In the days of Dickens and Hawthorne, writers were worth far more than a dime a dozen (a whole dollar, at least). It was a romantic profession, revered by many and envied by more, so much so that many an impoverished author had a benefactor or two to support them as they honed their craft.
Even taking into account the ones that have gone out of print, time alone has grown the number of books in existence exponentially. Digital publishing has doubled that exponent. Many well-to-do writers aren’t as well off as you’d think. We have to get things like day jobs to support ourselves. As for benefactors…well, there’s always Kickstarter.
What kills me is when an author–I won’t name names, but I will qualify that these authors I’m referring to make enough money to be only authors and nothing else–releases a new, eagerly-awaited shiny hardcover full of cliches and coincidences that seem so totally preposterous that you wish you didn’t have an e-reader so that you might have the satisfaction of throwing said book against the wall. I can’t believe the publishing industry is rewarding all this pathetic laziness.
But let me qualify:
Lazy writers are writers who can’t find the time to get their Butts into Chairs and Write. (Not counting this blog, I would currently be classified as a lazy writer. Trust me, it’s driving me as insane as it’s driving my editors.)
Lazy writing is when an author pulls a lot of crap out of their butt and puts it down on paper to keep the story moving along, or to affect a response from a character, or both. One wonders if they meant to go back and change it later, or why the editor didn’t catch it and fix it, or both.
Here are two of my favorite, real life examples of lazy writing:
Exhibit A: Paranormal Romance. Our heroine is a shapeshifter who own a bookstore. She meets a mysterious guy who asks her out on a date on Mother’s Day. He has her meet him at an airstrip where he whisks her away to a private Caribbean Island. While walking on the beach, she says to him, “I wish I’d known; I would have packed a bathing suit.” He says, “Don’t worry. My maid has picked one out for you. It’s in your room.” The woman goes back to her room to find the bathing suit: a perfect size 6. She tries it on and it fits beautifully…and I threw the book across the room.
I can forgive that 1.) she would leave her bookstore on one of the busiest shopping days of the year and 2.) that her very rich boyfriend would take her on a secret date out of the country. It’s called suspension of disbelief for a reason, and I was more than willing to disbelieve. HOWEVER: If you are a woman who has ever tried on a bathing suit, you know that A.) you have to try on 5,000 before you find one you will settle for and B.) No woman on earth has the ability to pick out a bathing suit for another woman and have it be just perfect. None. No where. No way. No how.
The reason I call this lazy is because the heroine is a shapeshifter. It would have made so much more sense for her to shift into the ill-fitting bathing suit to make it fit. A simple solution, had the author cared to think about it for more than five seconds. I ding both the author and editor for this one.
Exhibit B: Mystery/Suspense. Heroine runs into hero on the street while he’s walking his dog. Right at that minute, a cop drives up to tell the hero that his partner is in the hospital. Heroine offers to take his dog home while he goes with the officer. Heroine drops dog off at the hero’s house right when the hero’s ex-wife has decided to drop in for a visit. Wackiness ensues.
Now, while I would believe this story if my friend was telling it to me over coffee, the average person would not believe all this coincidence in fiction. It’s a funny, backwards thing. I’ve actually known writers basing a story on fact to omit things, so as to make the fictional tale seem more realistic. Because no one would believe all those coincidences. Know why? All those coincidences look like lazy writing.
I wrote my first novel when I was twelve. The summer before high school, I went back over the manuscript, made comments, and rewrote the whole thing. In one scene, the heroine is trying to get out of being captured. She asks the guard for some yarn so she can knit to pass the time. The guard agrees, leaves his knife and his rope, and goes to fetch the yarn. In the margin I wrote, “How convenient. FIX THIS.”
Have you ever found yourself muddying the waters to make things move along? Cheating a little bit because you’ve written yourself into a corner? Or are you the type that will stew for a week making sure you get out of that pickle logically and efficiently?
Either way, I urge you all to fight laziness.
If necessary, I will mail you all post-it notes that say, “FIX THIS!”