Should You Write Dreck?

by James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell

Last week we talked about the “telling detail,” and the power it adds. We gave some tips on how to craft such moments. That requires a thing called work.

Today we’re going to ask: is it worth the effort?

This query comes out of a post by Mr. Joe Konrath. He was, most of you will remember, one of the earliest and most enthusiastic adopters of self-publishing. He was also a prolific blogger, and not one to shy away from a strong opinion. Then, a couple of years ago, he went silent. Now he’s back, and clearly he’s lost none of his verve, as evidenced by his post On Writing S*** (this being a family blog, I have made a slight edit to the title).

The gist of the piece is that it may be pointless for today’s writer of indie fiction to spend too much time trying to improve the quality of his writing:

My first drafts are pretty good. They’re lean, and fast, and the character arcs and plot rarely need tweaking. The rewrite polish is mostly spent on housekeeping stuff; adding color, exploding certain scenes, adding more drama to the climax, salting in a few more jokes, changing word choices, putting in a few more clues or callbacks.

And sometimes a book is short, say around 60k words, I’ll spend time expanding some scenes or adding a few to beef it up to 70k+, because I want to give good value to the readers who still pay for my stuff rather than read it via KU.

So I spend a full 1/3 of my time as a writer trying to make a grade B book into a grade A book.

I think I’m wasting my time.

He goes on to say that readers of an author will stick with that author even if subsequent books in a series are not as good as the first few. His argument, broken down, goes like this:

Better isn’t actually better.

More is better.

Faster is better.

Flash beats substance.

Loyalty trumps all.

Konrath’s main exhibit is his wife’s reading habits. She will stick with an author she has liked in the past, even if the author’s new books aren’t so hot.

To be clear, Konrath’s post does not actually advocate its title. He does not think you can write pure dreck and get away with it. He says he couldn’t live with producing a work that’s “less than a grade C … But I could live with Bs. I was fine with getting Bs in school. Why put in all that extra work to turn a B into an A when I won’t lose readers for a B?”

It’s a good question, so let’s talk about it. A few reflections:

  1. Several A-list, traditionally-published writers have, over the last several years, “mailed it in.” Some have kicked up their output to satisfy publishers, who need them more than ever for the ol’ bottom line. Some of these more recent books have wider margins and fewer total words. Yet still they sell…though perhaps with some fall off, if reviews are any indication.
  2. A little fall off from an A-list writer still brings in big bucks.
  3. More is better does not always pay off. You still have to meet a certain minimum of storytelling skill.
  4. There many prolific indies (Konrath is one) who do have the skill and thus make more money the more they produce.
  5. For me, pride plays a role. I worked hard on a traditionally published legal thriller trilogy I’m very proud of. Indeed, I think the last line of the last book is the most perfect ending of my career. I re-wrote that last scene at least a dozen times. I’d do it again to gain the same effect. (FYI, the first book of the trilogy, Try Dying, is free today in the Kindle store).
  6. I write a book and work on it until I think it’s the best I can do within a time limit. I’ve got SIDs (self-imposed deadlines) and readers who want more of my stuff. Sometimes I miss a SID.
  7. If I miss a SID, I don’t cancel my contract. I do give myself a stern talking-to.
  8. I write to entertain, and for me that includes going for what John D. MacDonald called “unobtrusive poetry” in the style. This requires, once again, work.
  9. I also like being prolific which, in the “old days,” meant a book a year. As an indie, I can do more, and also include a regular output of short fiction.
  10. “The most critical thing a writer does is produce.” — Robert B. Parker.

So…where do you come out on this scale of craft, care, prolificity, faster, better?

Do you stick with an author or series no matter the quality of recent books?

8+

63 thoughts on “Should You Write Dreck?

  1. Thanks for this, Jim. And thanks for letting us know Joe Konrath is back.

    I believe writing (practice, moving forward) trumps hovering (not saying you hover, but I know a few mostly new writers who do).

    I write the best story I can at my current skill level (subconscious, creative mind, allowing the characters to tell the story since they’re the ones who are living it) and publish it. Let the readers decide.

