Is It Really Bad? “Bad” Books and Manuscripts

Is it BAD or do you just not like it?
Photo by Kulbir on

Last week, I was discussing critique with my mystery writers group. Soon we were talking about the “worst” manuscripts that we’ve ever had to critique. I say “worst” because we all acknowledged that there are just certain things we don’t like to read or don’t know enough to critique well. As a group, our list included novels in verse, poetry, board books, and toddler picture books.

Board books and toddler picture books were my contributions. Every once in a while, I come across a board book or toddler picture book I love. We’re talking published books here. But most of what I read in these categories, I just read. Do I love them? No. Do I hate them? No. I’m pretty much indifferent. This is a type of work that just doesn’t click with me.

So when a manuscript doesn’t click, I’m not sure why it is failing to click. Is it me? Or is it the story?

Then there are the types of books that we read, and love, but we come across a published book that we just do not like. For me it occurs most often when a book is overwritten to the point of purple prose. I was surprised when I learned that not everyone knows this phrase. Purple prose is overly ornate. It is elaborate to the point of being ridiculous. I see it most often when someone is trying to sound literary.

My other pet peeve is when a character, often a female character, does something absolutely ridiculous. By ridiculous, I mean illogical and it is clearly done just to advance the plot.

When you come across a published book that you think is bad, think some more. Why did the publisher say YES? Because someone, or several someones, did unless the book was indie published. It might be because the author is a NAME that will sell books no matter what. It might be that the topic or theme is hot and will sell books . . . can you fill in the rest . . . no matter what.

And, it might just be that this is not the type of book you like and it is really perfectly fine. Still, you should note which publishers but these books out because they probably aren’t the best fit for the writing you do.