Worst successful writers and authors

Who is the worst successful writer/author out there? Writers who are well regarded or popular but who make many mistakes in their writing, or are simply poor writers who happen to tell good stories. Or great writers who tell not so great stories. Or writers who use too many cliches. Stuff like that.

Tom Clancy is the first one that springs to mind. Stephenie Meyer, as well.

Damon Lindelof

John Grisham is both a horrible prose stylist and a boring plotter.

Tom Clancy had some great stories, but badly needed an editor. Almost all of his books could be improved by shedding 200 pages and removing statements and descriptions he’s repeated several times.

Peter Benchley and Mario Puzo are in the small category of authors who’s original works were much worse than the movies adapted from them.

V. C. Andrews. I enjoyed her books when I was about eleven years old. I tried to read Flowers in the Attic as a thirtysomething, and was so bored–but so determined to find out what the hoopla was about–that I skimmed the rest. I’ve been frustrated enough to skim a novel maybe three times in my life.

Stephen King famously admitted that his writing style was comparable to “a Big Mac and fries at McDonalds.”

Mark Twain would probably answer “James Fenimore Cooper,” judging by his famous essay on “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.” Cooper was extremely popular back in the day.

I’m sure King meant that his style is plain and unpretentious rather than that it is bad. At any rate, there are successful authors who are definitely worse writers than King is.

Admittedly, I’ve only read one book by Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook) and one by Jeffrey Archer (Paths of Glory) but they are in a dead heat for the top position on my list of poorly wriiten fiction. Jeffrey Archer for tedious plotting and flat uninteresting characters, Nicholas Sparks for unadulterated sap.

The guy who wrote “Memoirs of a Geisha” had pretty horrid prose. I couldn’t get past the second page, the sentence structure was so monotonous.

I wouldn’t call his prose “plain” so much as simply that he needs an editor who’s willing to cut out his word vomit. It’s painfully obvious that when he gets stuck, rather than stopping and thinking, he just keeps typing. He’ll describe the room, the street, a character’s nose hair, some random musings, etc. and suddenly jump into the next scene. There are other authors, like Victor Hugo, who either enjoy that writing style (or were being paid per the installment). But King doesn’t write description for descriptions sake. He just refuses to step away from the keyboard, once he’s started to work.

An editor, willing to stand up to King’s marketability, could almost certainly make him far more marketable than he already is.

If you’re expressing it as a quotient of the most sales divided by the worst prose and least imagination, J. K. Rowling at a canter.

11 posts and nobody’s mentioned Dan Brown or those people who wrote the “Left Behind” series?

There are a lot of stinkers out there. A couple of summers ago, looking for a dumb beach read, I checked out a spy novel by Ludlum. I was expecting dumb, but not that dumb. I couldn’t get past the third page. It was freakin’ awful.

Mario Puzo doesn’t belong anywhere on the list, though. The only novel I’ve read by him was The Fortunate Pilgrim, and it was great–and this from someone that usually doesn’t care for mimetic fiction.

James Patterson is just atrocious. Repetitive, cliche ridden prose, infantile exposition, unintentionally hilarious descriptions, characters so thin they’re practically water soluble…just a lousy, lousy writer through and through. Yet he’s the most successful writer in the world!

I’m a writer myself and I’m friends with several other writers, and all of us on our worst day are a thousand times better than James Patterson, but all our accumulated success, past, present, and future, probably wouldn’t equal what that hack sells in a fortnight. I actually bought one of his books a few months ago purely so that, on those days when I’m feeling a bit too self-critical, I can remind myself what really bad writing looks like.

He’s done some good stuff but the last GOT novel of George R.R. Martin “A Dance with Dragons” was a meandering, overwritten mess. It’s almost like you could tell he really did not want to write the book and was doing so under duress.

E.E. “Doc” Smith was a huge success, by genre standards, in the Golden Age of SF, and for his imagination he deserved it. But his prose style hurts!

Surprised no one mentioned E.L. James

Jerry Jenkins (the first “Left Behind” series) gets my vote.

He’s not just bad, he’s distractingly bad. You can’t even drive your consciousness through this narrative bad. Your consciousness keeps stopping the car to question if it really just heard what it heard, and then when you pull back onto the narrative highway usually after getting the answer, “yes, it really just heard that, and I don’t know what to tell you,” you can’t even get back up to the speed of the flow of traffic before your consciousness needs to pull off again.

He is to narrative prose what Bladdy, the bladder mascot is to long-distance travel.

Matthew Reilly. I’ve only read Ice Station but it was bad enough to warn me off the rest of his stuff. He may have improved (I know a few people who seem to love his work) but I’m not really interested in finding out.

Patricia Cornwell ranks up there with Patterson and his super characters. Psychologist policemen who are expert jazz musicians are not my thing any more than doctor lawyers with cordon bleu culinary skills.