    Then I learn (conscious mind) by reading nonfiction books, other authors’ fiction, and occasionally taking a course if it beckons me.

    Then I apply what I absorbed from what I learned (what works for me) to the next story (subconscious, creative mind) and publish it.

    I never look back, never rewrite (hover). I have written some beginnings and endings and cliffhangers and hooks that I like better than others, but I try to bear in mind I’m only one reader. What I love, another reader will merely like, and another reader might actively dislike. Likewise, what I believe is dreck, another reader will love (or like, etc.).

    • Interesting word there, Harvey—hover. Sounds hesitant, motionless. Certainly writers can, and do, hover. Like those who go to a writers conference each year with the same manuscript.

      I have a revision process that moves strategically. Once that’s done, the book goes up. Then I’m with you (and the great Satchel Paige): “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

      And: “There never was a man on earth who pitched as much as me. But the more I pitched, the stronger my arm would get.”

      • Jim, when I say “hover,” I’m talking mostly of those (usually begining) writers who use revising and rewriting to avoid writing new work, mostly because they’re scared to death someone won’t like what they wrote. As long as they’re revising and rewriting and editing and polishing, they don’t have to actually finish, then seek a publisher (or publish) and face rejection or bad reviews. Don’t’cha know.

    • Hover. That is an apt descriptor and one I know well as it definitely describes my approach to writing. I should remember that term next time I dwell too long on a re-write because I hate hovering in other contexts (example, those occasions when your boss is standing over you while you’re trying to do something at work. Makes smoke come out of my ears. LOL!)

  2. I saw Konrath’s post about his new book. Free or not, he lost me at “ends on a cliffhanger.”
    However, there are a number of authors I’ve abandoned, and although I have a few regrets at saying “goodbye”, life is too short. Some have come out with a new series, and I didn’t like the characters. Some have taken an existing series and changed the tone, taking away what I liked about the series/characters in the first place. And, sadly, some are just “not as good.” For a true favorite author, I’ll check them out of the library for the next one or two, but if they continue to slide–there are too many other books out there.

    • I’m with you, Terry. I’ve given up on a few authors because of fall off. In one case, the author went way too dark. In another, the author left “what brung him” (entertainment) and tried to go “literary” and ended up with boring. In still another case, after giving up on a series, I decided to give the author’s latest book a try (at the library, LOL). Read the first two pages and put the book back on the shelf. Buh-bye.

      • I’m with you two. I don’t have time for mediocre books. There are too many really great writers toiling out there in relative obscurity, especially the new up and coming writers. I know…I collect their books off the giveaway tables after the Edgar banquet every year. I can’t tell you how many really great stories I’ve found on those tables, stories that took me to new places and new poets. I tend to be a little unforgiving on established writers who up the margins and lower the quality. Maybe it’s the Scorpio in me.

        Life is short. And getting shorter. Don’t drink lousy wine. Don’t give your energy to black-hole people. Don’t read bad books, even B-minus ones.

          • I’m definitely in this camp. There are a number of authors who I used to love, but whose latest books were not as good as the beginning ones. I stopped reading them.
            I do keep them in my mental file and every now and then check another one out, just in case they can return to favorite status, but I have a TBR list so long I will be dead before I get to it. There’s no time for reading anything I don’t enjoy.

  3. First of all, thank you for carefully stepping around the “Fast = Crap” fallacy. That is a whole different debate, and like this one, has complex nuances.

    As a super-prolific author myself, (a 60k book every three weeks) I want to underline that the speed at which a book is written does not have a direct relationship with the quality of the read. There are a ton of other factors that impact the quality that are not related to speed at all.

    Said and done on that point.

    Should an author spend *even more time* polishing, re-writing, revising, tweaking and working on a story to bring it up to an A-Grade novel, or do readers not care, so why not put out a B-Grade novel?

    1. This argument is impacted by the genre you write in. I am writing primarily in the romance genre, and the readers are whale-like in their feeding habits. I suspect most of them glide right over a B-grade novel and call it good-enough, if it delivers the genre expectations well. That might be all that an author is required to do.

