Bad Bad Books

How bad are your books? I mean, the ones you wrote?

I couldn’t tell you that about mine. Not if you tortured me. Because I don’t know.

I was once very shocked when a friend whom I admire as a writer asked me how long I intended to write very bad books. I was shocked, because I wasn’t trying to write very bad books. Or bad books at all. I was trying my d*mndest to write good books.

Having just edited a book of mine from that time period, I both see what he saw, and suspect that he what he saw and what I see are things no reader will see.

Writers read differently, you see. We can’t help it. Particularly if we’re not heavy pre plotters, but “pantsers” or — heaven help me, I’m this more and more – gateway writers. Because what enables us to write is the internalizing of story structure. And the more we internalize that, the more we see flaws readers might just feel as “Well, it’s not as good as the last one, but I enjoyed it.”

I noticed the “flaw” in Terry Pratchett’s Thud (and the one before) when no one else seemed to (The plot structure was borked. The climax didn’t happen when or how it should, and plot threads got lost.) In fact, I’ve started to be able to diagnose writers’ health issues by the scatteredness of their plot.

Which, won’t lie, scares me a little, because Bowl of Red is incredibly scattered, and as I start to revise it, I worry for my mental state (For the record, I think that I’m mostly out of practice. Because I can see the flaws, and when I’m really sick I can’t, I just become bewildered.)

I still don’t think I was writing very bad, or even bad books. Some of the ones from that period are structurally messy and a little odd, but there are authors who have long careers who write books I consider terminally scattered.

Also, I afterwards understood, that particular friend was probably not referring to my books released at the time, but to books he’d thought I’d written. (He presumed that the work for hire I was doing was in media, and had “divined” my pen name for those. For the record, I’ve never written media tie ins. All my work for hire was either historical or ghost writing, one of which made someone else’s career. (SIGH.))

But the question persists and remains “are you writing bad books?” More importantly, do you like a lot of bad books?

I don’t know. I’ve come to the conclusion it absolutely doesn’t matter.

What can I possibly mean by “doesn’t matter?”

Well, a lot of the highly acclaimed science fiction books read like very bad books to me. Even some I liked when I was very young now feel terminally flawed to me, not the least by being infected with not just “stupid seventies ideas” but with “stupid seventies lingo” to the point I can’t re-read them.

And a lot of the books I love and re-read on the regular are considered terrible by all right (left) thinking people: Larry Correia’s, and John Ringo’s, David Weber’s and Heinlein’s and let’s not even mention Dave Freer’s. I think the only author I really enjoy who isn’t considered terrible by a vast portion of the reading public is Terry Pratchett, and I presume it’s because they don’t really understand him enough to be offended.

Shakespeare in his day was considered a very bad writer. He survives all the learned and wonderful stylists of his day.

To me, and according to my lights, I don’t write very bad books. I don’t read very bad books.

BUT you see, I don’t say that according to “literary analysis.” In literary analysis, you examine a book for whatever the markers are of “good literature.” It used to be lots of references to classical mythology, and other things you learned in school.

Now it’s by fitting a Marxist paradigm of critique. You know, good literature is social critique. Which is fine and dandy, but why is that good? And why would I want to read book after book denouncing injustice, as though life were a long struggle session? And what good have any of those books done, except indoctrinate innocent minds into the false paradigm of Marxism? (And that less and less effectively, since those books mostly suck as experiences.) OTOH Marxism is something you learn in school, so putting it in books is a mark of an excellent education. I guess.

I have on my own, and rejecting what I was taught in school (“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high graduate school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.”), come to the conclusion that novels (short stories too, just more concentrated) are supposed to be a ludic experience (enjoyable/playful) which carries us through an intense emotional arc and allows us to experience catharsis. (Okay, I might have borrowed from the Greek ideas of plays, but still. It applies.)

It is by those parameters that I judge my writing, and I’m always happy when someone reads one of my novels and tells me “poor so and so” or “I was so happy so and so won” or- because it means I took them along for the ride.

Some of my books are more satisfactory than others to myself, but that necessarily is also a function of where I am, both intellectually and emotionally, and so can’t be objectively analyzed.

People SEEM to like them?

Which means it’s time for me to stop babbling at you (I woke up with all the symptoms of a head cold, which makes me scattered as heck) and go finish editing Darkship Renegades to go up.

What books do you like/have written that people get upset and say are “very bad?”

Go on. Share. You’re not going to shock me. I read Austen fanfic for fun and relaxation.

