THE Group for Authors! discussion

52 views
Publishing and Promoting > Which is more important?

Comments Showing 1-33 of 33 (33 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Lennon Which is more important to you?
That a book is well written.
Or
That it is a good story.

Obviously I don't mean things like spelling and grammar mistakes but some books I've found to be over descriptive. Whilst others lack enough description.

In my opinion, regardless of the style or quality of writing, it all comes down to the story itself. Do I care about what is going to happen to the characters within.

What are your thoughts?


message 2: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 258 comments Andy wrote: "Which is more important to you?
That a book is well written.
Or
That it is a good story.

Obviously I don't mean things like spelling and grammar mistakes but some books I've found to be over descr..."


I can only go on reviews that readers have provided. Those that like plot have been so lost in the story that they haven't commented on grammar, typos, descriptive content, etc..

Others have only concentrated on that and some that is all they ever review, not the story at all. Some books do have too much description IMHO because I like to imagine what people look like or what a place looks like and not be told every detail.


message 3: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Lennon Thanks, that's the opinion I was hoping for.
I'm in the middle of my first book and have tried to concentrate more on telling a good story rather than bombard the reader with descriptive images.
Obviously I have put some description in but left the majority to the readers imagination.
I was feeling a bit unsure, as you say, some people ONLY concentrate on that stuff.
Thanks for your input, it is appreciated.


message 4: by Ken (new)

Ken (kendoyle) | 347 comments The amount of description is entirely dependent on the writing style, so I don't mind either way.

I will not read a book with poor writing (by which I mean grammatical errors, typos, clunky sentences, adverbs in dialog tags, etc.) so, for me, that's more important than the story. But I'm probably in the minority.


message 5: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Lennon Ken wrote: "The amount of description is entirely dependent on the writing style, so I don't mind either way.

I will not read a book with poor writing (by which I mean grammatical errors, typos, clunky senten..."


Thanks for your input Ken.
Obviously I will be double and triple checking for any typo/grammatical errors. I also have a list of ten people who will be checking after me, so hopefully that will be avoided.
After reading "on writing" by Stephen King I noticed when reading, he had it spot on with the adverbs. They are just annoying! I have tried to avoid them as much as possible.
I'll take what you have said on board.

Thanks


message 6: by Ken (new)

Ken (kendoyle) | 347 comments Good luck with your book, Andy. Yes, having an editor definitely helps.

I also liked Stephen King's book--one of my favorites.


message 7: by Debbie's Spurts (D.A.) (last edited Aug 28, 2013 08:51AM) (new)

Debbie's Spurts (D.A.) Some books go the other direction and are so copy-edited that the writer's style/voice was lost. Fiction should not read like writing a research paper and having to follow whatever style manual the class or editor swears by.

I like the phrasing author Mary Robinette Kowal used in a post showing up today on goodreads and asking for beta readers: "…Talking to me about sentence level stuff at this point is like going to a rehearsal and saying, “Your actors aren’t in costume.” I know that. In other words, what I’m looking for is your reader reaction. …"

There's a careful balance to it for me as a reader. The prosody or flow of a very good story can roll right through a lot of typos and editing problems — I judge the copy-editing problems based on how much of my reading time was spent having to interrupt it to repeatedly re-read sentences and paragraphs trying to make sense of the thing. It gets irritating when a potentially good story takes me two or three times as long to read because of the errors.

Yes, a really good story the reader gets immersed in sweeps you right past a lot of errors. Awfully hard to get immersed in a story if you can't make out what author is trying to say.

If I'm not volunteering/hired as beta-reader or copy editor — I do expect books I buy to have already fixed problems before being published. Don't post up on websites and booksellers for download to get fixes from reviewers or readers writing in. I'm particularly disillusioned with the self-published authors who have the free sample copy-edited but don't bother with rest of the book (okay, some copy-editing services are to blame for that one by offering to copy edit first few pages at no charge).

I like giving new authors a chance. I have learned to always download a sample if available. If sample or if first quarter of book poorly edited … I don't read the book (a few regrettable times due to personal relationship with authors, a goodreads group team challenge, group BOTM, group buddy reads, etc. have forced me to finish some; the experience has also made me drop out of some group fun.)


message 8: by Charles (new)

Charles In a way this is not a meaningful question. A book which is well written would have the right balance of description and story, wouldn't it? If you don't think the balance is right, then the book is not well written. It seems to me writers walk into dangerous territory here. You're trying to predict other people's tastes. Some people don't like two-word utterances (probably not sentences). Some people think beginning a sentence with a conjunction is an error. Gaddis's JR is all dialogue. Garcia Marquez and others have written books with no dialog. Are these things wrong? What is so special about grammar? Some people would say that variant grammar obtrudes on the flow, attracts too much attention to the text, is mannered. Is there something wrong with being mannered? Is there something wrong with the fun of encountering a new narrative voice? It's not competent criticism to fault an author for not having written the book you think he should have, rather than the one he actually did.