    2. The Amazon algorithms and 30 day cliff also dictate how much time one can spend refining a novel, if one cares to avoid the cliffs.

    3. What *IS* an A-Grade novel? I suspect that the novels I point at and call Grade A may not match your list on all points. And what if I have it wrong? What if my version of first class is your version of B grade, or vice versa? It could be argued that it doesn’t matter — the question is should the author strive for their version of A-Grade. But to determine if it is a waste of time, you have to look to the reader. If I think I’m putting out an A-Grade novel, but the readers are only so-so about the quality of the read, they’ll drift away. So the author’s perception of highest quality has to be taken into account, when deciding for oneself whether to aim for highest quality or not. If an author’s version of highest quality possible for them right now doesn’t meet the readers’ idea of highest quality or even a decent read, then the author is forced to knock themselves out on every story.

    4. How long has the author been writing? I very roughly estimate that I have around eight million published words out there, not counting blog posts on three different sites, and long posts on social media. I have over one hundred novels, plus various other shorts and boxed sets, etc. I’ve been writing and publishing since 1999, including eight years in the traditional publishing circus, sorry, circuit. I have, over the years, got both faster *and* better at producing a good quality novel right out of the gate. I don’t have to spend nearly the same amount of time bringing a book up to A-Grade that a newbie author with only three books out there would have to spend.

    5. Ultimately, the reader decides. My novels and series that sell the best are *never* the ones I think are my best work. In fact, often my best work sinks like a stone. As I pay my bills with this writing gig, I have to go with where the sales are, and keep producing in those arenas, and for Romanceland, that means producing as quickly as possible. The vast majority of my reviews end with “I can’t *wait* for the next one!”

    My personal take is that I would *love* to have the luxury of time to craft each novel until they shine. I can’t afford to take that time. I put out the best novel I can manage, given my self-imposed time constraints. I believe I’m putting out A Grade novels *most* of the time. Sometimes, I miss the mark and put out what I consider to be a B-Grade. I don’t like it, but it happens, and the readers not only don’t seem to care, they don’t even *notice*.

    To summarize: It depends. It depends on years of experience, degree of craft attained, (they’re not quite the same thing), the genre you’re writing, your established brand, and how successfully your books sell. A low mid-lister like me doesn’t have as much wriggle room as fabulously successful Konraths and Scott Bells. 🙂

    It’s a decision we all have to make, and I don’t believe there are standard guidelines for all authors.

    Tracy

    • Thanks for weighing in, Tracy, with good, substantive thoughts. Your #1 is a biggie. Genre matters. Romance and mystery lovers do “gobble up” books as fast as they can be written and don’t count style points as they do.

      A prime example is Erle Stanley Gardner. His early work, typed fast, had a good, lean style. When he started Perry Mason he went to dictation, and became super fast, with a style that was stripped down and often clunky. But it was his lead character and the legal mysteries that made him, at one time, the bestselling author in the world. (I should note that he was not a pure pantser. He spent days working out the plot. But when he started dictating, one pass and he was done.)

      • Oh yes, Pulp writers — I love ’em. Their work ethic was/is amazing. They wrote some astonishingly good stories, too. The opening to ONE LONELY NIGHT by Mickey Spillane is very stylish, for example It doesn’t even try to start in media res, but still hooks you, anyway.

        I suspect that pulp writers never worried about upgrading their books to brilliant. A solid B was more than good enough, yet their solid Bs were often as good as novels that today would be called A-Grade novels.

        They got that good through sheer repetition.

        And the readers loved them.

        My favourite story about Erle Stanley Gardner is that he always used character’s full names. Perry Mason. Della Street. Because he was earning a cent a word, so he stuffed the words in, style be damned. 🙂

        And yes, I am a plotter, too. I’ve tried writing into the dark, and it was a disaster. A real C-Grade stinker.

        This is such an interesting topic!

        t.

        • I may be the one from whom you picked up that little tidbit about both names (from Gardner). I wrote about it some years ago when I noticed it…that clever fellow! (A lawyer, of course!)

