Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Spoiled Milk by Morgan Mandel

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Not long ago, as I swallowed a swig of milk at lunch, I realized it was sour. Since I was almost through with my meal, I didn't request an exchange. What I did was go to the cashier and ask for a refund. She recognized me as a regular customer, so I had no problem. Still, the experience left me unsettled and wondering if I'd get sick.

To make an analogy, it's kind of like picking up a book written by a favorite author, starting to read it, then discovering it's not what you expected. In fact, it's so bad, you don't want to finish reading. That kind of experience can make you swear off an author for good.

Maybe you've learned more about writing since you became a fan of that author. Perhaps the author became careless, riding the tide and pumping out books just for the bucks, instead of the craft. There are lots of ways to make readers disappointed in books.

What about you? Have you ever been disappointed by a favorite author? Or, a book that looked good, but turned out mediocre or worse? Please share.
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Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
Latest Release - Killer Career


23 comments :

  1. I was a huge Stephen King fan, read everything he wrote. Until Misery. I hated that book so much I swore off King for years. I came back, but I'm more cautious with him, now. I don't read everything he writes. When I read his book on writing, I understood Misery--didn't like it any better, but understood.

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  2. I discovered an author who writes a long series. I loved the book, so I bought every book in the series and read them all. Then I had to wait for the next one. By the time it came out, I'd lost interest and had moved on. I think the protagonist had become so familiar to me that I wanted something new.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  3. For me, it’s not finding a favorite author who has suddenly fallen off the rails. Rather, it is my naive tendency to believe the blurbs on the book jacket, and then find out that the book’s “laugh out loud humor,” for example, is non-existent. Then I begin to wonder what they might have been talking about: is there a concept of humor in the book publishing world that is very different from that out here in the heartland? Or is it merely hype trying to sell books?

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  4. I have been disappointed on numerous occasions by books from authors whose work I had previously enjoyed. That's why I stopped reading every book that comes out by Stephen King, Patricia Cornwall, and James Patterson. And I have a lot more respect for the work of authors such as Sue Grafton and Dennis Lahane, who don't churn out book after book, just to capitalize on their names.

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  5. Whenever I discover a bad book by a good author (or a bad album by a good band, or a bad painting by a good artist), I remind myself that artists and writers must experiment, and not every experiment succeeds. I may not finish the book, but I'll still check on the books that come after it. That bad book may be part of the journey to a book that is brilliant.

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  6. Morgan,
    Great post and a reminder of how I got so annoyed with the last book I read by one of my favorite BIG name authors. I won't mention her moniker, but she writes western historical...my genre, and I've bought each and every one she's published.

    I'm not sure if the problem I noted in the last release was something she'd done all along, and I never noticed because I hadn't been through so many editorial sessions of my own, but if I had read "he muttered an oath," one more time, I think I would have set fire to the book and roasted wieners for dinner. :) I swear that phase was used in almost every chapter at least once or twice.

    I believe that when we grow as authors ourselves, we continue to learn more and more about the craft, and then start to notice the problems in the work of others.

    If only I could apply this keen wisdom to finding issues with my own writing. *smile* But as you know, our brains read what we think should be there. I'm a firm believer in critique groups for this reason.

    But...my editorial self has definitely affected my reading self, and I detest it. I can't sit down and enjoy a book anymore without reading with a critical eye. I didn't mean to become an editor...it just happened. *smile*

    Oh, and I might mention I no longer "promote" the work of mainstream authors on my blog or other posts...when I'm asked in interviews or write articles, I list my favorite E-published friends instead. They need the promo so much more than Steven King. *lol* Hell, James Patterson is so rich he's paying for TV time so he doesn't have to kill off Simon Cross.

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  7. Well, it's all subjective anyway. Stephen King has never really disappointed me with his writing. My tastes just changed which is the only reason I stopped reading. I can usually tell when HE lost interest--Gerald's Game and Delores Claiborne that he admitted were written purely to get him out of a contract--and they show it. But they're still head and shoulders above a lot of authors' best.

    But having said that much, yeah...I have been disappointed by an author before. Quite a few of them--Melanie Rawn with her trilogy after the Dragon Prince trilogy, Karen Marie Moning with her Fever series, and others. They didn't live up to the original books that I fell in love with. I still the books and maybe, one day, I'll try again. Maybe it was just me at the time. But I do know that I put them aside and haven't picked them up since.

    BTW--The character's name is ALEX Cross. Not Simon. ;-)

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  8. I'm sure there are other examples, but the only one I can think of right now is Gerald's Game. Even though yes, King's writing is still excellent as far as craftsmanship, I really hated that book.

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  9. Yes, one of my favorite author's books started getting less - emotionally involving, for lack of a better term. They were about characters and situations that just didn't interest me.

