What Happened To The Well Written Book?


E.L James

Fifty Shades of Grey, that’s what!

Come on now, own up, how many of you read it from beginning to end, and liked it? When it first came out I did what I usually do when a novel captures the public’s imagination, I went to my local Amazon site. Using the ‘See Inside’ option, I began to read the first paragraph of the Kindle version. That’s as far as I got. To say I was appalled would be an understatement. It wasn’t the subject matter of the book that bothered me. There have been many well written examples of erotica across the centuries, if that’s what rocks your boat. It was the simple fact that Fifty Shades is so poorly written. Having said that, I must congratulate Erika for writing a book that has sold in its millions.

Now it has been made into a movie, it evokes memories of when Vladamir Nabokov’s novel, Lolita, a tale about a paedophile’s sexual obsession with a twelve year old girl, published back in nineteen fifty-five, eventually appeared on the silver screen in the early nineteen sixties, starring James Mason, with Sue Lyon taking the part of his vulnerable young target. Thinking about it, Lolita was probably the first modern fiction written about paedophilia. Back then in the fifties and sixties, the practice of grooming children by both men and women to fulfill their depraved sexual needs was hardly ever heard about. Thankfully today’s society abhores paedophiles, therefore no book of fiction featuring one of them would ever be taken up by any reputable publisher, not even Amazon. If a publisher ever contemplated it, massive public protests would ensue and they would soon find themselves out of business, especially here in the UK.

Whoops, sorry about that, I’m getting a bit off piste…

The point I’m trying to make here is that even though English wasn’t his first language, at least Nabakov knew how to write, unlike Erika, who has no excuse whatsoever given her former occupation as a television executive, where an excellent command of the English language is mandatory to hold such a position; paramount in fact.

What totally galls me and just about every other writer I know, whether mainstream or Indie, is that Fifty Shades of Grey, appears to be what many think constitutes a ‘well written book’ these days. It isn’t. But it is proof that language standards have dropped, nay plummeted.

It doesn’t help when books like that are critically acclaimed, purely because it is popular with airheads and other illiterates, while genuinly well written books are totally ignored, or worse, not even considered by publishers and the general public.

Erika was lucky that she self published it when she did. Had she tried to do the same today, I doubt if she would have been successful. Why? Because as Derek Haines says in his recent postΒ  Self Publishing Is Dead, Long Live Self Publishing | Just Publishing the gold rush days for those wishing to cash in on self publishing are now well and truly over. In other words, if that is your reason for writing a book, you are too late. Hopefully once the get rich quick fraternity have given up and disappeared, only those of us who are serious about writing will be left.

If Fifty Shades is the kind of badly written book you truly want to read, god help you. Here’s a thought – why not choose to buy a truly well written book instead? You never know you might actually enjoy reading it, whether its erotica or something else.


41 thoughts on “What Happened To The Well Written Book?

  1. Spot on Jack. I also couldn’t read more than a page on the look inside feature. I’ve been reading a couple of the comment threads on reviews of the movie, and pretty much all of them are saying that it’s even worse than the book was – hilarious though. One book reviewer who is a real dominatrix said that she uses FSoG to punish her clients by making them read passages of it out loud. πŸ˜€ Mind blowing that such rubbish earned her ninety odd million last year.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Absolutely agree, Jack. But it seems to be the case that much public taste is now driven by those without any discriminatory sense. Look at what passes for comedy these days, or art. So much banality, so much that is puerile, so much that barely passes as writing, let alone good writing. I suspect that the contemporary habit of watching films/TV, etc., whilst thumbing the keys of some electronic device and looking at Instagram pictures has somewhat reduced the capacity for actually concentrating on one thing. Viewers, and now it seems readers, are so easily and so willingly distracted that they never get the chance to recognise good quality and their only impressions are those that come first without the need for analysis or judgment. I fear for the future of both literacy and general powers of concentration. Where, I wonder, will we all be after another thirty years of this climate of distraction? Now, there’s an idea for a book!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Amen, Jack. It’s interesting to see the split in interest in these books in my critique groups. Younger writers loved them, older wouldn’t look at them. An interesting statement on “pop” writing. At least she made megabucks and doesn’t have to write anything more.

    Liked by 2 people

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  6. I read the book. Simply to see what the hype was all about. I remember being surprised, not by the content, but by the many first time writing errors made. With proper editing, the book would have been a smoother read. I had to give it to the author though. She took a an old classic story line, and found a titillating subject to dress it with. Unfortunately I agree with you Jack. It is sad that this is the standard that many want-to-be-writers will now think is what will help them sell a book. A good editor is invaluable to a writer no matter what stage their career is at.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I thought it was just me that read a sample and went Bad Writing, pass. I’ve said for ages, even though it got non-readers to read, it set a bad standard for indie wannabe authors who now produce such badly written DRIVEL as to completely ruin the romance genre of which I am an avid reader.. I think it has done more harm than good to the “romance” readers and what they have left to read. Romance gets derogatory remarks enough, so why did she go and make it worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kell, I was perusing a few writer’s posts on FaceBook yesterday on the subject of Fifty Shades, the book and the movie. Without exception, not one of them had a kind thing to say, nor did their commentors – funny that… πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

    • I suspect the writer had no idea her first book would take off the way it did. She was writing on a fansite at first and it probably took her as much by surprise as it did the rest of us, Kell. But she should’ve used some of the money she earned with that first book to hire professionals for the rest of the series and then had the first one re-written with help. But her readers obviously enjoyed it, which is a sad comment on the taste of all those people, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Excellent post, I really enjoyed reading it. I completely agree with you on the quality of the writing in 50 Shades of Grey.

    However, I have to admit that the book has led to some amazing jokes and laughs, some good satire and a few wonderful comic sketches which were all really worth it. So, as always, I look at the bright side of it and just say: 50 Shades of Grey made me laugh! πŸ™‚


  9. Great post Jack! I agree with all you say. I have no issue with peoole reading erotica, although its not my cup of tea… that makes me sound so oooooold lol! But at least make it well written erotica! There’s no excuse. Im sure the author doesnt care. Why does she need to invest in improving it when it has sold so well as is? The other indie sendation which springs to mind is Amanda Hocking. I managed about 3 pages and put it down… what utter drivel! I love that fellow indies are doing so well, but disappointed when I see their work. Btw you should go to Wattpad if you want to see some really bad writing lol!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Haven’t read the book. Haven’t seen the movie. I have an instant aversion to anything I see promoted by mainstream media. I think there are plenty of well written novels out there that just can’t compete in a nation as impacted as ours.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. How true, how true. I read a series, so badly written I kept cringing as I read. Problem was, it was a great tale, just crappy writing – all four books. As an editor, I wanted to correct constantly. Normally, if the book is badly written, if you haven’t grabbed my attention in the first paragraph or page, the book is given away with absolutely no remorse. In other words, if you come to my yard sale and you see ‘Free Books’ being offered, you’ve now been forewarned. An Indie book with bad writing, I shake my head; a big publisher book that is badly written will get a letter of scorn from me for wasting my money. Of late, I do like you, I read the “Look Inside” and decide if I want to spend my money. Of late, Indie books are well written, the big publishers are offering the bad writing. I guess they’ve released all their editors, or the interns from colleges aren’t as bright as they once were. (uh, personal opinion, no flaming necessary)

    Liked by 1 person

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