message 9: by Charles (new)

Charles Oh yes, and what exactly is the difference between description and story? It would be pretty hard to advance the plot of a detective novel if you were debarred from telling the reader that the gun was in the dead man's left hand. Elmore Leonard might have wanted to transfer this bit of information to dialog, but that so easily becomes characters telling each other what ought to have been obvious to both so that the reader can overhear. A bad editor homogenizes the voice for the market. A good editor sharpens the voice on the principle that if an author is any good he will create his own readers. Readers who complain they don't know what the author is trying to say might consider whether this is the reader's problem instead. Courage, Andy. You know more than you give yourself credit for.


message 10: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Lennon Charles wrote: "Oh yes, and what exactly is the difference between description and story? It would be pretty hard to advance the plot of a detective novel if you were debarred from telling the reader that the gun ..."
Thank you, that was actually quite inspiring.
I guess you're right. It doesn't matter what I write or how I write it. Some people just won't like it and some other will.

I appreciated everyone's comments, thank you all very much.

I'll go back to writing now.
Watch this space


message 11: by Norm (new)

Norm Hamilton (normhamilton) | 153 comments Hi Andy. I expressed my thoughts on the value of copy-editing and proofreading on my writer's blog. Feel free to have a look.

In my view, it is essential to have someone else review your text.

Norm


message 12: by Charles (new)

Charles Norm wrote: "In my view, it is essential to have someone else review your text."

Absolutely. Someone you trust. Not necessarily a professional editor. You need to get out of yourself.


message 13: by Jerry (new)

Jerry Ash | 40 comments Charles wrote: "In a way this is not a meaningful question. A book which is well written would have the right balance of description and story, wouldn't it? If you don't think the balance is right, then the book i..."

Well, it may be impossible, but in my long life of writing I have always considered what the reader likes to be the most important factor. I write for the reader, not for myself. If you don't understand what the reader wants, then you are just talking to yourself.


message 14: by Charles (new)

Charles Certainly it is helpful to know what the reader wants. But the reader can be brought to realize the value of things he or she has not encountered before. There is no reason to be enslaved to market forces or the limited experience of some readers. I do not call seeking to enlarge the possibilities to be writing for oneself. Quite the contrary.


message 15: by Jerry (new)

Jerry Ash | 40 comments I see your point. In between there has to be a balance. Unfortunately, I do not find that balance in today's media where the message seems to be more aimed at getting attention than delivering facts.


message 16: by Debbie's Spurts (D.A.) (last edited Aug 30, 2013 06:52PM) (new)

Debbie's Spurts (D.A.) Charles wrote: "...What is so special about grammar? Some people would say that variant grammar obtrudes on the flow, attracts too much attention to the text, is mannered. Is there something wrong with being mannered? Is there something wrong with the fun of encountering a new narrative voice? It's not competent criticism to fault an author for not having written the book you think he should have, rather than the one he actually did. ..."

I'm not one to think editor, readers and/or author should go rounds over a single word or comma. Author's words/voice should win in the over-picky about grammar stuff ( particularly some comma issues different editors and style books can literally argue to death). It's actually not a good idea to be edited until after you have finished the story and made sure your voice, your narrative and the tale you meant to tell are in place. And to argue against editing that damages that voice (not the type of line edit proofreading that corrects " teh" to "the" but editing that changes your words). A benefit of self-publishing is being able to discard unwanted edits.

But no one will understand the exciting new narrative voice if the grammar is so horrible the book makes absolutely no sense. That's not the same as criticizing or finding fault with an author for not writing the book the way you want them to. It's about being able to read the thing. Books are in a language with words and those words do need to be structured to communicate to the reader. New or unusual grammar does not usually speak well to anyone outside a circle of people used to your idea of grammar.

