When Reading Crappy Fiction…

… I’m finding that I can actually learn a few things. You probably know that most people recommend that writers consume high-quality literature, thus giving great examples of writing of which to draw upon. There’s a lot of unconscious work that is going on here, as many of us lead by example and pick up good habits this way. ( <– Yet another example of me saying vague things about improving writing that I talk about in this post)

But what about the other side of the story, the, ah, lower quality literature? I’ll admit that I get sucked in by the .99 cent deals (or even 2.99 cent deals) on Amazon (I am on a limited budget here), and often, the phrase “you get what you pay for” applies.

(Of course, this is not true universally. I’ve found some great writers through .99 cent books, traditional published and self-published alike.)

I do need to read more classical literature and fiction that will echo through the ages due to it’s great writing and content. But I’m starting to believe that crappy writers have a lot to teach us, too. I’ve come across a lot of what one of my favorite authors calls “glitter-poo”: novels that look great but end up being part of the problem that gives self-published authors the bad rep of poor writing and bad grammar. (Actually, I’m positive that a lot of these are traditionally published as well, so it’s not just self-published authors.) I have the problem that I have to know how the story ends, so I usually make myself finish the damn thing (especially since I’ve paid for it), even if it makes me cringe. I think I’ve only stopped reading one novel in my entire life. It was that boring.

Anyway, but what about this cringing is bad thing? Doesn’t this mean that I can identify what bad writing looks like? As someone who just “feels” or “knows it when she sees it” but can’t necessarily describe the exact things that are wrong with said novel, I think this is good practice for me. When I come across novels such as these, I’ve recently started studying what could be improved. The dialogue is unrealistic. Nobody would ever react that way in real life. There’s no description. There’s a lot of “telling” when there should be “showing.” Villians are only evil and heros are only good. Details are off. The pacing is choppy, or too fast or too slow.

Details such as these. And I think it’s helping me understand my own writing limitations. All of us have probably found ourselves rewriting a book we were reading in our heads, but now I’m noticing how quickly I’m seeing and pinpointing problems. Somewhere between honing an eye for editing and practice giving me an ability to pinpoint specific faults, it’s easier to see the pieces of my writing. To take feeling odd about something I’ve written and turning it into problems I can fix.

Perhaps I’m a little behind the curve and everyone else is already figuring this out. But hey, what’s your latest realization about your writing? Have you ever found yourself reading a book and rewriting it in your head to make it better? What’s the latest one you’ve learned something from (good writing or bad writing alike)?

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About R. K. Brainerd

I've been writing since my pre-teens, mostly in the realm of fantasy and sci-fi. My characters are pretty much always clamoring for attention in my head, and if I don't listen to them, they plague me with insane dreams and nightmares until I start writing. I also raise dairy goats, the evidence of which can be found on my Instagram. I've just recently begun my foray into the writing world and look forward to it all with devilish glee. Welcome to the adventure. View all posts by R. K. Brainerd

9 responses to “When Reading Crappy Fiction…

  • Arpita

    I was reading this story on Wattpad – The story was cute, even the idea was original… but there were some things which I wished the author would change. First off, there were grammar issues, which I ignored. But then almost all the characters had this weird habit of pinching their noses – you’d expect that an author would establish a certain behavior in a single character, so that the character stayed on with the reader.

    These are the things that shrieked themselves to me, and I am sure I am going to avoid these stuff in my stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aspire to Fly

      There you go!

      I really go back and forth about grammar issues. Some I don’t care about. But the really blatant ones just make both frustrated and sad – of all the things, it would seem that would be the easiest to fix! But alas, people are going to do what they’re going to do.

      And yes, I definitely notice when all the characters have the same twitch. It’s one thing to have characters maybe “adopt” a twitch from another character, but all of them having the same twitch just gets annoying.

      Thanks for replying and adding your thoughts! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Arpita

        Happy to discuss these! It makes us alert readers and hopefully, better writers. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aspire to Fly

        It does! I was actually just reading a book last night and thinking to myself that all the short sentences were driving me nuts – they’re good in moderation but there needs to be longer ones and maybe stylistic ones as well. Commas are awesome and need to be used! There was also a lot of info dumping, but that one is pretty well known. The author did a decent job of it though.

        My recent thoughts! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  • athling2001

    I end up correcting the problems in my head whether it is grammar or just plain bad writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aspire to Fly

      Yep, exactly. It’s kinda fun to correct it and plan how you’d make it different, but annoying at the same time when it seems pretty blatant.

      Like

  • Steph H. Barker

    I always force myself to finish stories I start that are badly written, because they help me learn what I should and shouldn’t be doing. Things like grammar don’t bother me as this can be sorted out, but I’m interested in lack of character development, strange turns to the plot, lack of foreshadowing, cliche words and bad dialogue. I figure if I dislike these things than it’s likely readers who read my work will also dislike that sort of thing.

    Liked by 1 person

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