Monday, May 2, 2011

Just a Little Rant

When I first began this writing quest thing, one of the admonitions I heard was that your manuscript had to be better than good. It had to be better than very good. It even had to be better than great. It had to be powerful. Magic. Inspired.

Who said these things? Agents. Publishers. Editors. They said these things at writers conferences, workshops, online, in rejection letters. The word definitely got out.

It seemed quite clear to me that the vanguard were intent on upping the game. They would publish only the best of the best. Ensure that not one substandard novel would take up space either on my nightstand or a bookstore shelf.

C'mon. I know you know exactly what I'm talking about.

So here's my problem. Assuming this all began seven or eight years ago (and not before, which I'm pretty sure it did), why are bookstores still filled with piles and piles of mediocre (at best) books? Why aren't we bowled over with phenomenal choices? Why is the lousiest manuscript in my drawer as good as something with a cover on it?

Did publisher's cave? Were they aware they were publishing books that weren't powerful? Or magic? Or inspired?

Or did they get to a point where they would take any old thing because they knew exactly how to sell it?

Aha . . . maybe lazy and a lie.

What do readers have to say about this? Shouldn't their minds be boggled by all of the brilliant choices?

Just askin'.

CR: Just finished Where's Billie? by Judith Yates Borger. A wonderful debut novel written by a former journalist about a journalist. Well done!

I'll make a new selection either tonight or tomorrow, depending.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Now I'm nervous about showing you anything I write. ;-)

  2. You? You've got to be kidding. ;-)

  3. I'll share your rant. Maybe I should try the book too.

  4. I contemplate this a lot. I also ask myself why there are so many bad programs on TV. Because people watch them. Likewise, commercial fiction is driven by sales and people buy and read bad books spewed out by authors who write another one every six months. That probably makes me a snob. It's also subjective. I like dense, rich writing that is gorgeous and full of sensory details. Other people prefer sparse writing. That doesn't make it bad. Anyway, it can't be blamed entirely upon the publishers. They publish what sells because that is how they make a living.

  5. Sheila, if you're talking about WHERE'S BILLIE?, I'd say go for it. I really enjoyed it.

    Kelly, I understand what you're saying, and you're kind of proving my point. But that still doesn't explain why some manuscripts are rejected and others make it into print. There's no way I can believe most of them ever earn back their advance. Readers aren't that stupid. Right?

  6. Sheila, I should also say that the author of WHERE'S BILLIE?, Judith Yates Borger, is one of my blog partners at Crime Fiction Collective. We met at Left Coast Crime, and she is serious about her career as a novelist and pleasing readers.

    You can check out what we've done so far at CFC at