I have read fairly widely in the thriller genre, mostly bestsellers, and one thing I've noticed is a wide disparity in the quality of the prose. Writers like Nelson DeMille and Gillian Flynn are fine wordsmiths, in my opinion, while a couple of NYT bestsellers who come to mind couldn't write their ways out of paper bags. Starting every third or fourth sentence with a dependent clause, for example, is not only bad form, it's just plain annoying. Of course, as I noted in my previous discussion, this is only my opinion, but it does seem that quality prose is in no way, shape, or form, a prerequisite to bestsellerdom.


Views: 784

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

The writing matters a lot.  However, there is literature and then there is popular writing.  There are also various elements of the market.  Not everyone is reading for elucidation or to make the most of their higher education but some are.  As such, there needs to be writers who fit the description that other woman made 'they don't even remember why something entertained them and that was all they wanted' as well as those seeking literature.  Other aspects of people's lives influences the preferences for writing styles by authors.  It is true that a very powerful story is sometimes able to overcome lower skill level at the writing itself. 

It is true that a very powerful story is sometimes able to overcome lower skill level at the writing itself.

I'm sorry Miriam, but I just don't agree. IMHO, poor writing leaches the power from even the most compelling story. The market can bear a lot, of course, and many readers care only for the "story,"--  a fast-moving plot, plenty of action,  the romantic or sexy elements, cliff-hanger  "suspense."  But even those predictable elements of a thriller can be most effective when they are written well . What bad writing does (for me)  is simply to  get in the way of the story, which keeps me from  " entering" the writer's world and suspending my own "disbelief."  

Does writing matter? It does for this reader. I won't read past the first page of any book if the writing isn't pretty  damn good. Bad sentence construction, dangling participles and all those other gaffs that mediocre writers---best-sellers or not---- habitually commit  are to me as irritating as fingernails scraping a blackboard!  

Boy, you said it, Jude! During the Iraq War I recall reading a thriller about an Islamic conspiracy and it was terrible! It was represented by a very successful NY agent. I wondered, how did this get published?

But what's even worse is finding spelling and gramatical errors in published copy. You see it everywhere: in books, magazines, newpapers and I've even found them on notices posted in medical offices.  As far as big publishing is concerned, a number of years ago many firms cut their staffs by eliminating the copy editors, the people responsible for finding these errors. I'm afraid that what we're seeing is the 'dumbing down' of our society.  It really bothers me, as I'm sure it does most of us who love to read and write.     

I agree with all of what William says, except for the dumbing down comment. Not that I think the society isn't being dumbed down, but the elimination of copy editors is more a reflection of corporations placing the quality of their product second to how much money they can wring out of it. Corporations view their purpose as "making money" at their own peril. Those with staying power understand their job is to create a quality product or service people will want to buy, and make their money through the sale of that product or service. That's the lasting business model.

Yes, but I've certainly had "dumb" copy editors.  And a bad editor.  Both provided by big-six publishing.  Apparently at great expense to judge by what was left as my share.

I can't imagine that any major book publisher is releasing work that hasn't been copy edited. My Thomas and Mercer titles go through a content editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader. Same with my first book, Pocket-47 from Oceanview Publishing. As far as I know, that's industry standard. And of course even with all those eyes mistakes still seep through sometimes.

What I have noticed recently is the extremely poor editing of some online news articles. Sloppy copy in those for sure.

This question is somewhat like asking whether Tim Tebow is a good quarterback.  By most objective standards, he's not, but he certainly had his run of success with Denver.  Something he did worked.  Most best selling authors do something that works.  They may not be great writers, but something works.

Good point. Someone asked Leonard Bernstein once if there were anythings he wished he'd been able to do as a musician. He said he'd always wanted to write a hit song. (Many of the songs in West Side Story and other musicals became standards, but he never had a hit.) He went on to say writing a pop hit was a unique talent. There may be a lot of things those songwriters don;t do well, things that are generally thought of as making a good musician, but they had this one facet down cold. Fortunately for them, that's where the money was.

I sometimes think of it as the dichotomy between two athletes. If the better athlete's gifts align better with rugby and the lesser's align with football, who's going to make the money? It's not an argument of "who's better," or even "who's more valuable?" It's a question of what the average Joe prefers to pay for.

"It's a question of what the average Joe prefers to pay for."

And that should answer all the questions pertaining to sales, quality, genre, or content.

But there's really no such thing as the average Joe when it comes to readers. Bestsellers cover a wide spectrum. The people who read The Life of Pi are probably not the same people who read 50 Shades of Grey. Etc.

There's an author/professor named James W. Hall who wrote a book about the commonalities among bestsellers. I'm not sure how well he succeeded, haven't read it, but here it is if y'all want to check it out.


I believe it is possible to isolate those topics and styles that are most likely to get big sales, though I suspect that they depend on the particular time they are released in.  Much of this is fad and fashion.


CrimeSpace Google Search

© 2024   Created by Daniel Hatadi.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service