          The counter-balance here is Raymond Chandler, who used to type on half sheets of paper and wanted each half sheet to have that characteristic style for which he is known. Put me in the middle of these two.

          • It’s entirely possible I picked up the two name thing from you — I have your HOW TO WRITE PULP FICTION book and have read it often. Very inspiring!

            I’ve read a few of your fiction titles, and would put you somewhat closer to Chandler, than Gardner. You have a strong style and voice.

            The very stylish pulp writers, like Chandler and Hammett, probably wrote so much the style was calcified into the first draft. All they had to worry about after that was the story itself. And typos.

            Although it’s interesting that Chandler still worked to deliberately enhance his style. Most writers can’t see their own style.

            Isaac Asimov, on the other hand, went for invisible voice, minimal vocabulary, intentionally getting out of the way of the story itself.

            I’ve heard he only ever wrote first drafts…and on a manual typewriter. Typewriter*s*, actually. Possible apocryphal: He had four typewriters set up at one time, a story or article going on each. When he came to a thinking-place on one, he’d move onto the next typewriter.

            He had a simplistic style, but few people called his work B-Grade.

            Another of my heroes.

            t.

    • You make some good points about genre books, esp romance. That’s where I started but realized I couldn’t keep up the pace it demanded. Love your whale analogy.

    • 60k every three weeks. Only for the most brilliant of writers does fast not equal crap. Of course, fast writers don’t want to acknowledge that. Nevertheless, it remains true. If you’re churning out work at that speed, I don’t believe it’s quality writing, let alone writing with any depth. I realize that’s an opinion and differs from yours, but I’ve read so many books that proved the point, I’d need pages here just to list them.

      If you’re selling, anyway, good for you. B books find audiences and are reviewed by major blogs. So do D and F books. If that’s your path to success, I don’t blame you for taking it.

  4. Ah, the tyranny of the “or” that makes us stumble. That little decision that has us choosing to do this or that rather than do both.

    I love your approach: high quality “and” high production. Thanks for the reminder that we can and should do both.

  5. For me, getting that first draft out is the hardest part of writing. I enjoy editing. I will confess that I could probably revise a ms forever. Call it a misguided desire for perfection.

    At some point, I have to let go, which I do. But it isn’t easy.

    • Mike, I have a good friend (and bestselling trad writer) who just LOVES revision. Can’t wait to get the editorial letter (something I always dreaded).

      “Letting go” is always nervous time. Yet also deeply satisfying. For me the trick is having my next project well under way even as I upload.

  6. Very interesting post. Made me both bristle-y and thoughtful. I read that post primarily from the standpoint of one who could stand to adopt this philosophy to an extent. I sit on manuscripts because I’m never satisfied that they’re good enough and that’s a whole other trap–the opposite extreme, and a totally unproductive one.

    My loyalty to a writer would not continue if they issued dreck. In reality, no reader is going to know how much or little effort a writer put in to their present work unless it is glaringly obvious. But by the same token, writers should be aware that readers are able to recognize when the writer “mails in” their effort. Especially if its an author you read regularly, you can tell when they are ‘off’.

    The idea of couching it in terms of “A” grades and “B” grade books assumes a certain level of experience. For us relatively inexperienced writers, getting hung up on writing A-grade books is a writing career killer if you don’t also learn to produce. For the experienced writer, shooting for “B” grade seems logical because to me, there’s always room for improvement, and it sounds kind of arrogant for people to assume they are A-grade writers. But then most of the writers I interact with are always interested in writing better. If not, why would we hang out here? 😎

    Write the best you can AND produce. That is still the key thing.

  7. I’ve seen several posts recently about writing 60K mystery books. I’m about to write my second one (of 12) as I don’t have another 20K words to add to this story. The funny thing is these shorter books take longer to write because I can see that I’m not going to get to 80K so I waste lots of creative energy trying to figure out how to lengthen the story and in the end, I just go with 60K.
    I understand the pulp writers published their books at 40-60K, but today’s books are “padded” with descriptions to get those words. Once publishers in the 1960s discovered they could charge more for books that were thicker, then descriptions expanded. Don’t know if this is historically true. I’ve read a couple of books recently that I quit on as they were too descriptive. Yeah, I can see the protag is carrying emotional weight, but do I want to see that weight in every paragraph? No. Not my taste.

