Booking Through Thursday – Good Or Bad?

Hosted by Booking Through Thursday
I’ve seen many bloggers say that what draws them to certain books or authors is good writing, and what causes them to stop reading a certain book or author is bad writing. What constitutes good writing and bad writing to you?

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For me, good writing involves proper language. I cannot abide bad grammar in books – there is just no excuse! I also insist upon proper structure. An example of a book which I found impossible to read is Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Sentences are often little more than lists along the lines of “And this and that and the other, and this other thing and that and then that…” with an awful lot of “ands” in there. Gibbon also frequently starts his sentences with “and” or “but” which, to me, is against every rule of writing in the English language. On top of all that, his sentences are very long and unwieldy with a single sentence often spanning an entire lengthy paragraph. All of these together rendered the book completely unreadable even before discovering how dull the story was!

This brings me to my next important point – there must be a decent plot! I very quickly grow bored of formulaic books. An example of this, for me, would be Dan Brown’s books. He has decent enough stories with plenty of intrigue, but if you’ve read one of his books, you’ve essentially read them all. I have read his first four books and will never read another because by the time I’d finished them I felt like I’d read the same book four times over. His female leads are all strong, intelligent and incredibly beautiful – and seem to fall all over his male leads. The only thing that seems to change is their names and accents. I see this as the height of laziness.

Stereotypes also often annoy me too. If you have a dumb blonde and a dark-and-handsome cynic who hate each other on sight, you can bet that through some shared adversity, they will fall for one another. Predictability is a killer for me – I like to be surprised.

When I find books that feature excellent writing (i.e. good use of language, good structure, atypical characters and exciting, engaging plots), I am over the moon. There are plenty that have a combination of some of these elements, but not many that cover them all. When I come across them, I rate them 5/5, but those are few and far between. You can see which they are by checking out my list HERE.

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16 responses to “Booking Through Thursday – Good Or Bad?

  1. Grammar is important for me too..

    BTT: Good or Bad

  2. So true – I agree with all of these points. I find the older I get, the less patience I have with bad writing! I never would have stopped reading a book 10 years ago, but now I wouldn’t hesitate.

  3. Predictability, in my opinion, especially early in the book, is disappointing and takes away from the excitement.

  4. You have some nice, solid criteria here. I agree with your points, especially about proper language.

    The Dan Brown thing made me laugh. The DaVinci Code is essentially the same story as Angels and Demons, just rewritten.

  5. Very good point about the formulaic books and stereotypes. Here is my answer

  6. Great answer. I agree with you that formulaic=bad.
    Check out my What Were They Thinking?! post this week at The Crowded Leaf.

  7. Great answer — you brought up some points I had overlooked.

  8. Thanks for all your comments, guys. 🙂

    If I haven’t already visited your posts, I promise I will do later when I’m home from work again…

  9. For me, Dean Koontz is an author where I feel like if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. It feels like each time I pick up a book he’s written, I get 50 or so pages in and find myself wondering if I’ve read it before–even if it’s a new book.

    And run on sentences also annoy me. I recall being put off by the first “Anne of Green Gables” years ago because the first paragraph is one run-on sentence.

  10. The only Koontz that really stands out for me is Lightning – I used to read a lot of his stuff when I was younger, but got bored as his nwer stuff was coming out…

  11. That is why I could only get thru one Dan Brown book. 🙂
    Thanks for stopping by.

  12. Good writing is not boring, and peaks your interest, throughout the book.

    Bad writing is when a book doesn’t have substance & doesn’t appeal to the reader in many ways.

  13. Are you ever wrong about ‘Sunset Song’! The ‘bad’ syntax and sentence structure is deliberate. LGG set out to convey in English the rhythms and cadences of the Scots dialect of Kincardineshire. More especially, he wrote in a way that an oral story-teller might have been received to the ear, in a culture that had little time for books. In this, he was writing from his own experience as a boy growing up in rural Kincardineshire. The preponderance of long sentences with conjunction splices and even comma splices is typical of that kind of speech [and, by the way, of the King James Bible – one of the few books with which the Mearns peasantry would have been familiar!]. I would continue, and I would quote from many good, critical sources to back up why you are so wrong on so many counts about this book. I’m sorry to say that on this particular matter you are speaking from a position of ignorance and are probably not prepared to listen.

    Suffice it to say that ‘Sunset Song’ has been voted Scotland’s favourite book. It is a masterpiece, rich and deep in so many ways, beautifully constructed. I would urge the commenters here to ignore your assessment, to read it with an open mind, and to ponder the themes which run through it. Gibbon, mainly writing under his real name James Leslie Mitchell, was a prolific and brilliant writer; he died relatively young and deprived the English-reading world of a larger corpus of novels.

    By the way, I am not uncritical of it, but I am critical only on some minor issues of Scots-to-English transcription. It repays analysis and study in any case.

    M
    __________
    Marie Marshall
    author/poet/editor
    Scotland

    • I know it’s deliberate. And I live in Kincardineshire – in fact, I grew up not 20 miles from where the novel is set. It’s still an incredibly dull and lengthy story and the syntax makes it all the more difficult to read. I pity any children forced to study this novel as it is enough to send anyone to sleep.

      • To be brutally honest, I would not have expected a review from someone from Kincardineshire to ignore deliberately that aspect of the novel. Simply to dismiss it as ‘badly written’ is, therefore, disingenuous in the extreme. It would have been more honest to say at the very outset something to the effect “Gibbon is trying to do such-and-such, but to my mind he fails, because of a, b, and c.” However to give the impression, as you do, that the book is somehow the result of someone who can’t string a sentence together is not what I would expect of a good reviewer.

        To redress the balance, I have reviewed the novel myself, and I invite your readers and commenter above to read my review in the interest of balance. http://mairibheag.com/2012/11/18/lewis-grassic-gibbons-sunset-song-a-neglected-classic/

        M