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message 1: by Kevin (last edited Feb 05, 2009 01:19AM) (new)

Kevin | 109 comments Have you ever picked up a book where you were revolted, I mean just absolutely disgusted with the writer?

I'm not talking about someone that actually warns you ahead of time of their challenging content (such as Dan Brown, or Philip Pullman who challenge a person's religious evaluation).

I'm talking about picking up a book and the writer starts preaching things that make Hitler look like his next door neighbor. No warning. No notice.

Christopher Moore, Dan Brown and Philip Pullman actually warn the reader ahead of time : "Yo, I'm challenging religion here, you may not like it. Don't read it if you won't like it."

But have you ever picked up a book that gives no such warning and then all of a sudden it's "WTH IS THIS!?"

I'm a major supporter of free speech. Every book that's out there should be out there. More books should be out there. Even books with which I disagree. I hate book burning, book censoring regardless of the content.


Some books just need to have a warning label! It's been a while since anything like this has happened with me. However, it has happened.

Has it happened with you?

And yes, I do actually put a "warning" on my more "racy" books. I tell my readers ahead of time what to expect. I don't just toss something in to try and trick the reader into reading something they don't want.

message 2: by Pat (new)

Pat Whitaker (whitakerbooks) | 54 comments I think the writer just needs to be intelligent about this. If we are talking fiction, then in most books there will be conflicting points of view - conflicting ideas expressed. By definition, they will not all be the views of the author.

But yes, if these (or violence or sex) is a dominant element, or expressed in terms that even thinking people might find offensive, then some warning should be given.

I say 'thinking person' because there are those who will take offense at anything that doesn't agree with there personal world view.

message 3: by James (new)

James (signal20) | 41 comments Mod
Isn't that what the description on the back cover or inside flap is for?

I don't think I've ever picked up a book and started reading without knowing what I was getting myself into story wise. Now once I started I've found the writing itself quite repulsive.

message 4: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (jozanny) | 16 comments I came regret buying Charlee Jacob, the punk horror writer, but revulsion is a pretty strong word, and I am a fairly high brow reader. I lean toward high brow and academic texts, and most, not all, commercial fiction bores me, so my education is my best warning label.

message 5: by Patricia (new)

Patricia (wwwgoodreadscompatriciajsmith) | 8 comments Hi Everyone,
Hope you all are having a wonderful prosperous new year.
hummmmm, oh heck, yes, I am ashamed to admit that if I really want a new read and am in a hurry I as others have, have purchased a book by it's cover.
I think that is what revolts me. To pick up a book that looks really good and low and behold, the story is nothing like the cover predicts it to be. lol
I know, I know, never judge a book by it's cover. But I have been drawn into that trap many times.
I have also chose a book because of the description on the flap or back page and the violence and description in the book was not portrayed in either.
A good example of this was I picked up a book in Wal-Mart, the flap stated about a kidnapped child and the race against time the mother made to save her. Hummmm, I said, and purchased the book only to throw it away in about the second chapter where suddenly it went into great detail about how the child was tortured. There were no warnings of any kind on this book about this content. That my friends is what I call pure revulsion.
I believe it is up to each author to respect the general public who may be buying your works to label them if needed.
I also believe it is the publishers responsibility to also help keep this under control. If they accept your book for publication and they see you have no mention of the contents on the flap you submitted they could send you a nice little note stating that they would appreciate it if before they published, you would please reedit your flaps.
But on the other hand, James, you have drawn my interest in your statement,
Now once I started I've found the writing itself quite repulsive.
Do you mean the editing or that you found errors in the book?
I am really interested in what you meant?
Yall have a great day.
Patricia Smith

message 6: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 109 comments Inside flaps are exactly for this reason, but unfortunately not all authors properly use the inside flaps.

Sure, we can include editing and grammar. I have two prime examples of such books.