81 comments

  1. I prefer “Some of my books are more satisfactory than others to ME …” to “Some of my books are more satisfactory than others to myself …”, but I am not sure why. Somehow, I have absorbed the idea, that, to use the reflexive, the actor and acted upon must be the same. So, it seem to me “… my books …” are the actor. Help me!

    1. ROFL. I’m not sending a rope into the cavern of grammar. You might very well be right. I was trying to express the extreme singularity of my enjoying or not enjoying my own writing, something that should probably done in private, and you should wash your hands after…..

      1. I thought exactly that ME was correct from a literary view point as it was more expressive than myself.

  2. Guh. I run into this all the time in my writing groups on FB. “Can I do this?” “Does it matter if I use or don’t use dual POV in a romance?” Look, readers are there for the story. Don’t do anything that will pull them out of the story–don’t confuse them with unlabeled POV changes, don’t assert blatant historical untruths (NO ONE was burned at the stake in Salem!), keep your grammar and spelling such that they don’t notice the mistakes–readers don’t care how many commas you put in as long as it isn’t confusing them. Don’t confuse them, don’t bore them, but understand that a lot of what writers care about, readers DON’T. They just want the STORY.

    Um. I may have ranted about that a few times in different groups.

      1. More, “Stop agonizing over things that don’t matter”. Like, a recent question was about someone writing a romance with fantastic elements that was set in the distant-enough past that there’s not much historical record, and she was asking if she could just make up a village.

        Note that there’s a difference between “Readers have been gravitating toward first person present tense, alternating point of view, so I will use that in my next book” versus the sort of “Am I breaking the rules if I do present tense/make up my own backstory world/something else?” kind of questions. The rules are don’t confuse your readers and don’t bore your readers. That’s it. They’re there for the story. The pretty prose and the worldbuilding and all of that aren’t worth anything if you can’t or won’t tell the story, or if it gets lost in the narrative of how the characters came to be in that situation. Stop worrying about what’s “right.”

        1. Overabundance of worldbuilding (plus cast of thousands) is one of my major objections to Robert Jordan. (Taste thing, bc I know millions love the guy, but.)

    1. Heaven help me, I’ve agonized over dual pov, one first person, other third. And am now writing a book just like that, and it makes no difference at all to me if people think I’m doing it wrong. It’s how it has to be done. (I didn’t realize I was doing it till last look, and I’m 40k words in.)

      1. I’m going to have to get into that kind of thing with A Roman Solist and the only way I’ve been able to figure out how to make it work is to steal a march from Charles Stross and use “interlude” chapters to cover the third-person perspective points. The Interludes are there because our MC is pulling information from other sources and wants to make it clear that she’s just using the information she’s got, making few assumptions about what’s going on otherwise.

    2. Truer words. Just tell a riveting story, about interesting characters, and keep the improbabilities down to a degree that doesn’t startle the readers out of the story.

    3. I heard about somebody asking for advice from a famous author. He went on for a bit about all those sorts of things, plotting, characterization, POV, style…

      When he was done, Robert A. Heinlein said, “Tell the story.”

  3. I tried to present my senior design project while I was on an anti-biotic that, as it turns out, makes me stupid.

    It didn’t help that it had taken a bit of a tumble on the drive, so I needed to reassemble it on site. It didn’t actually work.

    It wasn’t until few hours after I’d taken it home to debug it that the fog lifted. It was the strangest feeling too. I’d apparently cross wired half of it, and half wired the other half. Once my brain was working again, it didn’t take me long to fix it, but wow that was an unsettling experience.

    On the fanfic thing I’m going through the edits on, I can tell I was writing a lot of it at weird hours and on insufficient sleep. Margret kept having to flag stray words, conjunctions to nowhere, and, in one case, half an entire sentence that got stuck inside another one.

    The first story was even worse about that sort of thing. I even had a couple of characters who had gotten dropped, show up, do nothing and never get mentioned again, make it into the version that got posted.

  4. I wrote a long regressive time-travel novel, didn’t see it’s major flaw until someone read it and pointed out it was 100% wish-fulfillment. Now I can’t even read it. He was right.

    I was never more grateful for a critique than I was then. It was a stinkeroo, all right.

    1. WHY is wish-fulfillment bad? I don’t understand. Some of the most fun novels I’ve read are 100% wish fulfillment. Your critiquer MIGHT have done you a serious disservice.

      1. I think it’s one of those “I see the strings” things; I don’t mind wishfulfillment as long as good stuff happens, but I can see it tasting bad to someone.

