Okay, so I finished Laurie Brown's "Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake." Now, go ahead, chuckle at the title. I did. But here's the thing: It's a brilliantly written book.
Something to remember, my friends, as you're making your way through the stormy seas of publishing. Good writing is good writing, no matter where you find it. When I started getting seriously serious about my career, about twelve years ago, I met a woman who was a hard core romance writer. (I now call her my good friend Betsy.) Betsy had a wonderful voice not only for contemporary romance, but also for historical, something I've told her many times over the years. Unfortunately, the group we were in was led by a woman who was a literary writer. (I can hear some of you booing at your computer screens.) This woman would say things like, "Well, it's only romance." As if romance wasn't worthy of her time.
I'm sorry to say that Betsy doesn't write a lot of romance anymore, and that's too darn bad because she's very good at it. She is focusing on another genre, though, one that takes even more talent and determination, Young Adult, and I can't wait for her trilogy to get published because it is going to rock the Young Adult world!
But I digress.
I've read a lot of books, and I'll admit, I've gone through my snobbish phase about romance as well. Sure, I read a lot of Harlequin when I was a teen, who didn't? But writing it? Nah...I wasn't interested. And then I took a look at the contributions romance writing has brought to the table. Romance novels have gotten a bad rap over the decades because they are generally sold in paperback, (And therefore not quite as "worthy" as hard cover books) and they typically cost less in book stores. (Why do we have to spend $30 on a book for it to be a "Good book?")
Then I got deeply serious about writing and found myself, thanks to Betsy and my other very good friend, Linda, joining RWA (Romance Writers of America.) And just being in a professional group, and writing is a profession, don't let the fact that most of us work in our sweats fool you, made me take a second look at what goes into publishing a book, any book.
Getting published isn't what it once was. I read "Moby Dick" a couple years ago and I maintain that that book is the WORST BOOK ever written. How can I prove it? Easy: That book didn't sell well when it was first published: In a time when there was no TV, no Wii, no Internet, no radio, no movies, NOTHING ELSE TO DO BUT READ AND NO ONE WANTED TO READ IT! It's a terrible, rambling mess of a book that wouldn't get out of a slush pile these days.
But, Sarah, it's an EPIC! How can you bad mouth the Great American Novel?
I'm not. The theme of Moby Dick is epic. The writing is terrible.
Just because a book has a lot of words and uses archaic language doesn't make it a good book or a classic book or a book worth reading. (All those of you who are being forced to read "Moby Dick" for school, read Cliff's Notes. I never tell people that, but this book is so pointless, you'll save yourself a ton of aggravation and get a better grade. Trust me.)
Good writing is good writing no matter where you find it. Why are "Wuthering Heights" and "Gone with the Wind" so beloved? Because the writing is amazing, the dialogue is true to life, and the characters are epic. Why are books like "Les Miserable" and "Moby Dick" met with groans of agony when assigned in class? Because they are mammoth, pointless, rambling, self indulgent tomes that wouldn't get a second look today. (And yes, I've read, Les Miserables, unabridged. I love the musical...just don't see why the author needed over a thousand pages. It's about five hundred too long. Again, trust me.)
In today's market, reading is fading fast for a couple of reasons: First: There's a lot of crap out there. (Some of it touted by Oprah...gasp!) I've picked up books and read the first thirty pages (That's my cut off for whether I'll continue or not) and wonder how a book got published. Somehow publishers and booksellers are laboring under the delusion that books won't sell if they aren't "highbrow."
Given how many bookstores have gone under in the past two years, and the fact that Barnes and Noble is struggling, you'd think they'd pay more attention.
Don't get me wrong. I read a lot of different genres of books. Some I love, some I don't. I tend to read darker murder mysteries rather than a romantic comedy, but there's a time and a place for every genre of writing and reading.
Just because a book is a quick read or an easy read or is approachable, does not make it a bad book. A boring book is a bad book. A poorly written book is a bad book. A book that's so enigmatic and "deep" that no one can finish it or understands it, THAT'S a bad book. (I read a TON of Joyce Carol Oates in my day. Some was good. Some left me wondering why I bothered.)
So, my friends, as you toil in your basement office, wondering if anyone is ever going to publish what you've written...or if you're reading a romance or a comedy or something that's just plain fun to read, take heart. Good writing is good writing and a good book is worth reading no matter where you found it.
So go read "Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake." I'm serious. You're going to love it!
(And if Moby Dick or Les Miserable are your favorite books, then I'm sorry...no offense meant!)