Here are two books I've been repulsed by concerning editing and grammar - my moral repulsion directed at the publisher rather than the content of the book:

Conan the Warlord, written by Robert Jordan. The thing I hate most about anyone who doesn't deserve to write, is their actual refusal to write the content about which they are writing. Robert Jordan in this novel did his absolute best not to write about Conan. There was a character named Conan in this book who stood by and did nothing. He wasn't involved in any scene to a point that he made any kind of impact on the story. He just existed. Everyone else did everything else throughout the entire book. To top it off there was an entire side story that Conan didn't even know about till close to the last chapter and even then it was only a grunt of a word.

I would KILL for a chance to write a Conan book, I know others would too. And this loser got to write a book entitled Conan the Warlord, and actually refused to write about CONAN!!!!!!!!!!

This book is 273 pages long.

I counted them: 240 of these pages dealt entirely with Political Intrigue that had absolutely no effect on, nor was affected by Conan in any way shape or form.

240 pages.

I found the editor and tor books to be repugnant in the fact they actually managed to trick me into reading something that didn't even remotely match the back cover description.

Another one:

Truce at Bakura - The grammar, the editing, the story itself amounts to the worst book I have ever tried to read and that includes Douglass Adams' giant middle finger to his fans and publishers: called Mostly Harmless. At least Adams went on record regretting Mostly Harmless before he died. This woman had the verbage of a 6th grader trying to write a romance novel. What kills me is she's the same age as my mom!!!!!!

It offends me people like her actually approached and asked to produce such tripe it makes me want to rip my eyes out. This book made it onto the bestseller list because they mass produced it, the actual sales of the book were NOT anywhere near what they claim.

Oh heck here's a third one:


This is what's broken with the publishing industry, and I've a firm belief it's cases like this which will end big scale publishers.

message 7: by Patricia (new)

Patricia (wwwgoodreadscompatriciajsmith) | 8 comments Kevin,
OMG, Wow, Please don't read my book. lol
When I got my book I was very upset. When I sent the final editing into PA, I found half the changes they didn't even make. And this was spelling, grammar etc.
Then they put a little edited by author statement on the book. lol
As long as the story line is what it should be and I enjoy the read I must admit I don't look nor think to much about the editing.
Dean Koontz is my favorite author I have just about every book he has written and even though he uses a big pay editor and publisher I have came upon errors in all of his books, the same for King.
I have to admit when it comes to editing, I really work and strive for it to be correct, but when the publisher does not correct your work as you request before the actual published time then your hands are tied.
Will I go this route with my works now, nope, never again.
FORE-WARNED is a fast paced read. Has a really great plot and I hope anyone who reads it will forgive the errors they may find. lol
Even with each post here, I copy and put into my word and check spelling, correct, copy, come back here, delete and paste. lol
Please everyone, just because we wrote a book does not make us the expert editor, We're only human.
This is just my humble opinion, feel free to jump in.
As far as age, it doesn't matter if your 6 or 66, some people had the privilege of a wonderful education and others fault to just survive. I have a brother in law that God love him is a wonderful man, graduated and still can't spell or appear to be a high school grad, he had better things to do in school then learn. lol I also have an aunt who is 62, was not afforded the luxury of high school and self taught her self and is sharp as a tack. So age can not actually be a factor.
As I said this is just my humble opinion, and feedback is welcome.
Yall have a great day
p.s. this message has been spell checked by my best friend the spell checker. lol

message 8: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 109 comments Patricia; don't worry, I only get upset in the most extreme cases. If it has a generally enjoyable story, the grammatical errors won't bother me. I did, afterall, read the first three of SD Perry's Resident Evil books ;)

Truce at Bakura really cannot be described adequately. You have to read it yourself to understand what irritated me so much about the woman's writing. My mom said: "Dear god this is horrible, it's like a poorly written romance novelist."