    And ugh - glad I don't drink milk anymore!

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  10. Most definitely. I found some of the newer books by best-selling authors to be poorly edited, and that turns me off. My new favorite thing is to read debut authors' novels from traditional publishers. I'm rarely disappointed.

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  12. I read a few of Sue Grafton's alphabet series, but stopped when I began finding errors. In one case, her detective drives to the antagonist's house, leaves her keys in the car in case she needs to get away quickly, ends up trapped in the basement when the antagonist comes home, and uses her car key to loosen the hinges on the cellar door that leads outside. I guess the author forgot to mention the MC carried two sets of keys. :)

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  13. I'm with Shannon, re: Stephen King. I started reading some of his stuff and thought it was fine. But then I kept encountering books of his that I thought were ruined by his weirdness, and now I don't care to read anything of his. It was a bit like the saying "Familiarity breeds contempt."

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  14. I've just finished reading an old novel of Erica Spindler's, Cause for Alarm. I love her books and this one was no exception, but everytime I hit the phrase "drew his (her) eyebrows together." I was wrenched out of the story. I counted at least 20 occurrences.

    We all have crutch words/phrases that we reach for, but what surprised me most was that it wasn't picked up in the editing phase. Other than that small annoyance, it was a great read.

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  15. I need strong recommendations from very trusted friends in order to spend the time reading any book now. Maybe that's a carry over from when I was in high school and only read books from the "college bound" reading list. Hmm...wonder what that says about me.

    Sharon
    http://grandmaisawriter.blogspot.com

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  16. I am a very loyal reader to certain authors. I've read all of Jean Auel's Earth's Children series, even though I think she ran out of gas after the second one. I quit on the Harry Potter series after the third book because what I found delightful about the first book was the whimsical language and being introduced to such fresh, novel characters. By the third book, the novelty had worn off and I gave up.

    I think Tony Hillerman's last few books were not up to his earlier standards, but I devoured every word just because I love his characters and settings.

    Haven't been disappointed yet by Diana Gabaldon... and am waiting (im)patiently for the next Jamie & Claire novel.

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  17. Right as I began to post a comment, James Patterson's newest commercial for Alex Cross' series came on! Coincidence or divine sign?

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  18. When I first started reading Sue Grafton, I loved her work. It didn't take long to get to "E," though, which I failed twice to get far into. Both times it was the same block of dense prose, and I finally put her work down for good.

    Not that she's a bad writer, but I suddenly felt bored. Same thing happened to me with Tom Clancy.

    Bob Sanchez
    http://bobsanchez1.blogspot.com

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  19. I enjoyed reading the comments to this article, they’re so insightful. I don’t have any big names to mention, but I have stopped reading or lost interest in novels when I realized the topics in it weren’t being talked about like I expected. I suppose I was mislead by the back flap of the book or was looking for something different than what the author had in mind. I'm a bit of a knowledge hound. I have changed authors because the author I had just read was giving a lot of the same (characters and situations) in their next novel.

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  20. I once bought a 'book of the movie' (I won't name names). Although I loved the movie, the book was so badly written (at least, in my opinion) I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters.

    Some years later, I went to hear that author give a talk, in which he proudly informed us that he'd written that particular book in two and a half weeks.

    I think we were meant to be impressed with his 'achievement'. Needless to say, I was not :(

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  21. I like reading the book first, then seeing the movie. The reverse usually disappoints me. When a movie is based on a book, something about the book caught the attention of the producer or a movie wouldn't have been made from it.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

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  22. Great post Morgan, look at all these comments! But since no one has mentioned the author that immediately sprang to my mind, I have to add a note of my own about Nicholas Sparks.

    "The Notebook" was so charming. Yes, I'd read that his ms was heavily red-inked on every line and that it took him some time to complete all the edits that million dollar advance required. But one would hope a great storyteller would continue to get the editorial support he needed.

    Wrong. The editors obviously kicked him to the curb before "Message in a Bottle," which they obviously felt people were bound to read after such a strong start. But Sparks wasn't ready. The prose was laughable. Despite a decent premise and the fact that he continues to be a best-selling author I lost respect for him and have never picked up another Sparks book.

    And why am I sitting here writing about this on Christmas morning? Those little boys who once begged me to get out of bed and open gifts at 6 a.m. are now 20 and 22, that's why!

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  23. These great comments point to an interesting commonality: ALL writers, no matter how "famous" they may be, need excellent editors to maintain the quality that keeps their readers coming back for more. Of course, some are more talented than others, but readers never need to know whose works are heavily edited and whose are just tweaked here and there. The final product should always take the reader by the hand and lead him/her into a compelling story that holds that reader spellbound from beginning to end.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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