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You are here: Home > Forum > A Place of Safety > General Talk > Successful authors don't have to be great writers
Successful authors don't have to be great writers  [message #70023] Fri, 24 July 2015 10:06 Go to next message
Kitzyma is currently offline  Kitzyma

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As always with my postings, this is my personal view and I don't expect that it will be shared by everyone, or maybe not shared by anyone. Smile

A good story must have and interesting plot and well-drawn characters, at least one of which the reader should care about. Having great writing as well can make for a really great story. Great writing skill isn't just about spelling, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, etc. It's also about pace, descriptions that are detailed enough but not overblown, and choice of words that have the desired emotional context, etc.

I don't pretend that I'm even close to being a great writer, but I try to be the best I can. I sometimes spend an hour or more trying to craft a single paragraph, trying to make sure it says exactly what I want without any ambiguity or dangling participles and such like. Actually, sometimes it is never just right, even after hours trying to rework the whole section. So I just have to accept the imperfections and move on.

Thus it can be consoling to find that the stories of even successful authors contain many imperfections and it can be heartening to see that, despite imperfections, a good plot and engaging characters can enable success in the publishing world.

Here are the first three chapters of a story by a very successful author, famous for intricate plots and unusual characters. Personally, I think the writing is far from perfect, and  if it were my story, I'd feel an uncontrollable urge to rewrite much of it.

Here it is. What do you think of the quality of the writing? Do you know, or can you guess the author?

"The vicar's wife came round the corner of the vicarage full of chrysanthemums. A good deal of rich garden soil attached to her strong brogue shoes and a few fragments of earth were adhering to her nose, but of that fact she was perfectly unconscious.

She had a slight struggle in opening the vicarage gate which hung, rustily, half off its hinges. A puff of wind caught at her battered felt hat, causing it to sit even more rakishly than it had done before. 'Bother!' said Bunch.

Christened by her optimistic parents Diana, Mrs Harmon had become Bunch at an early age for somewhat obvious reasons and the name had stuck to her ever since. Clutching the chrysanthemums, she made her way through the gate to the churchyard, and so to the church door."

Kit
Re: Successful authors don't have to be great writers  [message #70024 is a reply to message #70023] Fri, 24 July 2015 10:31 Go to previous messageGo to next message
timmy

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I know I would not read further, but it is a dated piece, judging by the peppering of adverbs. The author is great at potboilers and her plots usually end with deus ex machina. I prefer the televised recent renditions of her work, the ones that remove the rubbish and major on characterisation, something she was almost good at, but, somehow, missed. Even so, she brings tourists here, so we musn't grumble. And we are probably the place St Mary Mead was based on, judging by our local characters.



Author of Queer Me! Halfway Between Flying and Crying - the true story of life for a gay boy in the Swinging Sixties in a British all male Public School
Re: Successful authors don't have to be great writers  [message #70025 is a reply to message #70024] Fri, 24 July 2015 10:52 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Kitzyma is currently offline  Kitzyma

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Quote:
timmy wrote on Fri, 24 July 2015 10:31 Even so, she brings tourists here, so we musn't grumble. And we are probably the place St Mary Mead was based on, judging by our local characters.

--

Yes, the style is dated, but even by standards at the time, I wonder if the writing would have been considered of a high quality. Yet she is famous and has sold lots of books, as did Barbara Cartland.  I also wonder if her stories would have been mostly forgotten if they hadn't been made into films and TV shows.

Having tourists has advantages for the local economy, but to some people there are big disadvantages. Apart from financial aspects, do you enjoy having tourists around? My ex-bf lives in an 18th Century smugglers' cottage which is next to the village green.  The little village is often full of visitors, especially on sunny days, at which times parking is a nightmare, the roads are clogged, and the noise of tourists on the village green can be very distracting. However, I'm sure that the local shops, restaurants  and pub think that such inconveniences are worthwhile.
Re: Successful authors don't have to be great writers  [message #70026 is a reply to message #70025] Fri, 24 July 2015 11:29 Go to previous messageGo to next message
timmy

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Without the tourist industry we would not have a prosperous town. I treat it as part of the cost of living here.

I think her writing was never viewed as great literature, but her plots were escapist, often trivial, easy to understand and enjoyable.

Dickens is viewed today as great literature, so wrote the ever turgid prose of The Bleak Curiosities and Expectations of Nicholas Dombey for our never ending alleged enjoyment and examinations in English Literature.