It's probably still on the shelves of your local bookstore in the star wars section. I was unable to make it past the first 10 pages of the book it was so horrible. I skipped ahead to see if her style changed, and it did not. It was absolutely terrible.

message 9: by Patricia (new)

Patricia (wwwgoodreadscompatriciajsmith) | 8 comments Kevin,
LOL, I understand where your coming from. One thing I can't understand though is how all these people can get away with writing books about TV shows or movies and get them published.
I thought we could not write such books as Star Wars, Star Trek, etc without it infringing on the copy rights of the shows. Hummmmm, I had written a book to the movie Twister but it was sent back to me because they said I could not use the characters, etc. of the movie.
Do you or anyone have any information on this? I would really love to know.
Have a great night

message 10: by Kevin (last edited Feb 05, 2009 08:03PM) (new)

Kevin | 109 comments She was approached and commissioned by LucasArts LTD to write that book.

message 11: by Lil (new)

Lil (lilmar) | 4 comments I agree with you that books should have something to indicate that they have not 'questionable' content, but 'uncomfortable' content. I have not read The DaVinci Code because I had heard about it and I do disagree with the hypothesis the character and writer put forth. I have read part of Angels and Demons, however, and though I have not finished it, I have enjoyed what I’ve read so far. I read a book by an English murder mystery writer and was very hard put to finish it. I don’t deal well with books where children are hurt, abused or murdered.

I am an editor. I am a romance novel editor and I also proof for a couple of e Book publishers. I have edited both fiction and non-fiction. I can't write, but I have a good eye for errors in writing, so I edit and I proof. I love to help a writer polish their work, I love knowing that I contributed to that writing being the best it can be. I do my utmost best to never allow books that come through me to get through with any type of grammatical, punctuation or wrong word types of errors. I have read books from major publishers that have horrible editing and errors in them and I've done the 'email the publishers' thing to let them know. I don’t usually get an answer back.

Reading is my passion, the thing that gets me through the day, lifts my spirits and just makes me feel good! If I pick up a book, just by the cover or blurb and it's a wall-banger for whatever reason, I don't blame the writer or the publisher, I blame me. But to be honest, it does not happen often.

message 12: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (jozanny) | 16 comments I am somewhat confused, and think there is a difference between content which is morally reprehensible, content which is badly typeset, and content which is simply badly written. There are warnings, even zonings, for pornography and adult content. Movies are already labeled, but more importantly, I don't see what a bad book debate has to do with a group that is supposed to be a resource for writers?

What exactly are we sharing here? Personal tastes?

As for an example like children being tortured--I cannot condemn what I don't know of yet. Gratuitous violence is one thing, exposure of horrifying circumstance is something else.

message 13: by Pat (new)

Pat Whitaker (whitakerbooks) | 54 comments Joanne, you are absolutely right, that was way off topic - brain fade. I apologise unreservedly, and I have deleted the post.

And I agree with your comment, it is not so much the nature of the content but the manner in which it is presented.

message 14: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 109 comments Well I can be offended in two ways:

* The content which is presented in a rather disgusting manner.

For example in videogames: World of Warcraft in how it was promoted. The hoard storyline which is favored by Christ Metzen, has a lot of quests and content promoting the Blood Elves and Forsaken's genocide via poisoning people etc... all while Chris Metzen goes on record stating that they're the underdog heroes of the entire fantasy world. He actually went on record saying this. This wasn't revealed until a year and a half after the world wide launch.

An example in novels:
There was a novel my dad started reading, that went on to promote Nazi ideals. My dad was so furious after he flipped ahead, he refused to finish the book. The outside cover had nothing in any relation to it, and it was just a real disgusting piece of work. Can't remember the name.

* The piss poor ethics of the publisher.

This could be a publisher that say only grabs literary students from Harvard - and then those students turn out to be functionally illiterate (by my standards), or otherwise plagiarists. Harper Collins (News Corp), is absolutely disgusting in this manner. That's not even counting the last three Anne Coulter books (all of which were denounced by the GOP for her completely made up "facts" that nobody could support, not even herself! And that's not counting the plagiarism lawsuit she had to settle out of court).

I find both actions to be morally reprehensible.

message 15: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (jozanny) | 16 comments Pat, I apologize to you because I did not mean for you to delete your post, but I am not sure this group will be in any way helpful to me either in my freelance or creative activity, and I should probably move on. Kevin is not bringing up information which is useful to me, and perhaps he doesn't understand what galleys are, and that a decent publisher would provide them to him to proof, prior to publication.

