Is there snobbery among writers?

I’m not certain I believe this, but I’m going to throw it out for the sake of discussion. I need to explain myself before I get into it, but I’ll be brief.

Here’s why writing appeals to me. It’s where I come from as a writer. I found this quote on the The Art of Manliness:

Choose to struggle with something – We live in a culture of the quick and the easy, and it has made us impatient and lazy. When you commit to something that takes work and see it through to the end, it will develop you as much as you develop it. — Jake Weidmann

That’s why I’m here. It’s a zen target where perfection doesn’t exist, and I want to keep improving.

We critique others and receive critique all the time. It’s our best shot at learning and improving. I have benefitted, and I hope I’ve helped others along the way.

All of the things we discuss matter, to an extent. How important are they to actual, even voracious readers?

I’m reading a book where there are about 17 chapters of character introduction and backstory. They just barely got to the haunted mansion where I expect something will happen. This is by a traditionally published author, but this story was self published. This means he had the skills to get a publishing contract at some point in his life.

As a writer, this is always bad form. The story started too soon, and backstory needs to be minimized.

Will the everyday reader care? I wonder how many of our taboos really matter outside writing circles. It annoyed me, but was it because I was taught to be annoyed?

What if we use too many adjectives and adverbs? Will consumer readers care? Agents and publishers will, but — Is this a writers version of being a Rolex wearer who makes a snide remark about his companion’s Timex?

The dialog in this book puts the other person’s name in every line, along with a dialog tag to indicate the speaker. As a writer, I know not to keep saying the other fellow’s name. If there are only two people, I probably don’t even need dialog tags if you get me started.

This story even has what writers call “as you know, Bob” dialog. This is where both characters already know something, but they go over it again because the reader doesn’t know it.

Am I being a snob here? We read each other’s blogs and hear stories where someone threw down a novel because there was a semicolon on the first page.

Really? Is that all it takes to discard years of hard work from a writer? This feels a lot like, “Oh, wine from a cardboard box — how unique.”

“As soon as I read ‘Jane guffawed’ I put the book in the fireplace.” You may have missed out on a good story too.

All of us are at a different place on this pilgrimage. I can see many of you ahead of me, but I hear some coming up behind me too.

For myself, I will take these lessons to heart. I want to improve my writing skill and deliver the best product I can. Tomorrow’s product will be better. It doesn’t mean that yesterday’s product sucked.

I’m going to be a bit more patient with my fellow writers. I’m also going to finish this haunted house story.

What do you think? Are writers, editors, publishers, and agents being snobbish on some things? The issues are important, but will those things really matter to consumers?

27 Comments

Filed under Writing

27 responses to “Is there snobbery among writers?

  1. thewriterscafe247

    Is it about the editors/agents being snobs or the writers being thin skinned? I’m not sure. Sometimes writers get back reviews and if they read anything even slightly negative they automatically say that the reviewer was “a snob” or just “being mean”. Who can say? No one can know for sure what readers, even the casual ones, will respond to or be annoyed by. *shrugs*

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    • It wasn’t even about that, but that’s part of it. I detect an elitist flavor to some of the writing advice out there. Most of it is very helpful, even the snarky stuff. You just have to winnow through the bologna.

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  2. You are definitely not a snob. In fact, you sound like you have a well-balanced view of authors on a continuum and a healthily amount of empathy. You also have your eyes open and are realistic about the work that’s in front of you. Throwing a book down over one mistake is, of course, ridiculous, but when clearly bad craft is repeated over and over again in a book, it’s safe to abandon it. There are too many other great books out there to waste time in the bad ones unless you’re helping that author or studying their work as an example of what not to do. 🙂

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  3. I think writers can’t help but read with a more critical eye. Just the other day I read a book that I judged to be poorly written, but when I looked on Amazon, it had dozens of 5-star reviews. I couldn’t believe it; this was the literary equivalent of junk food … but lots of people loved it. I guess I had a moment of snobbish indignation before I shrugged and thought, good on the author. She offered something to the world and people liked it. So it wasn’t poorly written; it was perfectly written for that audience.

    Writers can get frustrated when they read a popular book they think of as inferior to their own (unknown) work. You can either get bitter and depressed, or you can just focus on being the best writer you can be. All that really matters is finding your own voice and hoping like hell there’s an audience for it.

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  4. I like your point that we are all learning at at different places on the learning curve. Having just been introduced to indies last year, I have been less critical in my reviews. I also see a lot of mistakes in what I published last year myself. Some have been corrected, but some can’t be undone. I am leaving it alone, because it stands as my earliest work. I have over 20 five star reviews and just got my first two star review a few days ago. It sucked, and I am sorry to disappoint that reader, but it is what it is. It did not stop me from promoting the work. I don’t plan to un-publish just because I realize NOW that it has errors in craftsmanship. i can only hope to improve. I, along with everybody else, am learning.

