Saturday, March 19, 2016

Still Searching...

One of my old acquaintances (a writer) used to tell me not to criticize other writers. He never quite explained just why, but what I took away from his position was that writing is a tough enough task as it is without having fellow writers on your back.

And, I agree with that.

Despite what some people may say or think, I go out of my way to avoid specifying any writer whose work I dislike. On the one hand it's as my old pal hinted--the job is hard enough without being hamstrung by another writer pointing out the obvious. Second, it's just often cruel.

And the cruelty aspect of it lies in the fact that some work is so overwhelmingly awful that to bother criticizing the author in question would be akin to turning a paraplegic out of his wheelchair and kicking him in the teeth. Yeah, attacking some of it is that bad and that plain. What's the point?

For years now I have been tasting self-published books from time to time and looking for one that is well written. These days I don't even bother to look at the so-called "five star" reviews they garner, most having been bought and/or written by the close friends and relatives of the morons who self-published. Sometimes I will allow myself to be suckered into reading one of these travesties by someone--usually that someone being a self-published writer, or someone who inexplicably supports the self-publishing (crime) scene.

This week I located a self-published book on my own and downloaded it. I'm not even sure how I happened upon the author's website, but his blog seemed mildly amusing which hinted at a certain level of intelligence and perceptiveness on his part. And he was offering a free download to one of his books via Amazon. So, I bit.

I found that the book had a good hook. The first few pages were decent. He showed the level of humor and insight that I had figured from his commentaries at his website. The first chapter had some problems, but I have read traditionally published novels with similar quibbles that I enjoyed despite the flaws. Thus, I continued to read. Maybe, at last, I'd found a self-published novel that at least measured up to a competently written traditionally published book.

Alas, it was not to be. After a few more chapters the writing began to fail, as if the prose was suffering from some kind of cancer that was causing it to waste away, along with the logic of the plot. I struggled on to the mid-point before I finally gave up, skipped ahead to the final chapter and realized that I had not, in fact, located my first well written self-published novel. This one was garbage like all of the rest of them, even if I didn't encounter the stench and the rot until I'd unwrapped the unspoiled layer.

So it goes. I don't actively search for good self-published novels, because I realize that mathematically I'd hit the Powerball lottery before I'll find one. But I'm still willing to take a look now and again when I find myself in a good mood and with the necessary time to risk the whiff of shitty prose.

In closing, two examples of writing that I've actually read recently in self-published fiction:

"She was gladder and gladder that she'd met him." (That's actually a line from a self-published crime novel I tried to read. I got two pages in. It got worse.)

And the self-published science-fiction novel that had an evil alien race called "the Caca-dasians". (You can't make this shit up. Or, you can, but you have to be a dumb-ass shitty writer to do it.)

"I'm gone self-publish my novel. You c'n read it."


Mark Gelbart said...

Here's an idea for a book: A humorous collection of poorly written excerpts that you have found in self-published books. It would make me gladder and gladder to read something like that.

Maybe you could self-publish it.

James Robert Smith said...

That's actually not a bad idea. But I'd have to get someone with more patience than I have to compile the excerpts.