50 Shades of Frustration

I debated for a long time about whether or not to write this blog, lest I come off as a “hater” or uninformed. But over the past few weeks, I’ve heard news and read tweets and Facebook posts that just baffle me.

I am a writer, for those who may not know (but I think most do), and I’ve been trying to get myself published since I was about 24 years old. I took a few years off every now and then, during which I didn’t write outside of work, but since 2008, I have been pretty gung-ho about realizing my dream of becoming a published author.

Now, I know there are phenomenons… hell, I’m a fan of one of the biggest phenomena ever to hit the U.S., New Kids on the Block. And there are phenomenons in the literary world as well. One of those is the current juggernaut that is “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Or, as many (real) writers, editors, agents and publishers call it, “Fifty Shades of Suck,” “Fifty Shades of Crap,” etc. Take your pick. I won’t bash the book but I will say this. As a writer, who agonizes over every word, every punctuation mark, every line of dialogue, the fact that this book makes its author $1 million A WEEK is very frustrating. The very book that is on shelves and inside Nooks, Kindles and iPods everywhere contains typos, misspellings, redundancies and other errors that would never make it past an agent or editor’s desk. But the author didn’t have an agent or editor, did she? Clearly.

E.L. James’s writing is pedestrian, at best. It blows big-time, at worst. Because I don’t like to judge anyone without knowing what I’m talking about, I tried to read the book. I thought, if so many people love it, it must be amazing. In all honesty, I could not get past the first chapter. The story was not compelling. The characters seemed one-dimensional. I did not care what happened to them, or why. I just do not care to read more. Which is why it is so mind-boggling to me to read tweets in which people call this woman “a literary genius” or have read the book multiple times. I must not have gotten to the good parts! But, to me, if there are “good parts” and the whole book isn’t engaging, why the hell is it such an astounding success?

I know I can do nothing about it; the book is obviously ridiculously successful without me ever paying my hard-earned money for it. But I get so irritated when I see the praise lavished upon these books. I’ve read better erotica on a New Kids fan fiction site. And if erotica is your thing (trust me, I own some real erotica books… there’s no shame), there’s got to be some better-written stuff out there than “50 Shades.”

I guess it smacks of bitterness, but really, it is so frustrating when I and other writers I know are struggling to make a name for themselves, to even find an agent to get started, and this woman did not even really try to write a bestseller. I know the majority of the population doesn’t realize how difficult it is a) to even finish a manuscript, and b) to find an agent willing to represent you or a publisher that wants to invest in your talents.

Someday, I will realize this dream of seeing my book on a shelf in Barnes & Noble, and of seeing it on people’s e-Readers (even though I prefer real paper books). I don’t even want E.L. James’s level of success. I just want to write books that make people smile, laugh and feel better after having lived in another world for a couple hundred pages. My ultimate dream is to be able to quit my day job and live solely off my writing. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but I hope so. And at least, unlike E.L. James, I will do it, knowing that I have worked hard and really care about creating something truly special.


7 thoughts on “50 Shades of Frustration

  1. I see two reasons why it was successful–sex and good publicity. She’s a media executive with a built-in publicity machine and she knew and marketed her work well to her target audience. (Oddly enough the second part of this is also a major factor in why Twilight was so popular.)

    Also, she had a shit ton of luck. I read the whole series to see what the big payoff is, and the way I see it, the only payoff is for readers’ husbands and boyfriends. As a writer, it’s offensive because it goes against everything we’re taught to believe about publishing. As a reader, it makes me sad that most readers aren’t more discerning in what they consider good literature.

  2. I haven’t read “50 Shades of Grey,” but I feel the same way about so many recent bestsellers … Twilight is another one of them. My non-writer friends keep telling me to jump on the “bandwagon” of supernatural teen novels/dystopian novels, but it’s not what I’m passionate about, and I feel like writing for the sake of making a (big) quick buck is completely without heart. I want to love what I’m writing, and I want the people who are paying for my writing to love it equally. And if that means that when I finally publish a novel I only sell 36 copies, so be it!

    Maybe I’ll feel differently when I’m a little older. Keep on keepin’ on, Abby!

  3. I couldn’t agree more guys!! I refuse to jump on any bandwagon. I write what I feel compelled to write; I’m not going to write for any trend. And when I finally publish a novel, I will be happy if it doesn’t sell millions of copies, as long as it sells some and makes people smile. 🙂

  4. Visiting from GUTGAA. I have never read the book, never want to read the book. If it’s a best-seller I’m liable to step to the far side of the street because most of the best-sellers I’ve read are garbage.

    That being said, it is terribly important for every author and would-be author to write their best and try to get their best out there. Those who don’t just drag the rest of us down.


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