Many thanks to everyone who read and commented on my previous post about “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James. I have since had discussions with a few other people about the trilogy as well as writing in general. Quality and popularity are two of my biggest issues with the books. While I cannot do anything about popularity or say anything to change the fact that some people would rather read these books than what I like (#firstworldproblems), I will argue book quality to the core until the end of my days. People enjoy reading different genres, and I have no problem with that, but if a book lacks quality it is my belief that it should not receive international attention.
As previously stated, my mother loaned the books to my sister which is what started this entire debacle. She was so kind as to weigh in on my post the other day about the trilogy. Within her comment was this sentence: “I don’t expect the book to be “well written” when she’s not a writer (she’s a mom) and this was her first attempt at it.”
Wait a minute, I’m confused. She’s not a writer? While the “she’s a mom” part makes no sense to me either, I know it wasn’t meant in some anti-feminist way where a woman couldn’t be both, so I’ll refrain from giving her too much grief about that part. I’ll get to the first and last parts of her sentence, but first I must tackle the most important question: What is a writer?
Google defines a writer as:
- A person who has written a particular text.
- A person who writes books, stories, or articles as a job or regular occupation.
For the sake of humor, there is also the definition outlined by Uncyclopedia:
A writer is someone who can’t be bothered going to work, and instead sits at home all day drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, scribbling down pointless and uninteresting strings of disjointed words. Some substitute cigarettes for a chocolate bar, though the use of coffee seems to remain a constant theme. Writers attempt to avoid contact with reality as much as possible, because facing the cold hard truth about their lack of worth only fills them with self-doubt and depresses them. Because of their promiscuous lifestyles, many writer’s acquire a disease known as Writer’s Block to which there is no cure.
I see a writer as someone who simply writes, just as a person who bakes is a baker and someone who sculpts is a sculptor. You don’t need to be well-known or have published to be a writer. Publication makes you an author, but a writer is more simple than that. By definition, E.L. James is a writer, and no opinion on writing quality can change that.
What makes a writer good is an entirely different story, just as what makes a book good is an entirely different story. This is another “matter of opinion” situation. While I have had people argue in favor of characterization and plot, I have yet to hear anyone argue that “Fifty Shades of Grey” was well-written. I don’t think I’ve even heard anyone argue that it’s original, and I should hope not considering it was based off of Twilight fanfiction, and generally speaking this story has been written before. So if it’s not well-written or original, why are people reading it? Is it the smut? Perhaps. They might like the plot or relate to one of the characters somehow. I don’t know, and I honestly don’t care. All I know is that the books lack writing quality, and that’s reason enough for me to stay away.
Back to my mother’s statement of not expecting a book to be well-written because it was the author’s first attempt at it makes absolutely no sense in the world I live in as an English major and writer. That would be like millions of people becoming obsessed with a movie that was poorly made by an amateur filmmaker with a screenplay based off of something else, making it unoriginal, and expecting a fellow filmmaker to respect them for it, and on top of that having the movie be #1 for months as best selling movie. In the case of E.L. James, the 50 Shades trilogy has been at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list for 14 weeks. I understand that the list is obviously for books selling the most copies, but I still think it’s insulting to the other writers out there with quality work that isn’t being recognized because of the trilogy.
I said it in the previous post and I will say it again: I am disappointed in the publisher who allowed these books to go out as they did. I think book publishing has turned into a profit industry rather than an industry that creates art. While I strongly believe that anyone has the right to produce art and try to make it in the world as an artist, I don’t approve of people writing solely for profit, and I especially don’t approve of it when there is little talent on the artists part. In conclusion, mother and other readers, a writer to me is someone who writes, and I expect a book getting this much attention to be well written, even if it is the writers first attempt at it.
How do you define a writer?
How important is writing quality to you?
And for fun, what should I write about next?