          1. Devil’s advocate, the customer service rule is that if one person complained, then ten disliked it enough to hurt things.

            That runs up hard on the way that books *aren’t like stores*, because 90% of everything is crud to someone’s taste. EVERYTHING will upset some readers!

            1. Not for beta readers. REALLY not for beta readers. If you have ten and only six complain, particular of something so encompassing, while the rest say “I liked it” or have other quibbles, you ignore the Karen.
              If it’s about punctuation or spelling, then you research and if you still can’t figure it out, go with your gut.

          2. Well, the other problem is that I rewrote it to death. By the time I had it finished, the “spark” was gone. “Spoiled through over-refinement”. Anyway, “wish-fulfillment” was just the final nail, I guess.

            I did learn, however, to write a story *once* and not revisit and edit and rewrite and fix and– So it’s not a total loss.

            (and, BTW, “I didn’t see *its* major flaw.” Grammar.)

  5. Louis L’Amour. Apparently, they are ‘bad’. (Bad seems to equal ‘sells a bajillion copies). And I have always considered my Karres books ‘moderately bad’ (the framework made it hard)

    1. Whoever claims L’Amour is a bad writer has never READ L’Amour! I’ll take him over Hemingway any day of the week–L’Amour is somewhat terse and to the point like Hemingway, but his characters and plotlines are about a thousand times more interesting.

      1. He does have a fantastic way of implying things. I distinctly remember how in 20 Years After, the one who became a priest had only “aged” 10 years, and Athos actually managed to grow younger!

        And now I realize that was Dumas…

        I have not yet read Louis L’Amour. I’m not sure how; dear lord he was prolific.

        1. The nice thing about L’Amour is that with probably 99% of his books, you can just pick any one of them up and start reading. He only had one “series” per se–about the Sackett family–but each of those was standalone (I have a fondness for one of that series written from one of the women of the family’s perspective. She was pretty awesome.)

          Back in the day when I worked at Walmart, I often would pick up one or two of his from the books section to read on my lunch break if I’d finished whatever current book I had brought with me that day. 😀

          1. Well, then I will definitely have to get a random sampling of those and read them.

            Writing stories that can be read on their own, even when part of a larger series is a skill I very much intend to acquire. I definitely want to see how he did it, especially with making the intros boring for people who already know the characters.

            1. Heh. I think his approach was “didn’t bother with intros” and just told the story. If you knew who the Sackett family was from reading other books, then you caught the easter eggs. If you didn’t, well, that didn’t much matter 😀

              Though I have not read the whole Sackett saga by any stretch, I also think it helped that he tended to write about characters from different generations/family branches, not just a single iteration of the family. So you had the patriarch (Jubal, if I recall right) and then some stories follow his sons, and then their sons/daughters, and so on. I think there were some that followed the same set of kids/siblings, but like I said: I have not read all of them, just a handful here and there

              1. That sort of thing can be so much fun. One book follows the gangling kid and their coming of age, and the next, you’ve got some grandkid who is a scarily spitting image of their forebearer, yet only knows them as this larger than life legend, not the scared kid wondering how the heck any of this is going to work, or even if it will work.

              2. I think that the first Sackett book was “Fair Blows the Wind”, set in the early Colonial period, about 1660, if I recall.
                More swords and pirates that revolvers and bandits, but very good.
                Another book where he stretched himself in character development was “Bendigo Shafter” covering about 1850 to 1890.
                His E Books are relatively expensive, but I have been replacing my worn out paperbacks with his single cover type collection of hardbacks for $5 – $6 each from Abebooks.com

          2. So finally picked up Kilkenny and started reading it.

            One chapter in and I can fully understand why he drives literature profs up a wall and has sold a bazillion books.

      2. I’d take fanfic over Hemmingway.

        L’Amour was in love with his subject, and used the tools of writing to express that love, rather than writing to serve the theory.

        1. I think part of the issue–or at least part of MY issue–with Hemingway is that the literary professors/critics/ack got hold of his stuff and have spent the better part of a century over-analyzing it and then cramming it down students’ throats.

          What I have *read* about Hemingway himself was…well, he actually WAS a writer who wrote to get paid. (And he loved cats, so in that sense he was okay. :D) So there is that, at least. I just personally never liked what he wrote about, and greatly prefer L’Amour’s “manly men” who were also often well educated (self educated, mind you) and very honorable.