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    • I’m going to get some stories on Amazon soon. I’m making a final pass on the first one now. I’m a better writer today, but it’s a good story. I’m going to do it.

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      • Just do it! I made dozens of mistakes when I first put my work out there. I did not have a blog then, I had not read hundreds of articles on the “Right” way to write, and to publish and to market. I have had professional editing with a revision since, and changed my cover from a microsofty thing my husband and I created to a professional cover. There are;perhaps, hundreds of things I might have done differently and maybe I published too soon. I think I would have been too intimidated to publish if I knew then what I know now, BUT I have no regrets. I have had a wonderful world of support and I have learned copiously from the experience.

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      • I’ve written 7 novels and working on my 8th. Some will never be released, but some will. I already have cover art for the first one, but keep it quiet. Lisa will drive me crazy if she finds out.

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  5. In my humble opinion, the written word is like food. And yes, that means there are snobs. I’m a foodie. I’ll eat anything once. And I’ll open any kind of book, because I’m a word junkie. But that doesn’t mean I’ll keep consuming it. I believe taste is taste. I cook to my own taste and I write the same way.

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    • I think many writers are foodies. I am too. I often wonder if many of the readers don’t put much stock in the writing rules. These are the same ones that are perfectly happy with McDonald’s. (To continue with your example) I’m sure readers come in different levels though.

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  6. In my private words, I’ve written many a diatribe about lack of standards amongst books, but will never share those thoughts publicly.
    Why not?
    Because I promised myself that I would never be one of those writers who is bitter and cynical toward a writer who genuinely wants to learn how to tell a great story. It does frustrate me to see books on Amazon– and heck, on bestseller lists– that could, IMHO, benefit from the attentions of an editor, but then I see people enjoy them anyway so who am I to judge?
    As writer, I know why I’m reading an awkward sentence twice to get its meaning, and why I stopped reading after three chapters because I couldn’t connect with the characters. But if other readers are getting enjoyment from the story, I see no reason to stand in their way.
    More books in the world is a good thing, not a bad thing!

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  7. Gede Prama

    Well written. May peace be with you 🙂

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  8. Nice writing! I really don’t care for some of the rules passed down the last number of years. It stifles a writer and a work in progress. Let it flow and whoever likes the writing will read. The others can be the losers. And for pete sake, none of us have arrived. At least, I haven’t and I know it.

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    • Thanks Drew. I will take the lessons to heart. I may choose to break a rule or two, but I’ll follow them wherever I can. I’m getting close to self publishing my first novel, and looking forward to what I learn along the way.

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  9. I find myself being both less patient and more patient with reading these days. I’m a ‘get me to the story quickly’ kind of reader, however, the patient person I am trying to be (not always successfully) tells me to wait for the gems, keep reading, the story will unfold. However, I’m more picky and hence less patient with poor writing than I used to be. Hazard of the trade, perhaps? If I keep stumbling on the writing, I don’t have the patience to continue. I don’t think of these reactions as snobbish, I think of them as learning from others and using my time wisely. Just a thought.

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  10. Hello! There are definitely some literary snobs out there. As a writer I do find myself nick-picking certain things at times, but I do give the book and writer a chance. I read a self-published book not too long ago. I found the storyline and characters fascinating. There were some typos that annoyed me at times, but I enjoyed the overall story. I know a couple of people that would have tossed the book the minute they encountered the first ‘the the’, and that would have been their loss. Yes, I agree that if you’re going to self publish a book you should have a professional editor edit it first, but some writers (usually writers that have never published anything themselves) need to relax and stop being so ridiculous. Honestly, I don’t think the average reader/consumer really cares, hence, ’50 Shades of Grey’.

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    • Thanks for the response. It always amazes me when an older post is still getting action.

      I’m much more forgiving than I used to be. Walk a little in the writer’s shoes and you learn just how hard it is.

      I’m still going to try following all the rules, but I’m not going to be such a perfectionist that I never accomplish anything.

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  11. miriamrburden

    I find myself being snobby about plot holes in movies like the Terminator series and in the Hunger Games. At the same token,I really have no right to be so critical. I’m not as successful as James Cameron or Suzanne Collins. What really matters is that they’re entertaining people right? No one can deny that the Terminator wasn’t at least entertaining if not a little thought provoking.

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    • In some ways, movies are different though. Viewers can’t see the semicolons. They still have to watch out for “as you know Bob”. I’m in the rules can be broken, but it has to be entertaining camp. Thanks for stopping by.

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  12. Nice humble posture. For me:

    What if we use too many adjectives and adverbs? Will consumer readers care?

    Yes. I sure do. The trying too hard is glaring.

    We each are entitled to our opinion. Thanks for the gracious roundtable.

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    • Wow! That’s an old post you found. I still ponder this topic. I want to constantly improve, and try to play by the rules. I agree with choosing great descriptors, rather than a sting of mediocre ones. I hold dialog as an exception though. The character may speak that way.

      Thanks for stopping by again, and feel free to speak up any time.

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