So what has set me off on my latest rampage? Within the past few months, I’ve read the latest books by four bestselling authors whose works I have always enjoyed. I am one of those fans who have put these authors onto the bestseller lists before their books are even in print by preordering them. But I have been dissatisfied by all four. And judging by some of the reviews they’ve received, I’m not alone.The books are all part of multi-book series (the range is 17-23 books). The first books in the series were published from 20-30 years ago. We’re not talking untalented beginners here.
I’m not going to name the books or the authors (I never know when I may meet one at a conference, find out she – yes, they’re all women – is a fan, and ask her to write a blurb for my work-in-progress). But the books I just read are, well, to be blunt, boring. There’s no tension, no suspense. Even if I haven’t figured out the culprit by the end, I don’t really care anymore. There seems to be no character growth from book to book.
There are other problems with the books. They all contain digressions that don’t just stop the action, but have no connection at all with the main plot lines. The authors have lengthy blocks of explanations that tell instead of show. When reintroducing characters we haven’t read about for 50 or more pages, they repeat the physical descriptions in almost the same words, as though they have forgotten we’ve “met” the characters before and just a couple of words will remind us who they are. They rely heavily on the assumption (probably correct) that the reader has read the earlier books in the series, refers to the events, but doesn’t give enough details for the reader (me) to remember what happened.
In an earlier blog, I asked “Are editors too inexperienced to catch the errors? Or are they too afraid to question or correct these bestselling writers?” I gave some examples of basic errors made by well-known authors:
* In one book, the author describes the character’s navel ring by using the same exact words (something like “her belly button winked”) several times. The first time was cute, the second an error, by the third and fourth annoying.
* A first person narrator approaches a victim who has been shot in the chest and is lying on his back. The narrator then describes what is on the back of the victim’s jacket.
* A woman is hit on the back of the head and falls backwards.I now have another head scratcher to add, one that had me scrolling backwards to figure out what I had missed: The protagonist calls home, says he’ll be home in an hour and will take the family to breakfast. He drives home, takes them out to breakfast (I think – it’s not mentioned again), drives back to the office, reads the paper, and flips through the phone messages left for him during his three-hour absence from the office. There would be no problem with the time line if the author hadn’t noted the character was feeling better after having eaten and gotten “several hours of sleep.” Huh? When did he have time to get any sleep?
Okay, I admit I’m nitpicking. But don’t the editors owe it to the authors – and to their fans – to find these basic writing flaws? And don’t the authors owe it to their fans to give their best effort and not just slap something together to fulfill their contract?
I’m not sure any of these four will be on my eagerly-anticipated-must-read-and-preorder list in the future. And I feel cheated by it.