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Creative Research

My research explores multimodal creativity through print and digital stories. Please feel free to comment or contact me!

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Friday, August 1, 2008

"Never Before Published" = Never Should Have Been

I should know better than to so much as crack the spine on a book with those words inscribed on the cover.

"Never Before Published" translates to "this author is a big name, brings in lots of dough, so we'll publish anything s/he has ever written, ever, even this pile of poo smeared on the page. Stupid readers well never know the difference."

Note to publishers: yes we do know the difference!!! I just finished a torture-filled read from an author who always had my respect in the past. This author's books are usually original, entertaining, well crafted.

This one was painful. The same cliches repeated over and over. It's clearly a novice effort, with little attempt to edit before publication. The author initially made a name for herself as a romance novelist, but topped the bestseller lists by breaking free of the traditional format and formula of the romance genre.

In this book, I could see the beginnings of that transformation. The eye-rolling sex scenes are there (I'm sorry, but no 18-year-old innocent in 19th century London gives a mind-blowing BJ on her first attempt). But also there is a story that breaks free of the traditional regency romance boundary, edging into fantasy, with a nicely created world that is magical and intriguing.

The characters are stock - the dashing titled rogue with money and the spirited and passionate young maid. They start to evolve into real characters, but are held back by the constraints of being forced into the "fall in lust-marriage-insane sex-fall in love" formula that is now so old and trite in the romance genre it might as well be a paint-by-number.

I would have thought the author, as far as she's come with her writing, would have wanted a major rewrite before the book hit the shelves. Even on a micro level, the thing is messy, with meandering dialogue, senseless transitions, and some seriously fuzzy plot points.

I'm hoping it's just that she was furiously writing on something new (she's quite prolific), and simply didn't have the time or inclination to labor over something she'd finished with a long time ago. "Sure, publish it and send me the paycheck!" I hope that's what she was thinking. I hope she didn't read the thing and it made perfect sense to her and looked like a good piece of writing. Oi.

I see it a lot, though, pick up paperbacks by big name authors only to have the story be amateurish and ham-handed. I wonder, if I ever get to be one of those big-shots, if I will succumb to the same temptations of publishing my early drivel just for the added royalties.

Which, dear god, brings the thought: my early drivel is what I'm shopping around now. Ouch.

Well, let's just hope that someday I have the opportunity to decide whether or not to publish it under the "Never Before Published" tag. Until then, as a consumer with many books to read and not enough years in life to read all of them, I will stay far far away from these monstrosities in the future.

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