Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Pile 'em high ...then let 'em die: Aspiring authors take note!

There's been much talk on blogs about subbing, about writing the perfect "Query" letter, about avoidance of specific "utility" words, about re-crafting sentence structure to eliminate pesky words etc., but no one, no editor or lit agent thinks the same, reads and absorbs content the same, nor will any of the former like the same material set before them (as in passionate for same), so what should an aspiring writer do? Read the following for starters!

This was Simon Trewin (UK lit agent) featured way back in The Independent, June 2004:

Quote: "Clearly, the compulsion to write should come from a genuine desire to say something, rather from a baser desire to get rich fast. Writing for the market is the quickest way to produce a hollow novel which won’t get off the starting blocks".

So what's changed in the world of publishing if anything since that article first saw light of day?

With hindsight the arcticle makes for intriguing reading. Note my *ing endings* - and two-fingers to the *ing* hate brigade!

To read the article go here. But, before you do, have you ever felt like flinging a book on the fire? I have twice, and all because the word rueful appeared more than once per chapter in two romance novels, in fact the despised word popped up no less than fifty times in twenty pages. By page twenty-one I was beside myself with book rage!  Grrrrrrrrr.  Needless to say I didn't burn said books (gave them away) but this image is kind of satisfying because I can imagine all are blighted with the dreaded *rueful grin* and every other connotation of rueful utilised by obsessed romantic novelist: whom I would love to send a Thesaurus for Christmas!

Quick add-on: I've had loads of e-mails from published authors and aspiring writers in support of this post, each and every one unwilling to pass comment in a public arena, but all having read category romance novels that annoyed, irritated, cheesed off, infuriated, even p*ssed off two, another stating she actually binned one in disgust, and five having sold unwanted CR novels on Ebay to regain partial compensation for badly written, poorly edited and downright lousy plots! Though I must say I thought the funniest was the case of the shredded book: fed to a garden shredder for compost! 


Joanna St. James said...

I have this problem once i start a book I cannot put it bad even if its horrible and migraine inducing. I just hate the authors for putting me thru so much pain and store their names in my head so i dont mistakenly buy their book again.
That said My CP once put a book out on her porch overnight because it annoyed her so much.

Summer Ross said...

I find word usage specially ones that reappear often annoy me as well.

Thanks for the link, I will check it out.

Theresa Milstein said...

If by page 30, a book has to capture my interest or I abandon it. But if I stick it through by page 100, I force myself to finish it because of all the time I've invested. If I continue to not like it, I just get angrier and angrier at the author. (I'm talking to you, SM of those giant vampire books.)

KarenG said...

Rueful is one of those words that shouldn't appear in any book, romance or otherwise. But what really irritates me about some books is when they engage me for over half way then collapse and have stupidly unbelievable endings.

L'Aussie said...

I used to be like you Joanna, persisting even when the prose was purple, but now I swifly put it to the side and wonder how that particular author got published. Usually it's a second or third book and the author is swinging along on past glory.

Yes, Francine, you are so right. All this querying etc is coma inducing. In Oz we just send to the publisher and if they're interested they then tell you to get an agent. I'm not there yet and I never will be if I don't find a cure for my blogoholicism.

I read your past posts too as I haven't been here for a week or so. Good news about Jane. Fairy dust, please fall on us all...x

Erin Kane Spock said...

I once read a book that overused the word 'demented.' It drove me batty (not demented). :)
I personally tend to have people sigh a lot.
As to reading, there have only been a few books I haven't finished because I objected to their existence on a moral level. :) Other than that, it's a compulsion to finish a book.

Francine said...



That's my problem too: if I buy I must read it even if it's puke inducing, but those two category romances were the exception!

Summer: you're welcome. It's always fun to assess the book market past and present!


It's amazing how many books annoy for various reasons, and being a writer one tends to don the critic hat as soon one or two faults appear from behind the glossy front cover.

KarenG: thank you! I've felt so alone on this paricular damn *word hate* campaign.

L'Aussie: hmm, fairy-godmothers' are somewhat thin on the ether and according to the Met Office no fairy dust sighted on the horizon, but snow is in the offing! Which is great because I love it.

Erin: driven batty, LOL! Ah, but sighs are excusable if in company with *rising breasts* (fem), *breathless countenance* and heaving male chest: preferably semi-bared! :o

Lia Bal said...

I only give a book 100 pages before I put it down unless if the book is a short story, then I read all of it or give up at 50 pages. I don’t really put down a book because of annoying words, but horrible characters drive me nuts. I recently read a book where the hero was so feminine and childish that I wanted to puke.

Francine said...

Hi Lia,

Yep, that would do it for me, too!

I don't mind the occasional repetitive usage of certain words: *such* and *just* readily come to mind as is my own pet failing - *but* so long as they flow and don't jar and are few and far between per chapter I reckon they pass muster. ;)


Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

And still it got printed, right? Who edited that one?

Francine said...

Hi Wendy,

Bot novels published in print by bestselling romance author and by the most prolific romance publisher. So yeah, wouldn't we all love to know who the ed was!?

E. Elle said...

I have definitely felt the urge to burn a book or two... or more... and mostly of my own creation.

I would never actually burn a book but I definitely gleaned some satisfaction from the picture you posted. Tehehe.

Caroline Clemmons said...

I used to finish every book I began because some author had poured his or her heart and soul into it so the least I could do was read it. Ridiculous! Now if it doesn't hold my attention, or if I find gross errors in it, it's history. I research my writing and try very hard for accuracy and good pacing. Why shouldn't other authors be held to the same standard?

Francine said...


Elle: I can assure you a few e-mails have come my way in support of setting fire to a good many books, the mailers' willing to reveal which books to avoid but unwilling to state disrespect of such in public! ;)

Caroline: Thanks for dropping by my blog. I agree with your comment re standards! Accuracy and good pacing is par for good reading. I think the problem with a lot of bestselling authors in the category romance sector is the pressure they are under to produce fast turn-around times from one book to the next, especially if writing in more than one line. I know most editors are under extreme pressure, too, and some editorial directors do let slide bestselling novelists' through editorial loops a newbie would otherwise have to jump several times to achieve same easy slide.

The basic reality of commercialism and profit margins has a huge part to play in what is published and what is not: my neice (an editor) says a bestselling name can sell a book regardless of content so long as it's much the same as author's previous output. The crunch being most readers other than writers/teachers/tutors in English are unlikely to take a great deal of notice as to novel structure, house style, author voice etc., the average reader just wants a damn good read.


Linda said...

If you were serious about "rueful" used fifty times in twenty pages, I'm horrified.

If I quit editing as I read, I know the book is a good one. ;-)

erica and christy said...

This is timely - I just finished all 524 pages of last year's Amazon #1 Teen Read 2009 today. It had everything we're not supposed to do - started with a quote, then a prologue, then a dream sequence. Tons of -ing verbage, scenes that are there only to add to the word count and then abandoned, etc. etc. I think the only thing missing was the word "rueful."

And I'm with Francine and Joanna - I just can't abandon a book. Except The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, I must confess. I read the first two books with reservations, but only read the first 30 pages of the 3rd before I shouted uncle.

Francine said...


Linda: dead serious, it was there in multiples, that darn word rueful!

Erica&Christy: See, that's my point - bestselling books often as not break all the rules aspiring writers are dared to even contemplate! ;)