dialogue and there's two more where that drek came from.
That doesn't change the fact that its incredibly popular. Guess Barnum's Law overrides Sturgeon's law?
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Old 02-26-2013, 09:34 PM   #12
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That doesn't change the fact that its incredibly popular. Guess Barnum's Law overrides Sturgeon's law?
A great many people bought and enjoyed the book, so the author must be doing something right. If they enjoyed the book, how can they be "suckers"? If they bought it, and felt ripped off, that would be one thing, but many people really enjoy it.
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Old 02-26-2013, 09:43 PM   #13
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CWatkinsNash I enjoyed your post. Your central question is one that all potential authors should ask themselves. Unfortunately, however, I fear that teh603 is valid. Good writing is not necessarily what sells.

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Old 02-26-2013, 09:45 PM   #14
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A great many people bought and enjoyed the book, so the author must be doing something right. If they enjoyed the book, how can they be "suckers"? If they bought it, and felt ripped off, that would be one thing, but many people really enjoy it.
Does that mean that people who enjoyed the Greatest Show on Earth weren't?

I suppose they did get what they paid for, but Barnum still saw them as suckers.
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Old 02-26-2013, 09:53 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teh603 View Post
Does that mean that people who enjoyed the Greatest Show on Earth weren't?

I suppose they did get what they paid for, but Barnum still saw them as suckers.
If you enjoyed the Greatest Show on Earth, no you weren't a sucker. You enjoyed the entertainment that you paid for. That phrase is attributed to Barnum, but there's no evidence that he actually said it.
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