    • Alec, there was indeed a “thickness” factor (still is) in traditional publishing. If you want to charge $25-$35 for a hardcover (where the money is made) it better look to the consumer like it’s worth it. That’s what got me stop buying the hardovers of a fave author years ago…the book dimension were the same, but the margins and line-spacing got so large it was obviously deceptive.

      In the e-world, a good, solid 60k is better than a sloggy 80k.

  8. Hi Jim,
    A very thought-provoking post and one that hits home for me. I’m currently in the last stretch of a second edit on my current novel, a short (60K) novel that has taken me nearly a year to produce. It’s the first book in a new series, so I decided to go beyond my normal team of beta readers, and added two more, both authors, one of which also works as a an editor. My usual group of seven betas (one of which is also an author) had some points for improvement as usual, but over all loved the book. The two new adds on the other hand had some serious issues with it.

    The result is I’ve been in rewrite mode since March, and only a final hard deadline from my patient copy editor has pushed me to stop wheel spinning and finish the edit.

    Part of my problem was fear of releasing dreck. On the other hand, I want to not let perfect be the enemy of good. I want to produce quality books more often, and that’s the challenge.

    I’ve been reminded that there’s such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen when it comes to feedback, at least for me. It’s a balancing act–I need to give myself time to edit, but am also mindful of the risk of never finishing an edit because the book isn’t as good as it can be. Clearly, this is about striking a balance, and that balance will vary depending upon the individual writer.

    Thanks again!

    • I want to not let perfect be the enemy of good.

      Boy, that captures it. Or, as Bill Shakespeare said (no slouch in the production department): “Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.”

  9. I’m not convinced the choice has to be between quality and speed. I also take it as a matter of professional pride to make my books as clean and well-written as I possibly can. I set deadlines and goals to keep production quantity and quality high.
    My experience has been that the more books I get out the more money I make, but I want to be proud of what I produce so I take a couple of months to send my work out to beta readers and an editor and I then I go through it myself and do a final polish and then I have a proofreader go over it one last time before I would ever think of publishing it. Some readers will remain loyal no matter how bad a book is, but most won’t. And I think I have an obligation to them to treat them with respect. That means giving them the highest quality product of which I am able.
    I recently stopped reading a book by a famous best selling author because it was so bad. The author head hopped in every paragraph which sucked the pleasure out of reading it. I may try one of his books again, but not any time soon.

    • My experience has been that the more books I get out the more money I make, but I want to be proud of what I produce

      My experience and desire, too, James.

  10. Great post, Jim. Great discussion.

    That elusive definition of quality, and whether it is in the eyes of the editor or the reader, has led me to depend on beta readers from my target audience. I’m writing middle-grade fantasy, and using middle-grade readers as beta readers (a suggestion from my elementary-teacher daughter) has been eye opening.

    After lugging around piles of paper manuscripts for the first book (published a month ago), I’m trying BetaBooks.co for an online approach with my WIP.

  11. Art and writing are similar – for me. A client once asked me how I knew I was done with a painting. My reply, “When I’m only pushing paint around – or no more paint will stick to the canvass.”

    This is when my art teacher stepped in. Once she literally snatched a canvass from my easel right out from under my brush. “You did your best on this one. You’ll do better with the next.”

    Those words have followed me into writing. I do my best, follow a reasonable editing procedure, and let it go. As with art, practice speeds the process and improves the work. Leading to less corrections to my paintings and less revisions in my writing. Even so, I’m still relatively slow. Maybe when I hit the hundredth mark…

  12. I have a friend–actually, we’re related somehow–who was in the 1962 movie, How The West Was Won. My purpose here is neither to embarrass him, nor critique his riding (not writing) style.

