Friday, December 16, 2011

Am I too critical??

I'm reading a book at the moment I was really looking forward to reading. It's a second novel by a YA writer whose first book really impressed me. The cover copy sounds promising, and there isn't anything wrong with the story so far, but the writing is making me snaky.

All the things I correct and point out to my critique partners are present here in spades. Passive voice? Check. Adverb abuse? Check. Overuse of modifiers? Check. Repetitive sentence structure? Check. Massive info dumps of backstory in the first chapter? Check. If this book had been posted in my critique forum, it would be slashed with purple (I write my notes in purple; it's may favorite color).

Whenever I read books like this, I wonder how hard and fast you have to stick to the rules. I mean, if that person got published, then XXXX writing sin can't be that bad. Or do the rules change once you have one book under your belt? It's not that the writing is bad, it's just not as good as I would expect in a published book.

Maybe I'm too critical. Maybe I spend so much time working on other peoples' books, and on my own, I've lost the knack of just reading. Maybe before I started writing and critiquing so seriously, I wouldn't even have noticed these things.

Do you ever ask these questions while you're reading? Does it make you crazy?


  1. Oh my gosh, all the time! I found I can't read a book during my editing because it frustrates and confuses me. But when I'm creating or relaxing, my mind allows me to get wrapped into a story that I can see past the adverb/passive voice/redundancy. Actually, I don't even notice it anymore, if it's even there. All just depends on what brain I've got that day. Revising brain, or creating brain.

  2. Yes I do ask myself those questions. And yes, I think the rules aren't followed as stringently after the first book.

  3. The standards forced on aspirign writers is much higher than those already published, it's a way to control the flood. Once you have an audience no one cares how you write. And ultimately in most cases it's the story, characters and ideas that sell the book, not the prose.


  4. Ugh, I hate that! I would hope the writing would stay good with the persons second book. I can't help but be disappointed when I come across this.

    Don't worry, I think we're all too critical when it comes to poor writing.

  5. I find I'm the exact same way! That if it would have gotten into my critiquing hands there would be a many comments.

    Means we're learning something :)

  6. I'm totally the same way. About everything. I try not to watch bad tv or movies with friends, because I end up ranting the whole time and they get mad. :/

    It does seem like the rules relax once the first book gets published. Also, I know deadlines for those second books can be stringent, so maybe the author hasn't had as much time for editing as he/she did the first time around.

  7. Phew! So good to know I'n not alone in being this super judgmental uber-critic while reading....

    And Sarah, you're probably right about there being less time to get things perfect after the first book. But wouldn't an editor pick up on these things?

  8. It is tough on new writers to rise to the required standards. Bad writing throws me out of the story too, but I think it's very difficult to judge the line where a writer's individual style crosses over to bad writing. As commented above, if the story charms you and the writer draws you in with other devices, you can forgive technical mistakes and bad style up to a point. On the other side of the coin,I recently gave up on a book (a best seller and chart topper) written perfectly and edited beyond perfection but the story was so disjointed I didn't get past Chapter 3. The reason partly was because it's in a genre which is very fashionable at the moment and it ticks all the literary boxes, but the way it flipped between centuries, flipped me repeatedly out of the story.