I was hoping Writerpedia would have real published authors like myself, with whom I could discuss research tools, marketing, the like. Aesthetic debates which to me, are not entirely relevant, is not why I signed on.

To moderator James: Good concept, but I am not sure about the execution. Good luck.

message 16: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 109 comments Yeah, Joanne, because I clearly ruined this entire group with my whole three or four topics in the last month.


Part of learning about writing is having conversations about things you see wrong in the industry or with other books or stories.

message 17: by Mary (new)

Mary Warner (marywarner) So, then, what I seem to be hearing is that people want to know exactly what is coming so they can avoid all the icky unpleasantness of life. If that is correct, where is it written that we should never be offended or that we're always supposed to be forewarned?

I'm offended by plenty of things, but I use the passion that is generated by my disgust in my writing. Offended by the torture of children? Then do something about it. Offended by someone waxing rhapsodic about Hitler? Than write a scathing response!

Sure, uncomfortable feelings will arise from morally revolting writing, as they should. Use them.

message 18: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 109 comments Mary, you are describing the extreme.

It's not one extreme or another where you'll find the solution, but somewhere inbetween. If a book is promoting nazism, it should say so on the cover. If a book is questioning a religious entity (such as Dan Brown's books), then it should so say on the cover (as they do).

There's a difference between saying nothing, giving a proper synopsis and saying everything.

message 19: by Mary (new)

Mary Warner (marywarner) I'm not just referring to the extreme. People can be offended by the smallest of things. Even things that most people wouldn't consider offensive.

Ah, but here's the rub. How do you know who you are going to offend by what? I could write a general synopsis of my book on some overtly offensive topic and then discover that some minor thing I wrote on page 32 causes all sorts of hoopla that I didn't anticipate and I'll get blasted for not including that in my synopsis.

The truth is, writers do not know how their work is going to be perceived by their readers. We can't know. That's why we are supposed to write to please ourselves first. And we can craft an enticing synopsis that later gets ripped to shreds because we didn't do enough to forewarn the reader. We can't win for trying.

message 20: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 109 comments You are right, some readers will be offended by every little thing, and other readers won't be offended by anything.

The trick is to make sure you're hitting the middle ground. Covering as much as you can in your synopsis foundation. I've been seeing a lot of young editors and writers, my age, almost lying in their synopsis.

Why? To sell books? There's a lack of integrity in the entertainment industry as a whole that's been steadily growing since the late 90s mergers of media conglomerates. "Lie to sell your entertainment product, it's ok!"

Honestly, that is the root of my problem here.

Even delToro commented on this when his movie pan's laberynth was in the theaters. He went on a personal crusade on every talk show he could to notify parents that the advertisements were misleading. Why? Because it was a very dramatic piece, and the movie producers were making it look like a children's film.

Even though it was his own film he was offended at the lack of sincerity put forth in the film's advertising.

message 21: by Mary (new)

Mary Warner (marywarner) Lack of sincerity, or lying about the contents of a book, is another matter entirely. That's uncalled for, no matter how desperately an author (or the industry) wants to sell a book.

message 22: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 109 comments I am just glad I am not alone in feeling this way :)

message 23: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I gave much lower marks to On Writing by Stephen King because he spent so much time on his accident & autobiography than to the subject. I thought it was dishonest.

message 24: by M.L. (new)

M.L. Bushman | 144 comments Excuse me, but On Writing is one of the best books an aspiring writer can read. It's not dishonest to explain how one became a writer prior to giving you some advice on the craft itself. Or explaining how a serious accident affected life and career. His audience, which may or may not be you, wanted to know. Did he fail them? No. He delivered.

