The Good or the Bad?

A question for the writers out there. What do you find more useful…reading books that are fantastically well-written or well-plotted, or reading those books that you know are doing everything wrong? Do you find it helpful to read through others’ “mistakes”, or do you prefer to find the writing that you want to strive towards instead?
There is a book that has just come out, and it sounds really interesting, and there were a lot of people intrigued by it. But, I have yet to read a single good review of it. Apparently, it is just not well-executed, and there are a number of reasons people have been disliking it. And yet, I still keep thinking about it, and checking to see if our library has ordered a copy yet.
So I started wondering why I keep thinking about reading this book, even though I’ve heard nothing but bad things about it. It’s not, honestly, that I’m so interested in the story that I don’t care what others say. It’s something else. And I think I’ve figured it out. I think I kind of want to pick it up, just so I can see what, precisely, is so terrible about it!
Which in itself begs the question of why? Why do I need to look at something that people are saying is not good? And I believe I’ve figured out the answer. Because I want to see these “mistakes” for myself, so I can better understand what readers dislike. Which is a very useful study. Because the truth is, people’s interests vary quite widely. What some people absolutely love others absolutely detest, and I don’t think I need to provide examples of this for you to understand what I’m talking about.
I find that writing style and character/plot/world development is something people are divided on as well. For some people the best kind of writing is a style that just does not suit others at all. And yet, I think there are certain features of writing that are more universally disliked (than universally liked). And I think reading materials that have made these widely disliked errors can be incredibly useful to a writer, perhaps even more so than reading something you think is perfect.
At least that is what I am thinking. I’m curious to know what your thoughts are? Do you ever read the “bad” stuff in order to learn what not to do yourself? It’s good to see both ends of the spectrum, obviously. But do you actively try to read some things you know are considered poorly written, as a means of study?


  • S.K. Anthony

    I never thought about it… I get inspired by well written books, but I have to admit that I have read work and thought to myself, "I better make sure I don't make that mistake", so I guess I do learn from it. I just never noticed o_0

    On the other hand, if I'm interested in a book, I read it. Regardless of reviews, we all have different likes and dislikes and I might enjoy it more than they did. If not, as you just taught me, I will learn to listen to the masses lol

    Great post!

  • Deshipley

    I don't seek out the bad, and I get frustrated too easily to tolerate it long. Still, I do find it worthwhile to articulate to myself what it is I wish never to do in my own writing, and facing examples of story devices I dislike helps with that.

  • T. Drecker

    Honestly, since I started my book review blog, I've noticed that I'm learning more about writing. Before I'd only read books w/ good recommendations, but now I'm faced w/ everything across the board. And it helps. Of course, the good writing is wonderful to read and a great example, but when I see the mistakes in other books, I think 'Aha! Don't do that' or 'make sure you watch out for this'. And right away I mentally tell the author what they could have done differently.
    Whether or not this will leak over and improve my own writing remains to be seen, but I'm definitely more aware of what works and what doesn't.

  • Mere Joyce

    Yeah, it's an interesting process, because it kind of just happens naturally, doesn't it? And I think knowing what not to do is obviously just as important as knowing what to do, but sometimes just identifying what you personally dislike, or what your potential readers could dislike, is really useful!

    (Tonja, I deleted your duplicate posts, =3)

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