    But he cost the production company a ton during the shooting of the movie by doing one thing: as the Indians–yes, he was one–came riding up over the hill into the field of the shot, he fell off his horse, much to his embarrassment and the #$&@E*^%! screaming of the director, the camera guys, and anyone else who thought they could get away with it. They carried on profanely because he was not YET supposed to fall off his horse.

    So they did what? They tail-slated the shot, regrouped all the Indians on the other side of the hill, and shot the #(*^$@%! scene again.

    The director–in this case, I think it was Henry Hathaway–did not try to correct substantively his basic fund of knowledge on movie-making and directing, nor did he try to find a (in those days) a correspondence course on movie-directing, nor did he engage in political diatribe on television shows to try to direct attention away from his abilities or lacks-of-abilities as a director.

    He re-shot the @%$^*! scene and went on.

    “I have a revision process that moves strategically”, You said. “Once that’s done, the book goes up. Then I’m with you (and the great Satchel Paige): “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

    Wow.

    (By the way, thank you for book.)

    • Thanks for that Henry Hathaway story. He was certainly, in his way, a storyteller above all (nothing fancy). Funny, I just re-watched HTWWW the other day (I saw the original in wonderful, three-projector Cinerama) and was happily surprised by how good it is. It’s long, but it moves.

  13. I’d rather not write than produce dreck. I have pride as well as respect for my readers.

    That said, I started an urban fantasy several months ago and couldn’t go past the first chapter because it was so bad. I taught writing for many years and judged unpublished novels for almost as many, and this first chapter was one of the worst I have ever read. So bad I wrote a piece on it, no author or title mentioned, in my writing blog about how not to write that first chapter.

    I received a newsletter yesterday from this author announcing that this novel was a finalist for a major self-pub award which first must have a really good review from a specific book review magazine then reader votes to be a finalist. This is where this book is now. What the heck is wrong with readers, these days? Maybe dreck with enough self-promo skills to sell that dreck is all that is needed today. Sad, very sad.

  14. My sales figures are dismal to the point I’ve taken a couple of titles off the shelf. I continue to study and to write (720 words / day minimum), hoping to up my craft, wondering if I’m ever going to create salable material. This being my situation, quality is priority one.

    It is my goal to produce salable work. Once I’ve figured out how to accomplish this, it is my intention to plug my skills into rapid-fire production in a popular genre (I love both mystery & fantasy) and to get noticed through the sheer volume of work I produce.

    Thank you for the interesting post, Mr. Bell, and thank you for Try Dying. I just finished the Zombie-at-Law series last week and was looking for a new title. Fantastic timing.

    • Carl, lots of authors over the years have wondered if they would ever write salable material. The stories of constant rejection before breaking through are legion. You’re doing the right thing: writing to a quota in studying the craft. Don’t give up.

  15. This post and the comments are a game changer. I’ve never thought my stuff was good enough so they sit in folders (computer and paper) making me $0. Entertaining no one.
    After reading this post, I started thinking about Law and Order. 456 episodes in the original series. I’ve watched them all more than once. Was every episode as good as it could be? I don’t know, but I watched them because of the compelling characters not the difference in perceived quality of each script.
    I’m not a success. To continue doing what I’m doing is nuts. I’ve got good characters. Now write a lot. Goal: Two 60k books by Christmas. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • Brian, it’s awesome that our TKZ forum as moved you to this new direction. I’m all for it!

      Law & Order is one of my favorite shows, too. Same template in each episode. They did not overthink it. They knew what they had worked, so they worked it.

    • Brian–
      Back in the day I was where you are. Writing like crazy and never doing anything with it. I had ten completed manuscripts in boxes on the shelf. (yes, that far back, on paper) I mentioned this once to the great Catherine Coulter at a conference. She said, “Well, they’re not doing anyone any good there, now are they?” And ordered me to go home, mail one and bring her the postal receipt the next day or don’t bother coming back. It was the kick I needed, just as I hope this discussion has been for you. Now, 80+ books and novellas later, it still feels new and wonderful to me. And yes, all ten of those manuscripts sold. So onward with you!!