The truth is for all those books out there on the craft by people you've never heard of, for all those writer's groups out there where the members just circle the same pool, safe in their comfort zone and never daring to leave, the truth is writing is a lonely business and the only ones who make it are those who read and write every day and have the courage to swim upstream. Alone. Whether the stories they write offend people or not. When King first published Carrie no one, and I mean no one, wrote about or even referred in any way to tampons. Why? Because of narrow minds that want to deny the reality of what is. The same narrow-minded thinking that pooh-poohed Hitler and his ambitions.

The reason someone would detail the horror of child abuse is to involve the reader emotionally, plus give the reader a reference point for later mention in the story without having to go into detail again. I would not want to read a book that sugarcoats horror like that, nor would I want to read a book that goes on and on in horrendous gratuitous detail, but I want the reality of it in order to trust the author enough to suspend my disbelief.

Writers afraid to blaze their own trails in life will always be following others and wondering why they're considered no more than mid-list, if that. And if a book tells me the whole story on the back cover blurb out of fear of the reader, then why should I buy it when I can take fifteen seconds and know the whole story without plunking down a dime?

If you read a book and it insults your delicate sensibilities, maybe they needed to be insulted. Or maybe writing isn't your thing. Or maybe you're in denial of some sort that the world is rosy and wonderful and god forbid anyone dislodging your glasses from your upturned nose. If you discover a book promotes nazi-ism and you find it distasteful, then put it down. But what if, by the end of the book, the writer all the time was holding nazi-ism up to the light and examining it as fairly as possible in order to show the reader how disgusting it truly is? How the hell would you ever know if you don't finish the book? No one has to agree with what a writer has written, but by the same token, one has not paid his or her dues to bitch about it unless they've finished the book. You learn more from bad fiction as a writer than you'll ever learn from good. But if you're afraid of the subject or a host of subjects or see the exercise of learning good and bad as a waste of time, you won't learn much at all.

As a reader, I do not judge a book by its cover or back blurb but rather by the integrity of the author in the work itself. Whether I agree with him or her or not. Whether I like the story, the subject, the characters, or not.

On Writing would've have been a very short book, indeed, had King only wrote about the craft itself. Do you know why? Because the only real and true prescription for learning this craft is to read and write every day. It's time-tested over centuries of writers. All the top writers subscribe to it, even now. After you hit that first million-word mark, you as a writer will get a clue. Hit two million and you'll know this is true. You'll also know that are no shortcuts, you'll have learned that buying all those fat books on the craft by all those other folk you may or may not have heard of was a huge waste of your time and money. Hanging out in a writer's group where each feeds off the other and one never grows past the pool is the same sort of waste.

Sorry for the rant, but this discussion has really gotten out of hand in my opinion.

Do you want to be a writer? Then read and write, even if you find it offensive or fear that what you've written may offend. I went as far as to read hard core porn for a time so I would know where the lines are when writing steamy sex scenes. This is called research. I don't like hard core porn, by the way, but I had to know where the lines were, the same as one may not like nazi's or book covers or what have you. It pays to learn where the lines are.

Now, I will go back to work. I humbly apologize for any inconvenience or insult--perceived or imagined on the part of the reader. Geez...


message 25: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Mari, I didn't say the on writing part of "On Writing" wasn't good. I said the book title was dishonest & still feel so. It should have been a much shorter book 'on writing'. The Elements of Style isn't exactly huge nor is The C Programming Language, yet both are wonderful books on their subjects. They're also properly titled.

By padding the book with his autobiography & adventures with a van, King should have changed the title or written a second book. When I want to read an autobiography, I look for one.

message 26: by M.L. (new)

M.L. Bushman | 144 comments The subtitle to On Writing is: A Memoir of the Craft.


message 27: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline Snider (jacquelinesnider) I agree, Mary. You cannot write to please other people. That is impossible and totally self-defeating. I am myself when I write. If other people choose to be offended by my work that is their choice. I am not responsible for other people's reactions to my work.

Artists (of any kind) have been censored throughout time for exactly the reasons you describe. People think that their sensibilities are more important than someone else's so they ban an artist's work or destroy it or lock it up because it doesn't agree with their own reality or perspective.

