Quality – what’s it worth?

The other day I ran out of stuff to read.

So I did two things. I got on the internet and ordered something with an interesting title off one of those promotional sites we writers know and love (at least, we love them when they feature our books) for 99 cents.

Second, I dug out a moth-eaten paperback by Ivan Turgenev which’d been sitting in the back of my bookshelf for millennia.

Obviously, I started the 99 cent wonder first. Five pages in, I had to give up. It was like eating a potato fritter fried in stale oil. Like wearing a Kmart cast-off in fluorescent pink. Like watching Justin Bieber sing Yesterday. You get what I mean.

So then I got out Turgid Turgenev, and found that it was anything but. Fathers and Sons is a beautiful exploration of the tensions between ‘the younger generation’ and their confused, loving parents. It doesn’t help that, like all Russian novels, everybody has three completely different names – but hey. It was good stuff. I finished it.

The horrifying thing is that the lady who authored the 99 cent tome obviously viewed herself (judging from the foreword and author bio) as a writer of quality prose. Why horrifying? Because if she can be wrong, so can I – and so can any other writer.

How do we know if our cherished output is really worth the computer we wrote it on, or meaningless drivel clogging up the interwebs? Course, if this author (and people like her) are making sales, then maybe that’s all there is to be said about it. We can say sour grapey things like ‘people don’t know the meaning of quality these days’ and ‘readers wouldn’t know a grammatical fuckup if it sat on them’ – but in the end of the day, the reader is King (or Queen).

Standards are not something I’ve pursued with enthusiasm in any other area of life. They’re just something that stops you having fun – like some censorious school counsellor saying things like ‘You’ll never be an artist – so why paint at all!’ and ‘If you can’t do a job well, don’t do it at all.’  A one way ticket to a boring old age.

But writing’s different. I feel like words are entitled to respect – like rare automobiles, they shouldn’t be driven about by reckless learner drivers and whooping hoons. Not that there’s anything I can do about it – other than polish my own fenders, that is.

What do you think?

For Fallacious Rose’s (EXTREMELY high quality) books, visit www.fallaciousrose.com/books

 

10 Comments

  1. I do have a very terrible problem. I buy many books on Amazon.
    And then I can’t read some of them.
    Because they don’t capture my attention.
    I have learned to read samples first, it if catches me, I buy the book.
    But I have thought about this a lot, and realized my attention at any point in time might be the problem, more than the books.
    Because you know sometimes I am distracted by life, and, well, things.
    I don’t think we are usually very capable of being accurate judges of ourselves or other people.
    What I have figured out is that you just have to go with what your creative self wants to do, and afford the same for others, with somewhat limited judgement.
    Then everyone has a possibility of winning which is what I want.

    1. I do the same on Amazon but without the sampling. Life is too busy to read things that don’t take you forward. Artistically speaking though,I guess I don’t want to write unless I have something worthwhile to say. Or alternatively, earn bucks. And yes, it is ultimately up to the author’s artistic judgement what constitutes quality for them… I’ve seen glowing reviews of stuff I couldn’t read myself but that doesn’t mean that other views aren’t valid.

  2. I often wonder the same thing: is what I put out there any good? I don’t know if we can ever say ‘yes’ with confidence. I guess I gauge it by the reviews I get from readers I don’t know. When they’re positive I feel I might be on the right track.

    And for the record, your work IS good. I know because I’ve read some of it. 😊

    1. Well, thanks Carrie, that means a lot to me. I think your stuff is good too – I remember it for a long time, I guess because the premises are thought-provoking – fat kids, pandemics.. I read that Turgenev was a popular author when he put out ‘Fathers and Sons’ but the mention of the word ‘nihilist’ in the story made a lot of people furious, back in 19th century Russia. Turgenev was so upset he vowed never to write again (he did though).

  3. Any writer should wonder this about their own efforts. If they aren’t concerned, they aren’t doing any good for themselves or their readers. It’s the problem I have with a lot of the self-published world — a lot of it is put out by authors who seem to think the only thing that matters is that they wrote a story and they liked it, so publish it, charge .99 per download and keep doing it. Over and over and over again. As much as I’d like to support independent authors, I just can’t waste my time reading schlock that is poorly put together, poorly edited, filled with typos, and all sorts of other problems. I’ve got to the point where I no longer really get into new self-published authors anymore. I stick to the ones I’ve already discovered that I like … you, Tammy Robinson, Kevin Brennan, Susan Nichols, and a few others. The interesting thing about it is that the four people I just specifically mentioned all write different types of stories. But the one thing all four of you have in common are that you care about the quality and it shows.

    By the way, I wonder about this all of the time. It’s one of the biggest reasons I’m not writing much fiction these days. The wonder is killing me.

  4. I agree.. you want to be the sort of writer who at least asks the question. And thanks for including me on your list…ditto you. How do we know whether we’re quality or not? I think the opinion of unbiased ‘quality’ readers is an indication. If a person who’s familiar with good literature reads my stuff and likes it, that gives me real encouragement. Personally I find that a few months or even years after I write something it seems inadequate to me and I’m a bit ashamed of it…I could have done better.

  5. And I do think that what you write is quality. So don’t stop. Can I add something slightly shocking here☺ I am starting to get into writing genre fiction that I see as not particularly high quality because I would rather earn money writing than cleaning toilets and as you said on another occasion, genre fiction sells while literary fiction doesn’t. It would be ironic though if I sold my authorial soul for nothing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s