If you want a quick laugh, go and check out the Amazon reviews of E L James' trilogy and first novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. Holy cow! Apparently, when it comes to this bestseller, you either hate it or you freakin' love it. Here are a few of my favorite amazon quotes:
This has to be the most appallingly atrocious writing I've ever seen in a major release
This is truly one of the worst pieces of literature (if you can even call it that) that I have read in years.
I am no literature snob. However, this book feels like it is on a 5th grade level made to seem better with a thesaurus.
Here are my thoughts: As Stephen King says good writing will always polarize people. And I'm sure James' writing isn't perfect by any means, but the fact of the matter remains, people are reading it!! What a crazy concept, right? A writer producing work that people read while making a substantial amount of money in the process. Obviously, you can go to school for eight years, master syntax, plot structure and every other MFA requirement you need, and then proceed to write a perfectly flawless novel. But guess what? The probability of selling even a quarter of what the Fifty Shades of Grey series will not be in your favor. Why?
I believe that many of us get lost in the technical aspect of writing and forget that some readers are really looking for a simple story to lose themselves in. Something that triggers their childhood fantasies or captivates their imagination. Something that they can finish cover to cover and tell their friends about at Starbucks. Something that can pull out on their kindle and be allowed to mentally escape without having to re read a sentence or reach for a dictionary.
Does this make it good writing?
According to literary critiques, probably not.
But I'm tired of gatekeepers and "great" writers who have trouble moving copies, hate on one of their peers whose novel went viral. You should applaud your fellow writer. That is what this whole book publishing revolution is all about! We are living in a time where everyone can tell a story. Not just the five time NY Times Bestselling Doctor or the award winning poet. Everybody has the ability to find an audience. We all have access to distribution and indie publishing houses. We all have access to Kindle Publishing and Print on Demand. We can all hire editors, market ourselves and make book trailers. Because at the end of the day, we are ALL writers and artists in some form or the other.
And no artist, whether a beginner or a veteran, should feel insecure that his or her writing is not up to par.
If it's not up to par, then it will improve. You will get better as you continue writing and reading great books. But don't ever forget what the point of all this is---to tell a good story and connect with your readers. To get them to see the world just a little bit differently or to inspire them to take action in their own lives. To get them to cry or laugh or move them in some way they weren't expecting.
Secondly, don't let anyone tell you the definition of a good book. It is up for you decide. To be honest, some of the greatest classics of all time would likely sit on the shelves in this era of youtube links and 140 character messages. But here's what I do know-- there will always be a need to tell a good story. It just might not be what the literary world believes to be "good writing."
Bottom line: Fifty shades of Grey was a piece of fan fiction. By yesterday standards, it would have never left her laptop. But by today's standards, it was a bestseller. Enough said. #fiftyshadesofgreen