Mary wrote: "I'm not just referring to the extreme. People can be offended by the smallest of things. Even things that most people wouldn't consider offensive.

Ah, but here's the rub. How do you know who you a..."

message 28: by Pat (new)

Pat Whitaker (whitakerbooks) | 54 comments To be fair, I don't think Kevin is in any way suggesting that a book should be censored, or that a synopsis of the contents should be given, simply that if there is content that could reasonably be expected to give offense, that the jacket indicate that.

message 29: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline Snider (jacquelinesnider) Fair enough. Book jackets are to inform potential readers of the book's content. They are also used, however, as a sales aid and don't always accurately reflect the author's perspective.

message 30: by Pat (last edited Feb 10, 2009 08:51AM) (new)

Pat Whitaker (whitakerbooks) | 54 comments That they are used as a sales aid is legitimate, that the advertising is (or may be) deceptive is not.

message 31: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline Snider (jacquelinesnider) I agree!

message 32: by Lil (new)

Lil (lilmar) | 4 comments I don't want to lock something up just because it offends me. I just don't finish it if it does. Having been a victim of sexual abuse as a child, I refuse to read about it. That's simply because it brings up memories I'd rather not revisit.

I completely understand why an author would have that in their book, if that is what the book is about, however, I don't have to read it. That's my choice.

There are more than enough books and readers in the world that nearly everyone can find something to their taste, without censoring or downing what someone else reads or writes.

Live and let read!

message 33: by Carlos (new)

Carlos Mari wrote:If you read a book and it insults your delicate sensibilities, maybe they needed to be insulted.

I couldn't agree more and yes, On Writing probably is the best book ever written... On Writing.

message 34: by M.L. (new)

M.L. Bushman | 144 comments Thank you, Carlos!


message 35: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Hair | 3 comments If you read a book and it insults your delicate sensibilities, maybe they needed to be insulted.

In some cases, yes. Like in 1984 or A Child Called It, this is very true. Nobody wants to read those books, because they are horrifying. But if you do you learn something about government and pyschology.

But, there are sometimes when this is NOT the case. If I don't learn anything, then it's not worth my quesiness. Like 6 chapters on two characters having erotic sex. I don't need to know!

message 36: by Kevin (last edited Feb 17, 2009 10:03AM) (new)

Kevin | 109 comments Here's a recent instance of "OMG I can't believe they did that!"
So I hope you all know of the T.V. Show Legend of the Seeker and the Book Series on which it is based (Sword of Truth I believe).
It's advertised as a fantasy for all ages on the back cover.
So we bought a copy of the first book for a 13 or so year old kid in the local children's book drive. Apparently, the Second Novel has a heavy duty rape scene in it. I just found this out.

Fantasy for all ages and it depicts a Demon Rape Scene?!

message 37: by Pat (new)

Pat Whitaker (whitakerbooks) | 54 comments Judging from the frequency of examples like this - and also some cover art, I sometimes wonder whether the marketing people have actually read (or understand) the work they are promoting.

Probably consider themselves too busy/important.

message 38: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 109 comments Pat, I believe you're right. You know I'll say it again, I still want to read the sword of truth series (A few Conan stories had worse), but when there's mis-advertising it can cause problems such as this.

Something like this wouldn't have bothered me when I was 13, I had already been "exposed to" (studied) Greek and Roman Mythology by that point (Chronos' Birth anyone?), but I don't know if this will bother the kid for whom I purchased the book.

I just hope the kid is mature enough to handle the books if he continues reading the series.

message 39: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay (lindsaybetz) | 2 comments Kevin wrote: "Have you ever picked up a book where you were revolted, I mean just absolutely disgusted with the writer?

I'm not talking about someone that actually warns you ahead of time of their challenging c..."

There was a book called "Zigzag" for teenagers. I can't recall which lady wrote it, but I was infuriated by the actions between a teenage girl and her boyfriend and how easily condoned they were.
Relatability was likely the intention, but it is not something I've ever wished to read as a teenager, and I don't like that it's so excused.

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