And any author trying to actually sell their book needs to keep in mind that their readers will consist of those who (1) do not care about the editing, (2) struggle with the story without realizing it is because of the editing or (3) are readers that do care about the editing (sometimes enough to not give story a chance or review badly because they had to struggle to read the thing). The avid readers that do actually buy a lot of books are likely in (2) or (3) — and as group (1) reads more their tastes are likely to turn to the better written books as even they get tired of struggling … never mind the top reviewers and bloggers with a huge TBR pile — which books do you think they'll read and review, the ones that catch them up in story right away or the one that's so hard to read due to ungrammatical, badly edited bits?


message 17: by Jerry (new)

Jerry Ash | 40 comments Hellraiser—Mother Jones: An Historical Novel

Well said Debbie. I have said my peace before on this topic. I just wanted to compliment you (with an "I", not an "E". Hmm, now should that quote mark be inside or outside of the period? Well, I guess it depends whether you are English or American. Go figure. (Or should I translate that last sentence into accepted English? :)


message 18: by Jerry (new)

Jerry Ash | 40 comments Oh, and Debbie, one more thing. I insisted on having Mother Jones say ",said I." when quoting herself in my historical novel. Some of my draft readers went crazy over that. I won. Well, MoJo won. That, by golly, was the way Mother Jones talked!

You see, it's okay to break rules or tradition as long as you have a good reason. I had mine. And, as I used to tell my photo journalism students, "Before you can effectively break the rules of composition, you have to know them."


message 19: by Debbie's Spurts (D.A.) (last edited Aug 30, 2013 11:20PM) (new)

Debbie's Spurts (D.A.) LOL, the differences in U.K. and U.S. English deserve a group all their own. Of course it is okay to break tradition and do whatever you need to do to keep your author and your characters "voice" as wanted to tell the story. Dialogue in particular can vary as widely from standard grammar rules as it does in real life conversations. But there is a fine line between breaking with tradition deliberately and not having sentences/paragraphs so poorly worded most readers have to struggle to make out what author is saying (plus loading with huge amounts of outright typos that make no sense to the story)—that divide is between deliberately breaking the rules sporadically to stay true to characters/story versus a story that sounds like author was an amateur who had no clue or made no effort.

I wish some of the authors I've struggled to read had at least been consistent. A consistent dialogue style for a character. A consistent style (wording, phrasing, punctuating, structure) of something ungrammatical allows the reader to adjust—once accustomed to the break from standard writing at least it doesn't interrupt the flow of the story and sometimes the reader even assumes author/editor thought it was correct. Odd structuring that is so inconsistent a reader keeps having to stop and interpret what author meant …*shudder*… one author wrote so badly that when something was correct it threw me out of the story.


message 20: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 258 comments Lots of discussions about editing elsewhere on GR, not that there aren't excellent points made here, but the question posed at the start was about good story or well written and then descriptions. Some authors are very descriptive - I would call that almost flowery language. Some authors especially in the thriller or action genre use very little except when describing the horrific injuries or deaths. In a movie the action thriller has turned into all action and no thrill, with exceptionally thin plots. I can admire the special effects explosions, the prettiness of the lead characters, but what happened to the script or plot. In either case unless the story has a plot I find myself bored. In that sense I am plot driven and long descriptive books with little plot bore me. I can still admire the writing much as I admire a classical music composition for the excellent musicianship even if I'd rather listen to a Blues guitar solo. In the end you pay your money (or free download) and make your choice.


message 21: by K.T. (new)

K.T. (ktbowes) | 5 comments I did recently struggle through 6 kindle books by a Haitian author because the storyline was amazing. I realised that some of the errors may have been caused by translation and even though it was dreadfully annoying at times (especially when she changed the names of her characters half way through by accident) I soldiered on. My daughter had the same problem. We only stopped reading the series when it became unexpectedly pornographic as well as grammatically awful, but had it not become so, we might have carried on. Alternatively, I did dump a kindle download after 3 chapters because I just couldn't cope with the errors, which constantly destroyed my concentration.


message 22: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 258 comments K.T. wrote: "I did recently struggle through 6 kindle books by a Haitian author because the storyline was amazing. I realised that some of the errors may have been caused by translation and even though it was d..."

Kindle and other ereader formatting is a huge issue and can destroy the feel of a book because the reader controls font size and type. In my third book I originally used different fonts to indicate the two points of view being used, in Kindle this just doesn't work. The PDF version was fine and I could use the technique for a printed copy. Instead I have resorted to using an embedded image to indicate the POV, but it still doesn't stand out as clearly as I would like. Chapter breaks, headings tables etc, can all be destroyed by the viewing device and can take away from the content or story. For non-fiction this must be even worse. I don't write non-technical as an author but I do read non-fiction including technical manuals, then my Kindle falls down and I resort to an iPAD or computer screen. Of course I could carry the book but when I am working the weight of the books becomes impossible.


message 23: by Jerry (new)

Jerry Ash | 40 comments Philip wrote: "K.T. wrote: "I did recently struggle through 6 kindle books by a Haitian author because the storyline was amazing. I realised that some of the errors may have been caused by translation and even th..."