          Fitzgerald, likewise, was more interested in getting paid…but again, much as I love the Roaring 20s, I haven’t ever managed to much like his stuff. Probably because I didn’t like the characters.

        1. I like The Key-Lock Man, myself. I couldn’t get into the later “family saga” type stories he did but the actual pulp fiction that made his name is pretty enjoyable.

        2. Ride the River and Crossfire Trail are two of my favorites. But I also have yet to find a “bad” L’Amour. Every one I have picked up is interesting, and they are NOT all westerns, either! He’s got at least one about pirates (or something pirate like), one a hardboiled detective novel set in 1940s or 1950s LA, one sort of scifi (Haunted Mesa, I believe, haven’t read that one), one about shipwrecked Russians in…Alaska, I think (Sitka)? And several actually set in the 18th century colonizing of America (I know his earlier–in timeline, that is–Sackett books are set in that era).

        3. Rivers West, The Daybreakers, Sackett, Shalako, Hondo, and Bendigo Shafter would be a good sampling of his work.

      3. It’s why I didn’t list any ERB stuff as “bad books.” An escapist writer who’s been in print pretty much continuously since first publication, created one of the most widely filmed characters in cinema history, influenced Star Wars, etc. probably isn’t “bad” by most conventional metrics, merely unfashionable.

        1. And while ‘racist’ for a given value of his era and origins–not actually RACIST as the modern (lefty) critics claim. Tarzan’s initial reasons for hating black tribesmen stemmed from very personal reasons (they murdered, in his view, his “mother”), but throughout the series ERB had plenty of heroic (if rather 2-D/cookie cutter) black characters. In fact, the only one that makes me full-on cringe is the black woman who is Jane’s companion in the first novel or two, who is a dead-straight take on the “mammy” stereotype, and who fairly quickly vanishes from the stories.

          And he DEFINITELY did not have helpless heroines, by and large. Inexperienced, maybe, but rarely full on helpless (except Jane in the first novel or two, and after that she became quite a badass. I think he did not like writing helpless women)

    2. Really, Dave? Your Karres follow-ons are among the very, very few that read just as well, if not somewhat better, as their progenitor.

      Even beyond the excrescences of the Fuzzy books, written by those who had no appreciation for the originals at all, I had to stop reading the follow on to Lord Kalvan. And that was by those who honestly loved the work and were ideologically mostly in tune with Piper.

      (Note that this can happen to the same writer, too, of course. My Foundation books are seriously dog-eared. “Foundation’s Edge,” though, is in hardcover – and I slogged through it once. Never been tempted to reread it.)

  6. Okay, Georgette Heyer mysteries: I like Envious Casca (uncontroversial, this is usually considered her best mystery), and don’t mind Footsteps in the Dark, Why Shoot a Butler? (both more romantic suspense than proper mysteries), No Wind of Blame, or Duplicate Death (although I get why other people would find those two annoying). They’re just competent enough at a prose and characterization level to not annoy me, and I find it interesting to try and figure out where she went wrong with them.

    Daylight and Nightmare was a collection of Chesterton being weird(…er) that people seemed to love or hate. It was my introduction to his work outside of Everlasting Man and Father Brown, and I really enjoyed it. Similarly, I prefer Busman’s Honeymoon to most of the other Harriet Vane books by Sayers, and like Documents in the Case just as much as the Wimsey books.

    I loved the Scarlet Pimpernel books in my tweens, and kept reading the sequels and short story collections long after other family members stopped reading and declared that Marguerite and Chauvelin were morons who fell for the same tricks over and over.

    Maybe Elizabeth Haydon’s Rhapsody? I remember liking a couple of the supporting characters who were on a quest to build their own kingdom, but the heroine didn’t do much for me.

    In regards to Sarah’s comment about “I’ve started to be able to diagnose writers’ health issues by the scatteredness of their plot,” I’d be interested in a post with examples (without names is fine, although if we’re talking about Famous Dead People like Pratchett, Heinlein, Laumer, it’s probably safe to name names).

    1. Have you read Baroness Orczy’s Old Man in the Corner mystery short stories? I enjoyed them, especially with the period illustrations. I’ve also like some of Chesterton’s fun stuff, like his story about the Night Mare (which is mare).

    2. Heyer just didn’t like mysteries that much, and she was writing them for her husband, who did. And her husband was an okay plotter of mysteries, but not nearly as good as Heyer plotting her own stuff.

      The really early Heyer short stories that were reissued, the ones that were found in old magazines, are pretty fascinating because not all that great yet.