  16. Great post and conversation!

    I can count the number of blogs where I not only read every post but every comment on exactly one finger. This is that blog.

    And everybody, if you haven’t tried Jim’s legal thriller trilogy that starts with Try Dying, do so! I don’t normally care for them, and I loved every one.

    • Justine, what a nice comment. Thank you. And you are so right. We have an incredibly informed community here. Today’s interchange has been particularly good. See Brian’s comment, above.

  17. There are authors I’ve given up on. Some were quality issues. Some were too dark. Some just turned out to be jerks so I stopped reading them.

    Back when the children were small, I was more prolific. I was a lot more confident and published more. I had 40 music students, 3 choirs, I did theater at night, and sang with a show choir. I wrote late at night and it worked – right up to the point where the kids were teenagers and there were 4 of us juggling one computer. Then I got the 3 am to 6 am shift.

    I thought once the children were grown writing would be easier, even with a full time day job and acting gigs at night. It hasn’t. Back then I had deadlines and hit them without even thinking about it. So I’m adding back the structure and making up deadlines and see if that works.

    I had planned to clean the garage this rainy afternoon but am curled up with Try Dying instead.

    • Thanks for the curl up, Cynthia. 😎

      Speaking of writers as jerks, I should mention there’s another reason I’ve stopped reading a couple of authors, and that is what they say on social media. Let that be a lesson to all of us.

  18. Pride of craft is the only reason to knock yourself out in producing your best work. Many readers now are not as educated and thus not as discerning when it comes to fiction. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is only one example of what you can get away with these days. There are thousands of other books that qualify equally as dreck and they not only sell, they are five-star-reviewed and loved as though they were magnificent works of art.
    Yes, readers want fast-paced, flashy, sexy fiction. Depth is not required. A glance down the bestseller lists for both adult and YA proves it.
    Writers don’t have time for depth and polish now, anyway. If you’re not writing at least one novel every three to six months, you can forget about success. Amazon is seeing to that.
    Pride in your work will drive you to make your book the best it can be. But if no one is reading it, you’re writing into a void. If you’re a writer, you want to be read (writers who claim they don’t care are just flat out liars.) If B books get you read and A books don’t, write B books. Otherwise you’re in for a career of frustration and depression.
    The only route to success is to let the storyteller in you win out over the crafter in you. I don’t think it makes any difference to the editors at traditional publishers. They barely edit the books they’re publishing. I often find as many as two or three typos just on the first page. It’s a joke. I think their sole goal these days is to find writers who can produce the same work that’s proved popular and dump it onto the market as swiftly as possible.
    Write what you want and write to have fun. Quantity over quality. In dumbed-down America, dreck serves just fine.

    • N, you bring up a legit “elephant in the room,” viz., the declining literacy in upcoming readers. Lots of reasons for that (none of them good). So will 60k B- outsell 90k A+ in the future? Sheesh…

      But I’m not ready to dreck it up just yet. For me, part of the “fun” is being happy when I write something that really zings in a way that pleases me.

  19. Pingback: Should You Write Dreck? | Loleta Abi Author & Book Blogger

  20. I disagree.

    I’ve given up on quite a few formerly auto buy authors that started to mail it in. As I get older I am pickier. I won’t waste time ready a mediocre book when there are so many great ones out there. My reading time is valuable.

    And yes, where is the pride? I think we should always strive to put out our best work. Good enough is not good enough.

  21. I’ve read most of the comments (but not all of them) and have only one thing to add, that even Konrath missed (I believe). The Reader decides whether a book is “A Grade” or whatever. That’s exactly why we’re such bad judges of our own work, whether we believe it’s good (A Grade) or something less. No matter what I personally think of my work, I’m only one reader. And of course, what matters to me is what Other Readers (those who buy my books) think of them. If one loves it, to that reader it’s A Grade. If another hates it, to that reader it isn’t. (shrug) Fortunately, I’ve found most readers who read my books enjoy them enough to ask me when the next one’s coming out, so I’m good with that.

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