If you are a writer...

  1. Please make your piece of work understandable. This means you don’t have to use a level of English that only MENSA candidates can understand. This doesn’t mean that you have to dumb it down for us. What it does mean is I like very much to tax my brain. I would like to tax it on the concepts and ideas you are broaching in your piece of work, not in actually understanding the piece of work itself. This goes especially for writers of atheist literature. It’s not that I can’t understand what you say. It’s just that after 50 hours of work I like to occasionally read something a little meaningful to me without burning my brain.

  2. Please don’t ever, ever, write your book hoping it will be made into a movie or with the clear intent of making it into a movie unless you call it a SCREENPLAY to start with. This makes for a really bad read, and makes me want to disrespect the innocent book.

  3. Unlike many I don’t really mind partial or even bad research in fiction, as long as the story is well-written. But please, don’t defend it when you’re called on it outside of the book!

  4. Don’t write a self-praising forward. Or afterword. Yes, you’ve published a lot of books. I have published none. But I, as Constant Reader, will stil make my own judgements about you.

I’m sure there’s lots more but this is what is currently annoying me.

Re Point 1: Ferget it pal. Sometimes foax who come up with complex ideas do so with thoughts and concepts that, while mind-blowing to you & me, seem perfectly within the linguistic bounds of normal rational discourse. They don’t know they’re talking above you and, quite frankly don’t care. Because if they are, then they’re not writing to you.

Why not have a go at people who use foreign and/or obscure words, or God forbid, obscure foreign words!

*Mad * magazine and Discover. Light reading, easy to master.

Let me take a wild guess: Michael Crighton?

I’ll see your Michael Crichton and raise you one John Grisham.

Oh, come now! “Constant Reader” is the condescendingly faux-grateful hallmark from the long-winded forewords written by The Master of the Macabre, The Captain of Capitalization, Mr. Stephen “I could eat alphabet soup and shit a best-seller” King.

And boy does he love to re-use the same classic rock quotes for epigraphs, too.

Yeah, that’s another option. But the “write your book as if it was meant as a screenplay” thing immediately made me think of Crichton – Timeline, especially, was so blatant he might as well have written directions on lighting and camera angles in the margins. It is, indeed, incredibly annoying.

There goes Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.

Too many contemporary authors fall into this trap. I don’t want to read a movie.

Around fifteen years ago, I took a post-college class on writing a novel. The teacher, a small-time novelist, gave a wonderfully well intentioned, but wholly awful bit of advice to future writers: “Never describe your characters in too much detail. If the book is ever made into a movie, it will be easy to cast the part.” :dubious:

Heh. This little exchange right here just made me laugh out loud.

And, as a writer… Duly noted.

The ironic thing is I’ve read a couple of books that in the middle have just dropped into being a screenplay apparently for the hell of it, and for that scene it’s worked really well.

Since I don’t read either of these offending authors about the “writing as per a movie script,” what do you mean by that? How is the book written that makes it movie like and badly written?

Also, for fantasy, I love Limyaael’s Fantasy Rants. She really takes some authors to task for their horrible writing.

Yes, well: Writing is a form of communication and if the work is not understandable to the target audience, then the writer has by definition failed. That’s not someone I’d call a writer.

If you are not a member of the target audience (Me and a book on astrology would be a good example of a mis-match) then don’t try to read it.

Oh yeah: I LIKE Michael Crichton! :stuck_out_tongue:

In the case of Crichton’s Timeline, every single scene in the book is strictly visual. There is barely a sentence in the entire story where you’d have a problem with translating it directly, almost mechanically, into a stereotypical Hollywood action movie. The climax, in particular, is a fast-paced rooftop chase/fight scene that will undoubtedly look great on the big screen, but rather fails to impress on paper.

It’s all flashes and loud noises, with less depth than a puddle. And no, I’m not the kind of person who demands that every book be a complex psychological character study, otherwise I wouldn’t admit to reading Crichton in the first place. But movies and books each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and Timeline does not even try to use any of the strenghts that a book can have, while valiantly trying to compete with something it will never be – unless, of course, selling the movie rights was very much in the front of the writer’s mind when he wrote it.

Seconded, enthusiastically.

My version of Rule 1 would say something like this: Good writing does not necessarily have to be easy to read, but if it is not, the effort I have to put into reading it should be proportionately rewarded.

I’ll second this.

What I want to know is, what is atheist literature and who writes it? And whatever it is, and whoever they are, why are they held to a higher standard of comprehensibility than the other writers of, er, non-atheistic literature, whatever that is?

I think what the OP is saying is that, if a piece of writing is difficult to read, it should be because the concepts are difficult, not because the writer likes using a seven-syllable word where a three-syllable one would do just as well.

One of my greatest heroes is the late Richard Feynman, Nobel-prize winning physicist and lots of other things besides. When reading his autobiography and other writings, I was struck by how simple and straightforward his style of writing is – he never talks down to his readers, he has a big vocabulary and is not afraid to use it, but he never uses a difficult word or a complex turn of phrase when there’s an easier way of saying the same thing.

To me at least, this only underscores Feynman’s genius: being a world-class physicist is one thing, but being able to make the subject appear so simple that anybody could understand it is even more impressive.

A lot of atheist writers writing about atheism write like James Joyce after a particularly nasty stroke.

Quite right. I don’t find – hell, I don’t believe anybody finds – Umberto Eco easy to read, but I’ll persevere because his books are generally worth the effort (Foucault’s Pendulum notwithstanding).

One example is Michael Martin’s Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. An exerpt:

Roderick Chisholm for one, in arguing against Clifford, maintains that a proposition is innocent until proved guitly; that is, it is unreasoable for us to believe a proposition only when we have adequate evidence for the contradictory of the proposition. Chisholm’s view is compatible with the thesis that it is not unreasonable to believe a proposition on the basis of beneficial reasons if there is no adequate evidence for the contradictory. This idea rules out appeals to beneficial reasons for believing that p only if the epistemic reasons support believing that ~p. In our hypothetical example, Chisholm’s requirement would prevent Mormons from believing that Mormon doctrines are true on the basis of the benefits of believing them only if the evidence supports the proposition that they are false. — page 32

Liberal: Indeed. It is passages like that that the phrase “blah blah blah” was invented for! I.e., I would quote it as “Roderick Chisholm for one, in arguing against Clifford, blah blah blah …” :wink: