All Those Bad Books!
I’ve written before about how I get tired of writers complaining about all the “bad books” that get published. As a writer, it can be extremely frustrating to work your tail off, trying to master the craft, trying to “follow all the rules” of good writing… then open up any number of books and be able to point out how horrible they are. They don’t follow the rules. They’re not interesting. They feel like they’re written by formula. Etc.
I agree, there are plenty of published books that many of us would think are horrendous. (Of course, we wouldn’t all agree on which books are horrendous.)
Yet the reality is that once you’re a writer, that kind of complaining sounds like sour grapes. It may not be sour grapes. Maybe it’s not jealousy or resentment. Maybe it’s simply recognizing what you see as truth. But as a member of the writing community, complaining about “all the bad books out there” sounds arrogant as well as hypercritical and bitter.
If you’re just a reader, someone outside the community of people who produce books, you can complain and criticize all you want. But once you decide to join the club, I think it’s time to take the high road. I think the appropriate thing to do is to try our darnedest to lift other writers up, not put them down. I think it’s best to try and honor the process of other writers, even if we can’t admire their work. And we need to acknowledge that if a “bad book” is selling, there must be people who like it.
Because the truth is, when we put down other writers, it sounds like we’re saying “I can do better than this” and it’s unattractive, no matter how true. If you can do better, then do it. Sell it. Reap the rewards.
The classiest people are the ones who are at the height of success, yet when looking “down” on those less successful or even less talented, they always speak in ways that build others up rather than tear them down.
Now, I’m not talking about a situation in which you’re giving an actual review of a book, or you’ve been asked to give your opinion about someone’s writing. Honesty is called for, and I’m not asking you to lie simply to be positive.
But we are a community of professionals. We are artists. While there is certainly a place for legitimate opinions (“That book didn’t appeal to me, and here’s why” or “I don’t believe this book has reached the level of publishable quality yet”) I don’t think there’s a place for the sour grapes complaining. “How did that dreck get published? And if publishers will buy THAT, why won’t they buy MY book?”
So let’s be professionals. Let’s treat one another with respect, honoring our membership in this great community of book lovers. Let’s try to avoid complaining about the “bad books” and simply concentrate on reading and writing good ones.
© 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent