Tag Archives: bad writing

Book Abandonment, and Why It’s Okay

Readers often feel a sense of guilt when abandoning a book. It could be simply that we’re not quitters, determined to finish a project or task no matter how unenjoyable. We’ve committed to this book, checked it out at the library or paid good money for it at the bookstore, and we are damn well going to finish it. Even if it’s the last thing we do.

Maybe we’re also competitive or, if you will, gluttonous. We want to read as many books as we can get our hands on. We’ve told ourselves we were going to read X amount of books this year (I’m currently behind on my personal 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge). If we can simply push through this book, it’s one more toward that goal, but in doing so, we end up slowing ourselves down.

The reasons we choose to give up on a book vary. It’s naive to assume that because you like a book everyone else you know will too. Reading is subjective. Sometimes your favorite blogger or Goodreads reviewer will fail you.

Here are a few reasons it might be time to let a book go.

Bringing Readers Inside the Bedroom

Writing about sex is hard (no pun intended). While there are plenty of writers who have found their niche writing romance novels filled to the brim with sensual scenes, the majority of us do anything to avoid a sex scene. As my book editing professor has mentioned on more than one occasion, readers don’t need to be taken into the bedroom. In other words, describe your lovers ripping each other’s clothes off and passionately kissing, but let the reader’s imaginations fill in the rest.

But what if you don’t want to stop at the bedroom door? How do you write about sex without causing your reader to roll their eyes, skip ahead, or feel completely awkward (mostly for you). For one, understand that metaphors and sex work–up until a certain point, at which you lose readers. In Slate.com’s recent article “The Worst Sex Writing of the Year Features Statisticians, Superheroes, and Brie Cheese,” Amanda Hess gives readers one example of what she deems a “delusional” metaphor from Manil Suri’s The City of Devi:

We streak like superheroes past suns and solar systems, we dive through shoals of quarks and atomic nuclei. In celebration of our breakthrough fourth star, statisticians the world over rejoice.

I have absolutely no idea what’s going on here, but Hess’ astute observation, “Congratulations–you fucked,” pretty much sums it up. When metaphors are too complex, they seem unrealistic. For most of us, sex doesn’t equate to feeling like a superhero diving through atomic nuclei and causing statisticians to rejoice. Hess also offers other examples of “bad” sex writing.

Shoddy Writing in Breaking Bad

I’m going out on a limb here: the finale of Breaking Bad was not good. With its general disregard for the viewer’s intelligence, I found it just another entry in a well-acted, but overrated, soap opera.

Let’s address that point first. Like the American soap and its many equivalents, Breaking Bad relies too often on coincidence to advance its plot. Take, for example, Walter’s chance meeting with Jane’s father in the bar in season 2, just prior to his witnessing Jane overdose in Jesse’s apartment. While heightening a sense of dramatic irony, the demand on the viewer’s suspension of disbelief is onerous. Is there, like, one bar in all of Albuquerque? Or the revelation that Andrea’s younger brother, Tomas, was the boy who killed Combo season earlier in the series. Too much.

“Felina”, the finale of season 5, makes use of coincidence in its pivotal scene: Walt, arriving at the headquarters of uncle Jack and the white supremacists, manages to gather all the supremacists in the same room, conveniently in position of his Jerry-rigged truck, recover his stolen keys without being noticed, and gun them all down. Even when he suffers a chest wound, he is allowed enough time to wrap up his turbulent relationship with Jesse. Here the show resembles a Saturday morning cartoon, allowing its heroes and villains closure before their death. You might remember how Hank miraculously survived a volley of bullets in “To’hajiilee” just long enough to look badass? Obvious fan service…