Feb 10, 2009

To Tell the Truth

by Valerie Ipson

The further I get into writing my first novel, the more I begin to look at other published works differently. In the past if I read a book that was bad (not bad, in that sense, but bad, as in poorly-witten) it would make me hopeful and I would think, "Well, this got published, what I write can, too." I know...it's all subjective, we all have our opinions about different books, BUT you know the novels I'm talking about--ones who have correct spelling and grammar, but every other sentence jars you out of the story because of the way the author has worded it. I read a few of those last year and instead of feeling hopeful for my publishing chances, it made me sad. No one told them the truth? Not even an editor or publisher, not even their friend or sister-in-law who read the story? I can forgive the latter two, it's a delicate business critiquing for a friend, but the former? Isn't this their job to produce a quality title?

Authors and writers out there, am I wrong here? Don't we want the truth? Sure, make it a sugar-coated, hedged-with-compassion truth, but give us the truth.


  1. I'm not sure Valerie. It is surprising what gets published that is truly poorly written while many rejected manuscripts are well written. Maybe someone should start a publishing company for the majors rejects that were actually quite good. Stephen King's Carrie was rejected 17 times. Bet those editors feel stupid. But I will tell you this, even in a trade publication, it's all about timing. What's hot counts.

  2. I want the truth. I don't want to waste a lot of time on something that is really poorly written, all the while I'm thinking it is great. But, I think Terri is right, it's all about timing. It's incredible what gets published.

  3. Valerie, I agree perfectly that poor writing can be exasperating. Especially for a composition teacher (or professional critiquer) who has to explain why it's bad. Didn't it feel great to vent your feelings? And to find you are not alone?

    When I got to "No one told them the truth?" I had to read several times to get a handle on what you meant by 'truth'. I'm still not sure. Is it being untruthful if a critiquer fails to mention (or notice) that (or how) a writing piece is not concise, pertinent, or is otherwise poorly constructed?

    Or is it merely the mood or the speed of the reader? I've discovered that a book I can't stand to read one day often turns into a favorite later on -- and the other way around.

    Writing can only be judged by how it grabs the reader at the particular moment of reading. There seems to be no perfect way to write -- or perfect way to read, as far as that goes.

    As my dad told me, Only in math (or maybe science) do we find perfection -- always either right or wrong answers -- real 'truth'.

    I agree with Dad, but I still find math boring.

    Hopefully, I can learn from any kind of writing;. Either what I want to emulate, need to avoid, or shrug off.

    I've also heard that sometimes publishers accept a book simply to fill and hold a bookstore slot, never expecting it to sell, or even be read. Now, that's a very sobering thought, if it's true.

    By the way, my dictionary lists ten separate definitiong for true, then explains how it can be used as a noun, adverb, or a transitive verb. then it adds ten more meanings when true precedes another word.

    Thanks, Valerie, for urging me to think, ponder, and seek. And I'm lazy enough to need prodding.


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