I do like the convenience of ebooks, but my wife is a graphic designer and we both think of ebooks as a primitive form of publishing. Like you, Philip, Michele has done everything she can to present the best possible format on Kindle and with about the same result as you mention. We like epub much better, still limited but evidence that ebook technology could do a lot better.

One thing that bugs us about the Mobi/Kindle technology is that it opens up on your device on the prologue or chapter one. Skips past the BOOK COVER of all things! What's an ebook without a cover!?

I think if ebook publishing is to woo book lovers, it's going to have to act like a book! Hellraiser—Mother Jones An Historical Novel by Jerry Ash


message 24: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 258 comments Jerry wrote: "Philip wrote: "K.T. wrote: "I did recently struggle through 6 kindle books by a Haitian author because the storyline was amazing. I realised that some of the errors may have been caused by translat..."

The starts on on page can be set in the formatting, but I didn't realise that. So the ebook started on Chapter 1 or the Prologue but missed my notices and also some quotes I had put in. Another thing to check before publishing


message 25: by Jerry (new)

Jerry Ash | 40 comments Philip wrote: "Jerry wrote: "Philip wrote: "K.T. wrote: "I did recently struggle through 6 kindle books by a Haitian author because the storyline was amazing. I realised that some of the errors may have been caus..."

Yes, I forgot about that and I do believe that my wife-friend-partner-graphic designer did do that on the Hellraiser ebooks.


message 26: by Darlene (last edited Sep 06, 2013 01:51PM) (new)

Darlene (goodreadscomdarlenebieseschultz) | 1 comments Debbie O'Neal wrote: "Charles wrote: "...What is so special about grammar? Some people would say that variant grammar obtrudes on the flow, attracts too much attention to the text, is mannered. Is there something wrong ..."

In my opinion, a story using the POV character's dialogue can break rules. For example: "I could of gone fishing," he said. Or, " I don't think it's that good a day for being out on the water," she replied. When using dialogue the rules of grammar can be broken in order to make the charaters more believable. Although when describing something or somewhere, I try to use "proper" grammar. What do you think about the difference in the rules for dialogue verses descriptions of the story, etc.?


message 27: by Corinda (new)

Corinda Marsh | 9 comments My novel, A Civil War, is written in three different voices. Each one had its own set of grammar and punctuation rules. Omniscent voices need to follow the rules of standard written English, other voices do not. One of my voices was that of a slave woman in the 19th century. Her diary had no punctuation except periods, which I believe is the only way she could have written. I received considerable criticism for this, but to do it any other way would have been impossible. It was very difficult to change punctuation each time I changed voices but it was necessary. If you don't know how to use the rules of standard written English, I doubt your ability to write a credible story of real worth. Sorry, that's just the way it is. Learn the rules or don't write. Once you learn them, you may break them, but know them first.


message 28: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 258 comments Corinda wrote: "My novel, A Civil War, is written in three different voices. Each one had its own set of grammar and punctuation rules. Omniscent voices need to follow the rules of standard written English, other ..."

That sounds incredibly complex so well done.

As for the rules which rules do you mean? There are no standard spelling rules between English, US English, Aus English, Canadian English, etc...

Punctuation varies by author style, author voice, age, background, publisher style then mix in variables like in and out of dialogue.

Writing is one of the methods of communication; is a text message not writing? Would a book written in all txt (deliberate) be any less valid than slave dialogue. Should I put a comma inside the speech marks or after? Should I start a sentence with a conjunction? Should and in a list have a comma before or not? Should speech marks be a single ' or dual "? I have seen both in professional edited and published books.

English is an ever evolving conglomeration of Latin, Anglo, Celt, Saxon and now Indian, Arabic, and who knows what else. Spice in some Russian and English perceived pronouncements of Chinese. Thank goodness we don't have male and female objects to add to the mix.

If I screw up the use of wander with wonder or many other common errors, does it make my plot worse.

I saw some Jacobian English the other day it's unrecognisable in terms of spelling, grammar and even word usage. I can just see the reaction to a Shakespeare script now.

