by Giselle Renarde
A book snob is not a popular thing to be when you write genre fiction.
fact, there are a lot of things you're not supposed to admit when
you're a genre fiction writer. I write erotica but I don't read it.
(Don't tell people stuff like that!) I've never read a romance novel.
(Don't!) A lot of genre fiction, even the bestselling stuff, is
surprisingly poorly written. (Don't say it!)
start of my career, I used to wonder why established authors would say
inflammatory things. Didn't they care about their reputations?
Ten years into my writing life, I kinda get it. You get tired of saying all the right things. It's boring.
So here I am, saying all the wrong things.
love literary fiction. I just finished All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews and it knocked my socks off. Her writing style is is so unique,
and the way she approaches difficult subject matter is spellbinding.
This book is written with divinely humorous compassion, but the writing
isn't lofty. It's not even particularly pretty. But this is a book that
had me laughing and crying simultaneously. I am so in awe of Miriam
Toews. I am so in awe of her work.
My girlfriend bought me another book while I was reading All My Puny Sorrows.
were at my local library, looking at the shelf of books they were
selling off, and she spotted a thriller she'd read and enjoyed. It was a
#1 bestselling book by a #1 bestselling author. So she bought it for
me, and we were both excited to share something. We really don't read
the same books. She likes Nora Roberts, Stephen King. I'm into Canadian
litfic. We both like autobiographies, but she goes for celebrities and I
go for random queer people.
I started the thriller Sweet had enjoyed so much, and from the first page it sparked my editor brain.
That's never a good sign.
had trouble paying attention to the story because I was too focused on
awkward sentence structure and crappy word choices. It reminded me of
the first revision I submitted on my first ebook. My editor (bless her
heart--my book was certainly a challenge!) told me I needed to vary my
sentence structure. There was too much. "She did this. She did that. She
did some other thing." So I tried to mix it up like "Doing this, she
did that" and what a disaster!
I could feel my editor
cursing me under her breath as she wrote, "Pushing down her skirt, she
pulled up her top? How can she be pulling up her top and pushing down
her skirt simultaneously?"
That's how I felt reading this bestselling thriller. I couldn't look beyond the messy language use to focus on the story.
were things I appreciated about it. Chapters were short, which made me
feel like a fast reader (which I'm not), and each chapter ended in some
moment of "Gasp! What's going to happen next?" I always wanted to know
right away, so I'd flip the page and read the start of the next chapter,
then get swamped down by my editor brain evaluating the language.
gave up after 54 pages. Maybe I'll go back, but probably not. It
reminded me of the kind of action/adventury crime show I might put on TV
and half watch and half enjoy, but when I sit down to read words, the
words themselves matter. The order of those words matters.
I don't want anyone thinking I'm saying thrillers are universally BAD
or that my taste in fiction is superior to anyone else's. Everybody's
got different tastes. And that's great because it leaves room for
authors to find a niche. There is a reader for every writer.
read literary fiction because I like it. It appeals to me. There are
terrible litfic books, just like there are terrible books in every
genre. Did I ever blog about The Postmistress? Because that book was
awful (not that I finished it). But lots of people liked it, so there
you go: tastes differ.
So are there good books and bad books? Or are there just books we like and books we don't like?