A Case for Mediocre Fiction.

This is probably something I shouldn’t be saying ever, much less a month and a half before it’s released, but The Slayer Saga: Soulless is not a great book, not by a long shot. Nor will it be. It would take years of editing and revamping and revisions before it even gets close to greatness, and I’ve given myself a mere month. And you know what? That’s okay. The whole point of Soulless was not to reach literary excellence; it was to tell a story I thought was mildly interesting, make it even more interesting than it was originally, and to share it with the world. It was to get some more books out there so I have more than just a collection of short stories to tie my name to. It was to give myself more experience with publishing my own books and learn more about marketing techniques that I missed the boat on when I released Bowlful of Bunnies.

And that’s okay. Not every book we write is going to be epic and amazing. Furthermore, even if we do manage to write a book that someone thinks is an incredible example of everything they love in fiction, someone else is going to think it’s the worst thing they ever had the misfortune of laying their eyes on. This is something I’ve been grappling with this last week, as I’ve sunk into a little bit of a funk from trying to insert some scenes and juggle some of my beta critiques with my personal gut feelings. It’s getting a little repetitive, but I have to keep saying it until I fully believe it: Soulless is not the best, and that’s okay. Soulless is not the best, and that’s okay.

Soulless is, however, pretty damn entertaining. I know for a fact that it has that going for it. I’ve been validated in that it’s a unique concept, an interesting world, and some of the characters are pretty stand-out. It’s a solid book, if not a fantastic book. It has some issues, it’s definitely not going to be for everyone, but sometimes, you’ve just got to let go of all that hoity-toity stuff and delve into some mediocre fiction, anyway. It’s meant to be pulpy and kind of cheesy and over-the-top. It probably won’t leave enough of a lasting impression on you to allow you to easily pick it out of a line-up of similar books. Just the fact that there are probably so many other books out there that are share its lower quality is a point against it, but that’s kind of what I like about it. Sometimes, you just want a book that tells a good story in a pretty okay way, like a cheesy movie or a campy TV show.

Should we strive for something more than just a good story told in a pretty okay way? Of course we should. But I have other books planned for that. I never set out with the intention of making Soulless great literature, and that’s okay. All I want is for you to be entertained. It’s also perfectly fitting that I just got a follow from The Books that Time Forgot, which I eagerly followed back, as the blog reviews the types of books that I want The Slayer Saga to become, rare gems of kitsch and novelty that works its way into very select and amazing hearts.

What do you think? Do you think there’s a good case for mediocre fiction? Or should we not waste our time and only strive to put out the best of the best? What’s an example of a kitschy kind of book that you absolutely love? For me, the first thing to come to mind are the Magic: the Gathering books or Piers Anthony’s Adept series. They’re bad…really bad…but I just freaking love them for all their absurdity. I can’t be the only one out there who loves me some good, honest pulp.

(I also really love pulp in my orange juice…I’m a little curious as to where you all stand on that, too, randomly.)

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11 thoughts on “A Case for Mediocre Fiction.

  1. I have a little bit of a problem with this. Here’s why. You said this is not a great book. You said it would take time to reach “literary excellence”. I’ve read some of those excellent literary books. I think many of them are crap. (Yes, someone is going to bombard me with tomatoes.) Some of the literary fiction bores me to tears. Who says books that are entertaining AREN’T great? Who sets the standard for greatness? If you write a book that people LOVE, doesn’t that make the book great? At least for THOSE people. We don’t all like the same things. We SHOULDN’T. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of books that are so bad they shouldn’t be published. Those are the books most people would agree are bad. But if I like your book and someone else doesn’t, does that mean I’m stupid for liking it? Or that the other person is a snob for disliking it? Whether a book is good or not (except for the obvious bad ones, we can’t get around that) is so, so subjective. For me, if a book is highly entertaining, it’s great.

    So stop second-guessing yourself. Stop fretting over this book. Tweak it as much as you need to, but at some point, you’re going to have to let it go. And publish it. And be fearless! 🙂

    I do NOT like pulp in my orange juice. LOL

    1. See, and I agree with that almost completely. I think perhaps my education has skewed my perceptions. I remember needing a lot of time to go back to writing the fantasy stories I grew up loving because it was bashed into my head for five years that genre fiction is a huge waste of time and a big joke in the industry. Which, once I was released into the Real World, seemed really strange because all the popular books had some mega big genre elements to it. The Real World and Academia are like two completely different dimensions, one embraces doing what you love for the sake of loving it, the other seems to emphasize a lot of Art for Art’s Sake. Because if it wasn’t for the Art, Academia really wouldn’t exist.

      I always feel of two minds, then, when it comes to just writing stories I find entertaining that have no artsy-fartsy literary value. And I know I like it, and I know other people are going to like it, but I also know there’s going to be people who absolutely HAAAATE it. I think of the times I’ve come across some indie stuff and just felt this rolling nausea of “How could they ever think this was good enough to show other people?” and I know there’s going to be people who think that way about Soulless. I hope it’s relatively few people, and you’re probably likely to have that with anything, even popular well known authors (who I WILL NOT CITE because the one I’m thinking of, I know we have differing opinions on, lol), but it’s something I’m working on getting over, because I kinda have to.

      ….I can’t imagine ever not fretting over a soon-to-be-released book. Does it get easier the more you do it? It probably never goes away, does it?

      1. Are you dissing Stephen King? LOL

        The fretting never goes completely away, no. I don’t think it should. But it’s no longer gut-wrenching fear. My skin has grown much thicker. 🙂

        1. I WOULD NEVER.

          *cough*

          But, yeah, you’ve got to have a thick skin in all this. At least college helped me with that, too. I should remember some of the scathing reviews some of the poets in my critique group gave me. One of them called me pretentious a lot, which was funny, you know, because POET.

            1. But what good is character development if the writing is so bland that I don’t care about the charact–

              –errr, I mean, what? Yes. Agree to disagree. Hehe.

              (Though I do love his nonfiction. And Carrie was pretty okay, and I’ve liked his short works, too.)

  2. The library is full of mediocre books. You look back in history, you find that all the great books were considered great because people liked them. They were popular. They got read and passed around. Most of them were hardly “great literature” when they were written. The authors weren’t trying to write a masterpiece; they just wanted to entertain. Charles Dickens was the James Patterson of his day: a popular author whose stories were read and talked about and enjoyed by a lot of people. If I remember correctly, “A Tale Of Two Cities” was serialized in a magazine, and he was furiously writing it as the printer was typesetting it, with a kid running back and forth delivering pages as they were finished. It’s considered the greatest novel in the English language today, but in 1859 it was a story that sold a lot of magazines because people wanted to know what was going to happen next.

    To put it in mathematical terms, great fiction equals popular story plus time.

  3. I would certainly put entertainment above literary greatness, afterall, why do we read if not to be entertained. Love pulp in my fiction, but never, ever, under any circumstances, do I like it in my orange juice 🙂

  4. I’ve probably given quite a few “mediocre” books a 4 or 5 star rating on goodreads. Simply because *I* enjoyed them. I’m easily drawn into a story, and if it makes me feel something(besides repulsion), it will probably get 4 stars. If it makes me cry, probably 5. I’m very generous and can forgive some issues if I’m kept entertained.

    So, I’d definitely put entertainment value over literary greatness(and like Lauralynn, am usually bored by “literary fiction”).

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