Jul 05 2008

Bad Authorial Excuse of the Day

Published by at 10:16 am under Comedy,Writing Articles

Reviewer: I like your work, but I think that [some aspect of your writing] is flawed.

Author: Oh, that? I meant to do that.

Reviewer: Ahh… do you think you could fix it?

Author: But that would ruin the style of the piece!

Deliberately inflicting substandard writing on your story for “stylistic” or “literary” purposes is usually a prelude to rejection. If your reviewers were able to discern that it was either stylish or literary, they wouldn’t be complaining about it.

Here are a few areas that are especially prone to intentionally bad writing…

1. The title. This is unquestionably the worst. “My title, Out of this World, is a parody of bad science fiction titles!” Sorry, no. Readers are not going to read that book, because they’ll take the title at face value and assume it’s a bad science fiction novel. To actually parody a title, you have to clearly indicate that you’re being humorous. For example, have you seen those ridiculous thrillers at airports with titles like Operation Chaos or Operation Luna? What about The Revised Operation Massacre: Now with More Toasters! I think that’s remotely funny, but even if the reader doesn’t laugh, he knows that the book is meant to be funny.

2. Writing that intentionally breaks with the tone. For example, I once reviewed a military thriller that had a quote from Shakespeare… in a military directive. The author attempted to defend himself with a paragraph that included the phrase “humorous juxtaposition.” I politely moved on to review other manuscripts.

3. A character starts acting “zany” by either doing or saying something really stupid, particularly when they aren’t in-character. That works much better on a sit-com (or a web-comic, I hope) than in a novel.

4. Any linguistic or stylistic tics that are so annoying and prominent that the author decides to have a character or narrator refer to them. For example, if a character repeats himself often, or has some highly exaggerated speech style, we will notice even if you don’t have a character mention it. Directly mentioning it will merely draw our attention to the bad writing and jar us because then it will be clear that you deliberately inflicted bad writing on us. (Most regular readers of the Superhero Nation proto-novel probably agree that Dr. Savant’s tendency to use the word “quite” fits in here).

No responses yet

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply