Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The importance of every sentence.

I have been reading an atrocious book. By this, I mean reading a chapter, putting it down in frustration, attempting again, putting it down in confusion…  I have a habit of folding bottom corners on pages with a part I really love. In this book, I have been folding corners on parts where the writing is just absolutely shocking.

In fact, I am starting to see it as a how-NOT-to-write book.

-The dialogue is completely 100% implausible. (Especially when the shy, secretive character launches into a two-paragraph rant on his life, completely unprovoked.)
-Remember the classic piece of advice, show, don’t tell…? Well, nothing is shown in this book. Everything is told, to the point where I feel like all the characters are merely character plans, and everything is forced upon me.
-Cliches. The book is full of them, including “better than she would ever have dared to dream”
The author wrote “And in the midst of … “ twice…merely three sentences apart.
And the 126 pages I have read, could EASILY be condensed to 50 pages. The author spends literally two pages talking about and explaining the EXACT same thing. Sometimes paraphrasing, often not even.
Goodreads reviewers were saying the same thing.

The book reads like a first draft. For all the reasons I have mentioned above. I am wondering where the editor was? And how this book (along with over 85 other titles by the same author) has been published? It concerns me that this author is a huge New York Times bestseller, but her books are so appalling and lacking in literary quality and basic editing. What does this say about readers and reading?

I also read online that the author uses a typewriter to write her novels. No wonder why there doesn’t appear to be any editing. You can’t go back and delete things.
Anyway, enough of my rant.

I think a lot of what I wrote above, comes down to not appreciating the following:

The importance of every sentence.

I’ve read short stories where there has been one terrible sentence, one flawed metaphor or a contradicting situation, that has pulled me right out of the story. And in short stories, especially, it is so important that every word and every sentence is thought out. That every metaphor somehow connects to the narrative.

In my early writing days, before I really understood the concept of editing, I was often lazy. When considering sentences, I would think ‘well, this could be better, but I’m too tired and lazy to change it, so it will suffice.’ I've learnt from my mistakes though. When architectures design, or builders build, they don’t have this option. Being lazy and not changing a flaw could end in disaster. Writing is no different.

Anyway, I have been working on a new short story and tomorrow when I start editing, I will be sure to look at every sentence carefully :)

Happy writing everyone


  1. I'm dying to know what book you're talking about! :P I totally agree, though. Every sentence has to be perfectly crafted or the whole thing will unravel, like threads in a tapestry.

  2. ohh nice analogy.
    The book is Danielle Steels new books, 44 Charles Street. I read one of her books that was awesome, and another that was disastrous, and this one just topped all levels of bad.
    I even recommend looking at it, reading the first chapter, just to get a sense of what I'm talking about.

  3.'s indeed a head-scratcher, trying to figure out how a story with lousy penmanship found its way to the store shelves. I've run across it with other novels as well, and like you, use the mess as an instruction manual on how not to screw up a story.

    Unlike the book you read, your blog was well versed:)


  4. I feel your pain. Maybe when some writers get this successful they realise they're going to be published no matter what and stop caring as much?

  5. I love this post, and I couldn't agree more. I'm always amazed at how terrible some writing can be, yet the authors are wildly successful.

    When I'm editing, I go through a few rounds to edit plot, and then I go through at least one more draft to line edit. every. single. sentence. I want to make sure every word of my writing shines as brightly as possible before I consider it finished.