Monday, June 25, 2012

Am i biased...or just bitter?

This morning I had a conversation with the hubs. Well, I talked, he grunted and threw in an occasional 'uh-huh' or 'that sucks'. I was talking about...ok, I was complaining about the fact that certain books, which most of our industry as writers thinks are sub-par, are getting huge advances followed by bigger movie deals.

I just don't understand it! I said to him as I threw up my hands and took the time to curse at the bad driver in front of me. This warranted a raised eyebrow and the 'don't drive angry' face.

Silence filled the car but it still hung on my mind. Why was this happening?

The book that spiked this conversation offends me for many reasons (not a single one of them relating to the rampant sex scenes which as a long time reader of erotica I find barely naughty) is a world wide best seller many times over and monopolizes lots of blog posts, internet sites and tweets.

The reason this concerns me is because most of them aren't about how great it is, but instead how awful the writing is, the gratuitous use of the same ten words and the apparent lack of research that was done. Several are just plain making fun of it. But people buy it. They read it. The general public seems to like it.

And here's where my biggest concern comes in. Is writing sub-par fiction the new black?

I'm saying this out loud to hubby followed up by, "In the last three weeks I've read four books that were way better than 80% of the stuff on the shelves right now and so much better than this book it's laughable."
(*note - 68% of statistics are made up on the spot.)

He asked what they were. I proudly said they belonged to my CP's.

He said, "But aren't you biased?"

I thought about that for a minute. "No, I don't think I am. They're smart, original and so good. Like good enough for agent's to fight over it good. Sarah's book - Love it. It was like one of the good episodes of x-files, but better cause it's a book and it has Dimitrius, Megan's book - such good YA, great concept and she writes a kissing scene like no one else. And then Chessie's book. Well, let me tell you I cried for hours after finishing it because I was so wrecked in a deliciously astonishing  way. She is a brilliant writer and so damn young it almost pisses me off."

Thoughtfully, Hubs scratched his chin (ok, not really..he sat there looking at his Starbucks cup) but he did say, "So when their books are out, lots of people will buy them too."

But that's the problem. Only one of us has an agent and they are just about to put it on submission. But of all them have been rejected - too this, too that, too unmarketable, too whatever and yet the other paperback books are flying off the shelves.

What gives?

Then Hubs had a moment. They come usually when I least expect it and this was no exception.

"Maybe that's the problem?" He said it like a question.

"What is?"

"You're all writing too...smart. Your group is smart, you're all witty and quick and just well, smart. The general public - not so much."

I opened my mouth for a pithy comeback. I thought about the hilarity of yesterday's #badwritingtips and one of the sarcastic tips was "Dumb down your writing. Assume your readers are idiots."

But maybe that's just it. Maybe most of them are idiots. I certainly hope not. I want to read smart books. I want intelligent words in front of me. I want a good story, a hook, an arc, and a satisfying finish all while using proper grammar and more than the words 'just', 'had', and 'all of the sudden'.

And I want to write something smart and quick witted and mostly something brilliant that people will remember for more than my overuse of the word sheepishly.

It scares me that there might be truth to what he says. People want escapism. People want happy endings. People want easy.

And smart books aren't always easy. That's the greatest thing about them. Books can change lives. Literary characters can save and inspire you or break your heart. They can make you hate and love and ache and laugh but they have power. And with power comes great responsibility.
(*note - That's not my own quote. I borrowed it to great effect.) 

Maybe I am biased or a little bitter. Some days I can't tell anymore.As I sit at my computer writing ALL the words, building a following, cheerleading my friends, critting my partners, writing queries, fretting each and every time I hit send because I'm afraid I might not have followed all the rules for submission, I get very worked up about books like what brought about this entire conversation to begin with. it seems the rules don't apply to them and they do every single thing we struggling writers are told not to do.

But I guess it doesn't matter.

I have to believe in the work, in the agents, in the publishers, in my friends, in the readers and mostly in myself. I can't give up the notion that those sucess stories are flukes and there are many more success stories out there for bright, clever, original fiction.

