Good writing is overrated

Phil: This week we sat down and came up with a new mantra. “Stop messing around and get on with it.”

Progress has stalled while we fiddle with the book text then hum and haw over the query letter. Simply beating the first paragraph of the later into shape took 2 cakes, a pint and half of beer, 2 cups of tea and a glass of over-chlorinated water. I leave it to you to work out who consumed what but the point is we aren’t going to get anywhere until we start pushing this book out to some agents and publishers.

Those who aspire to bookdom know that the standard advice is to keep polishing your manuscript until it is perfect. I suppose this is because there are people out there who send off a first draft without bothering to see if it reads well and which professionals would rather not see bloating the slush pile. On the other hand it might just be a way of saying, “We’ve got enough books now. Would you all stop sending them to us.”, but I don’t think so. After all, publishers need new books. If the gems were never sent because the authors were busy agonising over odd words and commas then they would pretty quickly go bust.

It’s not like the manuscript is going to be untouched once a publisher has it either. At some point an editor will get their mitts on it and tell the poor author that the style stinks or the story needs more shape or that chapter 2 is b*****s and should be re-written before home time tonight or you won’t get any tea.

No, while polishing is all very well, we have concluded that there is something more important.

Tell a rollocking good story.

Look at it this way, has anyone ever read a book just because it was well written ? Yes ? Well they probably don’t get out much. No one, and by this I mean no-one who matters, goes on holiday with a whopper picked up from the airport bookshop and comes back saying that they enjoyed the punctuation or that the use of the past participant was excellent.

On the other hand, they do buy books that literary types consider very badly written. And they buy them in spades. I give you Dan Brown as an example. Even on the Writers & Artists day there were comments from the front about the quality of the prose, but no moans about the sales. When you buy a book you want to be transported to another world. As long as the writing style doesn’t get in the way and you are enjoying the plot, then you keep turning pages until the end.

Which is what we think we have written. There are some scene setting bits, some funny bits and some parts where we just move things along. You want to know about these people, you wonder if Kate will get it together with her old flame, find out why things are happening and see a few people get their just deserts – and by that I don’t mean trifle.

Neither of us is Lynne Truss, we want to be Dan Brown. Not only do we dream of seeing well-thumbed piles of our books in charity shops, we aspire to film deals, long lunches at The Ivy and book tours. All of this requires healthy sales and people desperate to know what happens in books 2 to 7.

Oh, and there is a discussion on the importance of “correct” English taking place on the Ceefax Letters pages. Someone has suggested that Shakespeare wouldn’t have been succesful if he hadn’t used the “correct” language. I’d suggest that using a man who couldn’t spell his own surname consistently and operated at a time when most of the population couldn’t read anyway as an example, might not be the best plan. Anyway, only masochists and actors read his plays. The rest of us go and see them on stage, where they usually are a rollocking good story.


1 Comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

One response to “Good writing is overrated

  1. Andy in Germany

    Oh, come on: Shakespeare wrote in street language, for heavens sake, and he did write good stories. They are easier to read if you speak German, by the way.

    Just a thought, perhaps you could send the publisher beer with the manuscript?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.