I’m about 3/4 of the way through my book right now (Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, if any of you were wondering) and it’s amazingly good and nearly impossible to put down, but I was struck with a sudden blog post inspiration and had to put it on hold to write my thoughts down. Basically, it occurred to me that Liane Moriarty is perhaps one of the greatest authors of all time, because all of the books I’ve read by her so far have been absolutely incredible (What Alice Forgot Review // Truly Madly Guilty Review). One of the books I gave five stars, the other was a high four star (bordering on 5) and the one I’m reading right now will almost certainly be a five star, unless she decides to go off the deep end and totally wreck the ending.
A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with Teacher of YA (check out her blog it’s amazing) about how Select by Marit Weisenberg didn’t seem to get a lot of hype either before or after its release. Instead, it just sort of slid under the radar, despite it being a YA book that I think a lot of people would genuinely enjoy (even you, maybe! read the review here!). that got me thinking. Had the book been super hyped up before i read it, would I have given it as high of a review?
Hence the title of this post, and hopefully the content, also.
I’ve decided to try and bring more discussions to my blog, since I find them super interesting when other people do them, and so today we’re going to talk about a topic which I found interesting after hearing about it on Twitter…. Genre Shaming.
I hadn’t ever really thought about genre shaming in the past, because I didn’t really realize that it was a thing. After I heard about it for the first time, I instantly got on the lookout for examples because I wanted proof that this shaming truly existed. I was (sort of) shocked at how often YA books are called “less than” and how often the term “guilty read” gets tossed around. And then I realized that I am far from innocent of doing this. Since I was little, I would intermix my cliche high school novels with classics that I deemed better literary material. Even in last week’s blog post, I defined summer reading books as “beach reads” then promptly decreed that books that take on issues or aren’t light and fluffy don’t fit this description.
But is it a bad thing to consider some books as “less” than others?
I adore “easy” read YA books, and I’ll certainly always include them on my TBR. After all, reading would get boring if you didn’t include some books that you could fly through in just days and that leave a smile on your face. However, they are not as intellectually stimulating as other books, such as literary fiction and classics. I’m not saying that makes YA books any worse than lit fic, I’m just saying that it doesn’t provide as much educational value as “education” is traditionally defined.
Still, does that give us a right to shame people who read certain genres? or change the definition of reader so that it doesn’t include those who read only certain types of books?
My short answer on the subject would be no.
I don’t think it’s possible for books of literary merit to exist without having some books that are there PURELY FOR FUN. And, not to mention, people, especially teenagers, need books with characters that they can relate to. And recently, more and more YA books are taking on important issues in society. They may be written to be more accessible for the average reader, but they aren’t afraid of teaching and taking stances as well.
By telling someone that they aren’t a true “book lover” because they choose Sarah Dessen over Charlotte Bronte is hurting the bookish community as a whole. Not to mention the fact that some books that considered easier reads can have the most powerful messages as well as influence the reader. While reading classics and other “good” books, there is often very little representation of minority groups, teens and younger, independent women, or lifestyles that would make sense to today’s generation of readers. In order to find a role model in literature, it is often necessary to turn towards contemporary prints.
That brings me to my main point. We, as a bookish community, cannot afford to be judging and shaming each other for the types of books we decide to read. WE ARE TOO FEW IN NUMBER TO AFFORD OSTRACIZING EACH OTHER. Look, the book community should be close, and for the most part we are, but those among us who consider themselves superior just due to the type of books that they read are seriously, seriously wrong. And I hate when I go on Twitter and I see certain people flaunting the types of books that they read. It’s ridiculous and self centered.
I do believe that books should be separated slightly based on educational/literary merit, because I genuinely think that when kids read harder, more complex books, they will become more intelligent and able to think in bigger, better ways. THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT THEY CAN’T READ EASY BOOKS. In fact, the only way someone will truly enjoy all of those big books is if you get to read 2-3 books that you really desperately want to read in between (I’m thinking of when I read The Cliche for all of middle school despite the eye rolls sent from my mom’s direction).
That top part doesn’t just go for kids. Everyone once in a while should try to read a book that challenges them, whether it be at the diction level, finding the deeper meaning, or a moral struggle. These are the type of books which will make us better people.
For some people, the above book might be 13 Reasons Why, or I’ll Give you the Sun. For others, it might be Crime and Punishment, or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. All four of those will challenge you in different ways, and although the latter 2 are considered “better” than the former by the critics among us, ALL FOUR could be just as enriching and powerful for the right person.
So stop genre shaming. Stop calling some books guilty pleasures and others works of literary merit. Stop judging a book by its genre, and stop presuming that you know what will challenge others and make them better people.
If you love classics, then great. Congratulations. If you love YA and SSF, then that’s awesome too. It isn’t about the genre, it’s about the emotions of the person as they read, and how it will change them when they come out on the other end.
Do you think genre shaming is okay? Are you a victim of genre shaming? Do you think that readers of different genres should be looked at differently? Let me know!
Before we start this post, I want to make it very clear that I am 100% an advocate of beta reading, hiring editors, and getting other people to read your work and provide feedback before sending it to a real editor or hiring an agent to be published. I think that this can save valuable time and money, and so have actually started an editing service myself. (so if you’re looking for relatively cheap readers, hit me up)
However, I have found that sometimes, having too many editors, editors too early in the process, or editors for the wrong genre, or any number of mistakes can lead to devaluing the writing process and the writer’s work as a whole. I know this is probably a strange assessment coming from an editor, but *shrugs internally*
I’ve already written a mini version of this post, which was uploaded to The Writing Writers, a new collab blog which I am a part of! It accompanied a poem which I wrote, had beta edited, and ended up despising the overall result. The blog is super awesome because there are so many incredible writers sharing their original creations, so if you haven’t already given it a follow, you need to head over there ASAP. Plus, they’re publishing their own magazine, which you can submit your work to, so it’s a win win and you better get started before it’s too late. While you’re there, I would love it if you could read the poem.
