Yesterday I started reading “Silent Thunder” by Iris Johansen.
I’d read a book by this author in the past and I seem to remember that I enjoyed it, so I thought I might like this one. But I found the writing from the very beginning to be kind of jarring. It doesn’t flow and I find it difficult to immerse myself in. In describing it to my sister, I said that trying to get past the first few pages seems kind of analogous to a child trying to force down spinach or medicine or some other distasteful thing in order to get a treat/something better – in this case to see where the story is going and determine if its a worthwhile read.
Maybe this is just common to the genre (thriller) but what it reminds me of is the way I used to write, back when I was working on my first novel attempts. Lots of dialogue, sort of “hacky” and full of clichés. And she’s a NY Times bestseller! What does this mean?
Perhaps this is the same thing that I see on television. The “hack” is popular and what I consider the “good stuff” only merits a cult following and often gets canceled. So is really good writing perhaps not loved by the mainstream masses? But there are mainstream popular writers who do write beautifully. Stephen King, for instance and he’s been phenomenally successful, and I am sure there are others. But I think most of the bestsellers you see out there on the shelves, while they are well-known names, they are rather “hacky” writers.
Maybe it’s a matter of “good story vs. good writing.” I guess bestsellers often seem to be merely based on a good story, regardless of mediocre (if that) writing, which would mean that success does not necessarily equate with quality. But I would think you’d need both in order to be a winner. Or maybe the general public simply does not comprehend good writing? I do not know. But it makes a huge difference.
My sister mentioned the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” which is apparently about the issue of “quality.” Perhaps I ought to read that sometime.
As I mentioned – that reading this reminds me of my own past writing – I think the reason I wrote the way I did in the past was probably at least partly due to the types of things I was reading and I was not familiar enough with really good writing to be able to grasp the difference. But it is quite profound. And it makes me wonder how my writing might be impacted by reading more high quality writers. I would hope it has made a difference.
And I did finish this book; it was a fairly interesting story, even though I didn’t care for the characters too much. I think perhaps this was not one of her best books, although it did get a lot of positive reviews. And it wasn’t really that it was badly written; perhaps it just isn’t what I am now used to.