  7. The Tarzan books. Objectively (or rather per literary crit?) Edgar Rice Burroughs was a terrible writer…but he tells a *damn* good story, most of the time. (Plots do get repetitive, but given that a large chunk of the series’ published life you weren’t likely to get your hands on ALL of them…that’s ok)

      1. My mother put me onto them when I was…thirteen or so? She’d happened across the entire collection in a bookstore around the time she got engaged to my father, and so the complete Tarzan series (and most of the Barsoom) were permanent bookshelf residents in my childhood homes, and I read every single one of them at some point. I was also not the “target” audience (nor was my mother, I suppose)…but really, the target audience is anyone who likes a ripping good adventure yarn 😀

        I found recently that they are reissuing the books in hardcover, so I am slowly acquiring them. (Because my mom’s old paperbacks largely got read to pieces)

  8. I personally hate tragedy. Give me a happy ending every time, or at least, a cliffhanger where there is hope. I got enough tragedy in my real life to last me. Pecksniffs who are all bent about a story not being ‘Literature’ whatever that is usually couldn’t write the directions to get out of a wet paper bag. Anyone remember the GOR series of novels? I read a couple of chapters of I think the 3rd one. OMG. repeating stuff over and over. “I was denied bread, fire, and salt, in the kingdom of Ar…”
    I apparently remember that because it was in every third damn sentence. The rest was just about sex slaves which were/are not a thing for me so I gave it back to the Frat Bro who suggested it.
    I’m not much on the alternating PoV thing either. Third person for me!

    1. PoV is a tool. You can show what one character sees, knows and does that other characters don’t know about. You can leave out what your current PoV character doesn’t see or know about.

      I’m trying out a few scenes in which I describe some common, everyday events as perceived by a person not from our world, who doesn’t have the life experience to recognize stuff we take for granted:

      He pushed the ‘shopping cart’ inside, and she gazed around the huge open space in wonder. Music was playing in here, too. They passed row after row of long shelves crammed with brightly colored packages of food, food and more food. Beyond the last row were bins and racks of green, yellow, orange and red objects. Tomatoes, she recognized. Long green things, she didn’t.

      1. If you’ve every seen/read MonaLisa’s essay about her first visit to an American Grocery store, you should, would give you lots of ideas to work from.

        1. This character has never seen any grocery store before. Not even a communist store with empty shelves. It’s a major assault on the senses, full of too many details to take in all at once. We’ve seen so many, we conflate them into a sort of mental shorthand labeled ‘grocery store’ and ignore the superfluous details. She can’t do that yet.

            1. Actually, she saw the man she’s shopping with cut up a tomato for salads on her first evening here. When they get home, she’ll find out the long green things have bumpy yellow things inside. We know them as ears of corn.

              She has also experienced frozen pizza, cinnamon rolls, fried chicken, lasagna, submarine sandwiches and Chocolate Overkill Cake. 😀

      2. I’m with Sarah on this. PoV works but first person voice doesn’t. For example:

        “I push my ‘shopping cart’ inside and gave around the huge open space in wonder. Music is playing in here, too. I pass row after row of long shelves crammed wiht brightly colored packages of food, food and more food. Beyond the last rows are bins and racks of green, yellow, orange and red objects. Tomatoes, I recognized. Long green things, I didn’t.”

        Guess it’s just a personal quirk.

  9. I have nearly 50 books published. Sadly, none are “bad” in the Louis L’Amour sense of bad. And I write history, not fiction. However, I do have at lease one one-star or two-star review on most of my books, so *somebody* thinks they are bad. The reasons vary, but they generally fall in one of several category:

    1. I didn’t mention their dad’s unit (or their dad) even though their dad’s unit was not in the battle I am presenting, but rather in another near where the battle was fought.

    2. They found one fact wrong (always trivial) and decide anything less than six-sigma accuracy merits a scathing review.

    3. I contradict one of their pet hobby-horses about the subject – no matter how many facts back up my position.

  10. My first true novel, as opposed to linked short stories. I tried having four POV characters, one of whom is introduced half-way into the story. Ah, no. Don’t get cute, don’t try to be “lit’rary” when you don’t know how it works and what it is or is not supposed to do. Bits and pieces of it are good, the overall plot works, but ohhhh, it put me off of multiple PoV for so long.

    1. I have one of my early novels, the one I’m fixing now, where I had EACH CHAPTER FROM A DIFFERENT POV. fifteen when I gave up. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, but of course there was no unity of experience, and it led nowhere.