As I said earlier, I think that there are a few circumstances where beta reading can make your work less “yours” and then lead you to not enjoying it as much anymore. Because lists are fun and also orderly, I’m going to start numbering…
- You Write Poetry– This was elaborated on more in my TWW post, but basically I believe that it’s really really hard to beta poetry, since each and every word should be especially picked by the poet for the desired effect. Even just changing one small word could completely destroy the integrity of the piece, or give it a different meaning than originally intended. Before you publish, you should probably have a few unbiased people read it over and give general feedback, but I think that beta readers should be careful of not altering the meaning, and you as a writer need to be overly cautious about changing key wording. Just because some people don’t understand your “deeper meaning” doesn’t mean that you did a bad job of it, it just means that those specific people are likely not your target audience. (and target audience is hard for poetry because you are relying on emotions and things that your average beta reader won’t publish in their bio)
- It’s too early– You should never hire a beta before you’ve read over the piece 1-2 times yourself and made all of the major changes which you plan on making. If you have someone read it immediately after finishing the first draft, not only will it be a pain in the ass for them to get through, but there will be so many “big” changes that need to be made that they could end up writing the entire thing for you, which means that it’s their work as much as yours. Betas are there to advise, not to write the story, but asking them too early could lead to the undesired effect.
- You asked everyone and anyone– You have your mom, dad, aunt, brother, three best friends, and 3 paid readers going over your story and providing feedback. If each person changes up just a few things, even the equivalent of ~5 pages worth over the course of a 300 page story (which could be reasonable) that’s already 50 pages that you didn’t really write. And maybe they made the story better, but maybe it isn’t *quite* what you intended, and that’s a lot of writing that isn’t really yours. I know you probably want as much feedback as you can get, but in the end it is your work, and I would keep it to 2-4 betas, depending on the length of the story and how good your first couple readers are. You will never be completely satisfied with a story, so don’t feel the need to keep hiring more. You make the final decision. (go writer empowerment!!)
- Bad Beta– You hire a 40 year old man for your YA f/f romance. Sorry to tell you, but that is probably not going to work out in your best interest. Things that he thinks sound cliche or pathetic might happen in a real live high school, and he’s just too far removed to realize it. If you are writing YA, try to hire highly qualified teens (LIKE ME!) or 20-somethings because I guarantee that this will give you better results. I don’t care if he’s a literature major and works in editing and I’m a high school senior who took AP classes (sorry for all the self promo in this post)… if he can’t relate to your piece, he likely won’t beta it as well.
So basically, I think you need to be picky about your beta readers/editors, and choose the few people who will be the best possible fit for your situation. There’s no other way to do it.
Do you think that beta readers are always a good thing? Is there ever a bad time to hire a beta? Do you want a beta reader AND editor at an all inclusive low price of $40? Have you checked out The Writing Writers?
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I was working on a collab story a few months ago, and I was told that when writing, I shouldn’t use any words besides “said” after a person talks because I should be showing rather than saying the way that they behave. However, my whole life I have always been told to use words other than “said”, so that you can understand the way which the person is speaking. So today, I wanted to have a discussion about whether you should use the word said, abstain from it, or fall somewhere in between.
- It’s easier to write your piece when you don’t have to stop and think about word choice
- Some people say that using other words is “telling” and once you use said you can further elaborate with descriptions of how the character is behaving. For example, you could say “I hate you” he said, his face contorting with the strength of the word, eyebrows knitting and eyes widening as the loud sound emitted from his mouth. and that would be way better than just saying “I hate you” he shouted. Of course, you could use a combination of the two, but that’s besides the point.
- More room for reader interpretation of your work.
Honestly, I don’t even believe bullet 2, and I am firmly in the Don’t Use Said camp, but that one person got me thinking and so I want to hear more of your opinions on the whole situation.
- When you use “said” you don’t know how the person is talking
- It gets repetitive if you are always using said in places with lots of dialogue
- “I’m running away” he moped or “I’m running away” he declared and “I’m running away” he pondered… all have very different connotations and if you just use said how the heck is the reader going to know how the character is behaving. I personally believe that using these words is showing not telling the personality of the character and the way he is behaving.
- Descriptive vocab is AHMAZING and I personally adore it.
I’m trying to think of examples of books that I’ve read where the author only uses “said” or never uses it, and I can’t off of the top of my head, which tells me either everyone does the exact same thing, or it doesn’t even really matter. I’m willing to bet that the large majority of authors do a combination of the two.
Looking back through my ROUGH, ROUGH draft of the story I’m working on, I noticed that any time I used “said” I nearly always modified it with an adverb immediately afterwards. I know that there’s a lot of theories on overuse of adverbs, but I feel like you can’t just use such a general word without modifying it for the context of the story. Once there’s an adverb, it becomes so much more real and alive. But that’s just me.
Do you think “said” should be used in writing? Do adverbs make a piece better or worse? What is your opinion on the “show don’t tell” philosophy in relation to dialogue verbs? Did I miss any pros or cons?