And I do believe it. 

And if I hold on to that belief, soon me and all my friends will have our own shelf at the bookstore. It's heading?

What you should be reading.




Find my these lovelies at:


Megan Whitmer - http://meganwhitmer.blogspot.com/

Chessie Zappia - http://zapslobstertank.blogspot.com/

Sarah Blair - http://www.sarahleeblair.blogspot.com/

18 comments:

  1. Angi, you are so spot on with this. I've written a MG fantasy with a boy MC and sometimes just that fact makes me want to bash my brains in. There's a glut of strong female leads in MG adventures/fantasy and that's excellent. I myself am a girl but I also want boys to read. When I first started my book, I told my husband, somewhat ominously, that I was worried my book would be "too smart". And as I sit here, agentless, I worry I may have been right. I will continue to push and hone my skills and hopefully the magic will happen but it's so good to hear someone echo the same feelings I have. Thanks!

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    1. Yes! As a mother of a pre-teen boy, I hope your book makes it out there! Keep on writing! And thanks!

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  2. So true. It's ridiculous how many "dumb" books are getting all the attention, when great writers like you guys are being left behind. I wish I had the solution, but I think you hit it spot on when you said we just have to trust in ourselves, the agents, the publishers, and the industry in general. Hard to do, but that's what it'll take. You're awesome Angi! Keep writing <3

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    1. Thanks Darci! We are all in this together (Yes, I may have just quoted High School Musical)and as long as we believe, we have to succeed.

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  3. To paraphrase Megan: Word.

    No, but seriously. I worry about this every day. There are plenty of smart and deep books out there, and plenty of them are popular and well-loved. But for every smart book there are five stupid ones. Five that make you want to slam your head against the wall.

    I mean, look at me. I can't read most YA books without wanting to slam my head against the wall. I've never been able to understand what makes a simple plot and characterizations grab agents' & publishers' attentions, and I probably never will. But I agree -- all you can do is believe in yourself and the system and hope something good comes out of it.

    (Also: THANK YOU. ;_; Seriously, this is why I ask people what they think. God knows I have a big enough ego not to think my writing is bad, but sometimes it's just like, "Why is that getting picked up and not this?")

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    1. I sincerely hope your book goes to print because it is beautiful and makes you think. I'm still in awe it hasn't been picked up. It's just so... now words seem big enough for it. I love 'write smart' and it's so clever. Wow. I'm all fan girl over here! (I'll be the one in the bookstore yelling "I know her! I read this before you did!!!)

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    1. Yay! Thanks for taking the time! I was nervous about posting it, so thanks for the support!

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  5. Awwwwwwwwww! *Smooshes* Thank you so much for believing in me! And most of all, thank you for reading!!!! <3 <3 <3

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    1. You're easy to believe in. And really talented. It was my pleasure! *smoosh back*

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  6. I cannot agree with you more, especially in regards to "that book." I wish I could be more insightful, but I've only had one cup of coffee and my brain is still fuzzy. So, I'm just gonna "ditto" your entire post while nodding along with every word.

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    1. Thanks Michelle. It's nice to know I'm not alone in my thoughts. :)

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  7. I haven't had the privilege of reading yours, Chessie's or Sarah's material, but after reading Leigh Ann's "One" and snippets of Megan's work, I'll say, you are not biased!! This stuff is great, I agree, better than things I see on the shelves. <3

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    1. Thanks Bridget! That is a huge compliment. :)

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  8. Hey, just found your blog and great post! As I was reading it, I realized I know, from Twitter, some of your CP's. I guess more of them have gotten agents since this post. That's awesome! Hopefully that has restored some of your faith in readers and the industry. Maybe we'll start seeing their stuff on the shelves soon...and yours???

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  9. Thank you! And yes, hopefully we'll all be filling the shelves soon!

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  11. Thanks for linking me to this post on Twitter! What a great post this was. Any other possible issue I may have with "that book" aside, the main issue is how poorly it's written. Your husband is a wise man. I do believe that through hard work and perseverance, you'll make it.

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