Fagin, was, of course, a major child molester, something that Lionel Bart almost made obvious in the film. And his tales were serials, so had to go on, and on, and on.



Author of Queer Me! Halfway Between Flying and Crying - the true story of life for a gay boy in the Swinging Sixties in a British all male Public School
Re: Successful authors don't have to be great writers  [message #70027 is a reply to message #70026] Fri, 24 July 2015 23:55 Go to previous messageGo to next message
kiwi is currently offline  kiwi

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At the risk of appearing stupid, (not hard for me to do), who is this writer you're discussing? - obviously a female, but who?

And, i love the image of peppering prose with adverbs - brilliant!

cheers
Re: Successful authors don't have to be great writers  [message #70029 is a reply to message #70027] Sat, 25 July 2015 07:11 Go to previous messageGo to next message
timmy

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"kiwi wrote on Sat, 25 July 2015 00:55"
At the risk of appearing stupid, (not hard for me to do), who is this writer you're discussing? - obviously a female, but who?

And, i love the image of peppering prose with adverbs - brilliant!

cheers

--
Why, she is Mrs Max Mallowan, of course Smile



Author of Queer Me! Halfway Between Flying and Crying - the true story of life for a gay boy in the Swinging Sixties in a British all male Public School
Re: Successful authors don't have to be great writers  [message #70030 is a reply to message #70029] Sat, 25 July 2015 08:08 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Smokr is currently offline  Smokr

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Ugh. The woman wrote trash that sold to lonely housewives who loved that it was written by another woman. If she was a woman. I wouldn't doubt 'she' was an early tranny.
I was forced to read some of her stuff so that I would be familiar with 'a classic writer of fictional works' by a stuffy old English teacher who also was likely an early tranny.
Anyway, I agree that fiscally successful writers needn't be technically good writers.

I've always been under the assumption that 'fag' came from Fagin's name. Not to change the subject. Maybe it was the other way round?

And I don't use tranny despairingly. There was no actual transitional sexuality operations then, and cross-dresser doesn't cover it, and I'm too tired to think of another adjective.

[Updated on: Sat, 25 July 2015 08:10]




raysstories.com
Re: Successful authors don't have to be great writers  [message #70031 is a reply to message #70030] Sat, 25 July 2015 08:35 Go to previous messageGo to next message
timmy

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Quote:
Smokr wrote on Sat, 25 July 2015 09:08Ugh. The woman wrote trash that sold to lonely housewives who loved that it was written by another woman. If she was a woman. I wouldn't doubt 'she' was an early tranny.
I was forced to read some of her stuff so that I would be familiar with 'a classic writer of fictional works' by a stuffy old English teacher who also was likely an early tranny.
Anyway, I agree that fiscally successful writers needn't be technically good writers.

I've always been under the assumption that 'fag' came from Fagin's name. Not to change the subject. Maybe it was the other way round?

And I don't use tranny despairingly. There was no actual transitional sexuality operations then, and cross-dresser doesn't cover it, and I'm too tired to think of another adjective.

--
Well, she gave birth to children. 



Author of Queer Me! Halfway Between Flying and Crying - the true story of life for a gay boy in the Swinging Sixties in a British all male Public School
Re: Successful authors don't have to be great writers  [message #70040 is a reply to message #70031] Sun, 26 July 2015 02:39 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Smokr is currently offline  Smokr

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Quote:
timmy wrote on Sat, 25 July 2015 04:35
"Quote:"
Smokr wrote on Sat, 25 July 2015 09:08Ugh. The woman wrote trash that sold to lonely housewives who loved that it was written by another woman. If she was a woman. I wouldn't doubt 'she' was an early tranny.
I was forced to read some of her stuff so that I would be familiar with 'a classic writer of fictional works' by a stuffy old English teacher who also was likely an early tranny.
Anyway, I agree that fiscally successful writers needn't be technically good writers.

I've always been under the assumption that 'fag' came from Fagin's name. Not to change the subject. Maybe it was the other way round?

And I don't use tranny despairingly. There was no actual transitional sexuality operations then, and cross-dresser doesn't cover it, and I'm too tired to think of another adjective.

--
Well, she gave birth to children. 

--
Were there witnesses?



raysstories.com
Re: Successful authors don't have to be great writers  [message #70041 is a reply to message #70029] Mon, 27 July 2015 00:13 Go to previous message
kiwi is currently offline  kiwi

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Mrs Max Who?? Okay, you got me - Google is great!

cheers
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