Short Saturday: Almost a Good Book—But Not Quite

I’ve wondered—here in this blog and elsewhere—about authors who tout themselves as best-selling (generally a gross exaggeration) and about the many, many bad writing habits I see. I’ve told you why I stop reading a book (because of bad writing, duh).

I’m not the only one who does. Author Beth White, guest-writing at Chip MacGregor’s blog, does too.

Another thing that made me cringe for over 300 pages was an egregious misuse of syntax and vocabulary. As the illustrious Inigo Montoya said, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” For example: “I had to refrain myself from…” More than once. You’d think an editor would catch that. Typos and repeated words (in moderation) don’t bother me, because I know that happens, even in traditionally published books with boatloads of editors. And bad grammar in dialogue is…well, that’s dialogue. Doesn’t count. But a first-person narrator who is supposed to be an accomplished writer, yet speaks like a hick in the prose … I’m left scratching my head.

White is nicer than me: she doesn’t name names. But the problems she points out in this article would’ve bugged me too. She goes on to mention the three elements important to a good book …

  • good writing
  • good story
  • interesting voice

which we have also discussed here.

It’s a nice little cautionary tale. I think you’ll like it.

Tweet: A book that doesn’t quite make the grade. Why?
Tweet: If you’ve read good writing, it’s hard to have patience with bad writing.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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  1. I done be cool with ritin like a hick, seens as how some of best buds is hicks.

    What tends to drive me to distraction is over-philosophising, and I have an example of a fell progression that ruined a good series…C.S. Lewis’ science-fiction trilogy.

    “Out Of The Silent Planet” is a masterpiece, and possibly the best science-fiction novel ever written; it has a strong sense of place and action, and very rich characters. It can be re-read with joy, and one always finds new nuances.

    “Perelandra” starts well, but takes a hard turn into apologetics as a substitute for motivation and story. I don’t mind apologetics, but Lewis’ lengthy expositions belong in another book, not this otherwise compelling story.

    “That Hideous Strength” is nearly unreadable. The characters and plot are sacrificed on the altar of allegory, and having waded through it once was quite enough.

    • Jamie Chavez says:

      You are so right. (I read all three in my sci-fi phase.) We call that “agenda fiction” and I see it a lot. Story should never be sacrificed to preaching. :)