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 post  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.


Obsessive Writers


It has to be said. A proportion of today’s self-published writers, those who churn out six or a dozen books each year, have to be suffering from some form of desperate obsession. What other explanation can there be for their compulsive need to flood the market with poorly written books? Perhaps they honestly believe that they will gain a large readership, in which case they are deluding themselves? Who can say? If only they were OCD sufferers. Then at least their books would be well written, and would clearly show their need for order and detail.

Normal well adjusted writers, which is the vast majority of us, may publish one book each year, or perhaps every two years. We gain our faithful readership by producing well written books with a strong story, not by doing things the way the obsessive writer does.

Oh yeh clever dick – what about spelling mistakes in self-published books then? I am always finding them.

Not that old chestnut again!!!

Once again, just for you. Yes its true that spelling errors are held up by armchair critics as a reason why you should not buy a self-published book. But even mainstream produced books are hardly error free. I’m sorry to burst your bubble here, but I have news for you. There is no such thing as a perfect book. There isn’t one that doesn’t have the odd spelling error. The writer of the book you are reading cannot be held responsible for a copy or line editor missing the odd one or two. All he or she can do is hand over a manuscript as error free as is possible to his/her editor. Once the editor has placed it in the hands of a publisher, it is largely out of the writer’s control.

When it comes to works originally published as paperbacks or hard covers, in a lot of cases when they are converted by mainstream publishers to gain a foothold in the eBook market, they often contain larger than normal gaps between words as well as gaps between the letters making up a word, rendering them unreadable. This practice of churning out a cheap and nasty product, does nothing to enhance an author’s reputation. Sadly it is becoming more prevalent as the major publishing houses look to the growing eBook market.

As writers, once we have a story in our heads, its true that we do become obsessed up to a point with getting it onto paper and/or our computer screens. But in general that is as far as our brush with obsession goes. We don’t overly concern ourselves with whether or not it will become the next best seller, unlike the obsessive writers appear to do. What the next best seller will prove to be is in the lap of the gods. There is nothing any writer, publisher, agent or editor can do to influence that, no matter how hard they may try.

Irrespective of which format is used, the mark of a good book is whether or not it is still being bought several years after it was published. Four of my six are. How about you?