Long long ago, in a far distant galaxy, I went to college. At that college I did not major in English, but I did take a fair amount of writing classes... I think I filled every elective with writing classes. Which may beg the question why I didn't just major in that, but I was far too practical for that.
Anyhoo, I took lots of writing classes, and I learned a few things in them, one of which was that there were a lot of people who wanted to be writers, and that most of them couldn't put two decent sentences together, let alone a 20 page story. Another thing I learned was that I should keep my mouth shut.
The idea that I actually learned that is, I suppose, debatable.
The incident that spawned this little lesson was a round table discussion of the writing class about books. I happened to be taking a young adult literature class at the same time (that, miraculously, wasn't an elective - oh joy! I got to read about 30 YA books for credit!! It doesn't get better than that! But I digress...).
I'd just finished reading a book that I thought was horribly written. Flimsy plot, awkward use of language, flat characters. But it was engaging story-wise, and held some real emotion if you could sift through the bad writing. So I posed the question:
Can a good book be badly written?
This got the attention of the professor, who then played 20 questions with me about the book. I tried to be coy; I hate slamming authors and criticizing their writing, especially by name. And this guy was a big name in YA circles. A bestseller. But the professor wanted to know why I thought it was bad. I explained the plot - or lack thereof - and the fact that all of the characters seemed to be stereotyped cardboard cutouts, and that the language seemed very contrived. You know the kind - when adults write books trying to pretend they know how kids talk.
And he asked why then I thought it was a good book. And I said, well, beyond those things, something about it touched me. It was about war, and at the time my boyfriend was fighting in Kuwait. It felt personal. And relate-able.
And he pounced on that to pronounce that then it couldn't have been bad writing.
(The horrible and embarrassing end of the story is that he finally wrangled the name of the author, who I only named under severe duress and peer pressure, and it turned out the author, who I had been berating for a full ten to fifteen minutes, was a close personal friend of the professors. Ouch!)
The reason I bring this up is that, in an effort to get a more full feeling of what Christian fiction is, I've been reading more of it lately. And I chose one particular author because she is widely known and has sold tons of books. And I was left with the same feeling. How can a book that is so badly written I can't stop thinking about that, cause me to cry? If I don't like the story, the plot is contrived and preachy, the characters are one-dimensional, and only seem to serve the point of teaching the reader a moral, and if the dialog is hokey, and if the description is repetitive to the point of making you want to throw the book down in a tantrum...
How can this be a good book?
And yet I read it. All of it. And I cried when the flat, one dimensional character died and when the other flat one dimensional characters had to find a way to grieve and move on. But I was disgusted with myself the entire time I was crying, because all I could think was, "How can I cry at this drivel! I don't even like it!"
So what about you? What makes a good book good? Can a good book be badly written? Can a beautifully written book be a bad one? And why do agents and editors leap at these when there have to be thousands out there that are both?
And maybe, more importantly, does the blog look good in pink? My husband says I am so not a pink blog girl, but I kinda like it.