Language is an ever changing field, as your use of slave language demonstrates.


message 29: by Corinda (new)

Corinda Marsh | 9 comments I like your comments and agree with most of them. There are accepted rules for most of the issues you mention but certainly not 100% agreement even among the gurus. As an English professor, I taught the "standard written English" rules as they are (mostly) agreed upon by MLA (Modern Langauge Association). Where the comma goes in our papers is not arbitrary, but other disciplines have different rules. APA is quite different and I recognize that but I suppose I'm just tired of reading books whose authors don't seem to know the difference between its and it's or then and than. As for books that might be written as all text messages, I would consider that the same as my inclusions of the slave diary. It would have its own rules. A student once told me that I was elitist and provencial, and I admitted that he probably was correct. Sorry, I still like rules, but I no problem with someone breaking them for a reason. I'm very Southern so much of my writing reflects this and breaks the rules for a reason. If you know the rules, you can break them. I understand, however, there are many different sets of rules:-) I have some explanations of some of the rules I go by on my website, corindamarsh.com Oh, as for Jacobian English, it had its set of rules too. I've compared Old English (not readable by most of us today, myself included), Middle English, Shakespearean English, and many dialects so I appreciate that this is a living language. I just like to go by today's rules when I write today. I was once asked to translate Shakespearean plays into rap language and refused. The beauty of Shakespearean language stands alone. The Bard got it right, but it was right for his time, not ours. I loved the sound of his words but understand that was a different time with differnt rules. Have a great day--loved hearing your thoughts.


message 30: by Corinda (new)

Corinda Marsh | 9 comments OOPS, see I can't even spell language, so what do I know:-)


message 31: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 258 comments Corinda wrote: "I like your comments and agree with most of them. There are accepted rules for most of the issues you mention but certainly not 100% agreement even among the gurus. As an English professor, I taugh..."

You are quite right, it wasn't a dig!

I have a lot to learn, despite my age and business experience. I have reviews that mention editing which is an ongoing discussion in several groups. I wish I had invested in a professional editor to catch my faux pas, but invested is the word. Writing may have taken over my life but it doesn't pay the mortgage. An investment in professional services has to have a return.

I too love the Bard but especially when acted, reading is much harder. We can all speculate how language will appear in 500 years!

Damn just given myself another idea for a book!


message 32: by Corinda (new)

Corinda Marsh | 9 comments Great! Glad our conversation might have given birth to a new idea. I, too, have so much to learn. I have a Ph.D. in English and 68 years of life experience but know how much I have to learn. The more we learn, the more we are aware of how much we don't know. I edited my own books too and missed a few errors but I don't support myself on my writing so am unwilling to hire an editor especially since I am an editor. But, like a doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient, so does an author who edits her own words. I read what I meant to write instead of what is actually on the page. I'd be delighted to exchange ideas with you or maybe even edit some of your words if you'd like a pompas old provencial and elitist lady for a friend. My email address is on my webiste. Go gettum, Phillip. Get those keys hummin'. By the way, the argument about my being elitist was because I refused to categorize Star Wars as great literature. It is great entertainment--there is an enormous difference between the two.


message 33: by Debbie's Spurts (D.A.) (last edited Sep 07, 2013 06:52PM) (new)

Debbie's Spurts (D.A.) I am actually familiar with lots of style manuals and multiple English languages. No, they don't agree on everything. An author who lets the most reputable, experienced copyeditor they can find argue endlessly with them over the placement of a comma (particularly the "oxford" comma), a single word, or that their dialogue isn't standard English will do their book a disservice.

The style manuals and different versions of English do not agree on everything. But, they are in agreement on a lot of standards.

There's a big difference between minor errors (an uncaught typo like form versus from, text speak or slang not found in the style guides) and writing with sentence structure and grammar so terrible or convoluted you have to struggle (and likely read more than once) to make out what the writer is trying to say.

A writer has to be able to communicate with the reader. Or it's useless.

I very rarely am reading something with the author present to justify or explain why they were deviating from the standard language. Frankly, it would get irritating having an author breaking into story constantly explaining that, yes, they know the correct way to write the paragraph but they deviated because ...

I'm sure it's very clear in the writer's mind what they were trying to say. Possibly writer even explained on website, blog or an appendix of the book. Maybe they are incredibly clever to not be confined by mere rules. But when I read your book, I'm reading your book and not talking with you or perusing your sites. If I don't understand what writer is conveying, it is not a good story and not a goodread.

I am not likely to finish (and will relay that via word of mouth to my friends) your book; and, if you write others, I will browse right past them remembering what a struggle trying to read the first book was. An impression likely to remain even after an author has improved or gotten a publisher or copyeditor -- I just remember what a badly written book and the unpleasant struggle I had reading so why with thousands on my to-read list and millions of books out there would I peruse your sites to see if you've changed?

Copyeditors cost. Beta readers can be gotten free. Grammar software, apps and add-ons are not that expensive (even Word has a basic grammar check); not a substitute for the human eye but if the grammar checker marked something as odd, maybe you should pay attention before putting book up for sale.


back to top