          1. If it were really a shared-world short story anthology, disguised as a mosaic novel, then I could see having every chapter from a different POV.

            But short story anthologies don’t “pick up steam” like a novel. You might get them to “pick up steam” like a set list for a music concert, but that would mean a lot of work if your short story “chapters” were chronological too. A lot.

            My set list general idea is two big upbeat bangers at the beginning, two at the end plus possibly an encore; and inbetween you do things like vary mood and pace of songs, so the audience doesn’t get bored or tired, or lead the energy levels up and down.

            Anthology editors seem to do something similar, which is why it’s very useful for a generally-serious anthology to have at least one humorous story, and maybe two or three.

    2. I wrote a space battle spanning 3 chapters, with 6 PoV’s in one chapter. It just worked out that way. Different things were happening to different characters in different places. After the battle, there’s a sort of surreal chapter with 2 primary PoV’s and two minor ones.

    3. Multiple PoV…depends on the writer and if they can do it well. Very few I find can–and of those, we’re talking MAYBE three PoVs at *most.* More than that, and I usually dislike it.

      However, the real killer for me is head-hopping mid-scene. I can live with multiple PoVs, but do NOT jump heads in the middle of a scene that is a deal-killer for me!

      1. Yeah. i got called to the carpet on that too…

        So far, the solution seems to be to drop a scene break whenever I really need to switch heads, and then stick in the more interesting one until another major break.

  11. I have a horribly-derivitive first novel in a never-finished epic fantasy series which exists only on 3.5 ” discs and hopefully will never be read by anyone, especially me.

  12. My “bad reads” are comic books. Got some 70’s Legion of Superheroes and remembered how much fun they were. Loved superheroes from 70’s and 80’s, which are definitely derided in the “literary” fields. Wish fulfillment time travel is another my version of “fun”, but most SF time travel is too ultra serious these days. It’s almost as if SF today has forgotten that fifteen is the best age to read SF and at that time in life even tired tropes can be new.

    1. Used to read comics. Lost interest. There’s only so long that a given book can keep up a level of quality, and I found I lost too many to keep on.

      1. My favorite period for comics was when the (sadly) short-lived Crossgen Comics was around in the early 00s. Fantastic art, interesting and not run-of-the-mill stories/worlds/characters (at least, not run of the mill for comics–there was a LOT of influence from pulp fiction and fantasy going on) and an interesting but not dominant shared connection between their “worlds.”

        I was SO sad when they went belly up. Especially since my favorite–Ruse–left us hanging with some very important questions…

        1. Yeah, unfortunately CrossGen was some kind of money laundering scheme.

          I’m still sad about Ruse also, but Mark Waid was getting meaner even as the series was still ongoing. He’s such a big jerk now that I don’t want him messing with it.

      2. I found the level of quality usually was tied to the author and sometimes the artist. But even a bad artist with a good story can be fun. However, when the one-two punch of excellent artist and author, makes the pinnacle of quality. (Though I have to admit, I still have a soft spot for the insane silly craziness of early 60’s storylines.)

        I used to follow specific authors and artists, even to the point of following them into the B&W boom as they went indie. Found out I really despised one author/artist’s own work and found another was far better without a publishing leash. But that’s when things started to get too serious and the books started getting too dark to be enjoyable.

        1. That’s one thing that comics suffer from. Long runs of a single author/artist on a comic have grown much rarer.

  13. I read a fair number of the Dean Street Press reissues of mid-century British women novelists. Specifically a ton of D. E. Stevenson and then a few of the others. If you want a lesson in reader cookies they are fascinating because the cookies are so different. (Your Scottish characters must dance and they must discuss leeks or at least gardens somehow.) Many of the books end very quickly compared to what is considered correct nowadays. But some interesting characters and the glimpses of a world that is gone are quite enlightening. Then some of the books slip into morbid melancholy and houses falling down and halfway through they are suddenly classist. So … yeah, those aren’t the best.

  14. 1. Actually incompetent, no story, nothing attractive about it.

    2. Writer has something fun or interesting, so the badness is just a detraction in the background. At least for some readers.

    3. Mostly good, fun to read. Or mostly technically good, but not fun to read.

    4. Writer thinks he has incredible technique, but actually is terrible despite A’s from woke/snobby teachers.

    5. Writer totally good, constantly messing with rulebreaking and getting away with it, making a zillion dollars, and despised by all writers in Category 4.

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