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...if a story really is lame, or if it’s simply a case of a reader not enjoying or “getting” it? (Obviously not every story is for everyone.)

 

Do any of you have criteria for deciding which it is?

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4 minutes ago, Zee said:

Do any of you have criteria for deciding which it is?

Writing and reading are really subjective things. Like you said, not every story is for everyone. But as for criteria ...

 

If it's a book I'm reading, I'll check out book reviews. If no one else mentions what I'm having a problem with, maybe the book's just not for me. But this doesn't always work for me because a lot of readers are nicer than I am... 😄 

 

If it's a book I wrote, I'll look at reviews (if it's published) or ask someone else's opinion (if it's not published). I'd only start worrying about it being "lame" if a bunch of people start bringing up the same problem.

 

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That's a good question, Zee, and one that I am seldom asked.  I'd suspect it's lame if it doesn't hold the reader's interest beyond the first 3 pages, though.   But I reject manuscripts if they don't hold my interest for more than 1 page.

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I would consider it lame or not enjoyable if it doesn't start out well. For instance, if it's dwindling on and on for twenty pages without getting to the main point of the book, the first chapter wasn't enough to captivate me into what the book is about, or if it's just wordy. I can let punctuation and grammar slide (I have to be nice, of course, or else I would be editing just about every book I got my hands on).

 

I also think that maybe the plot might not be the greatest. Maybe it would seem too evil to look into, too boring, too...Whatever else you can think of.

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12 hours ago, Zee said:

...if a story really is lame, or if it’s simply a case of a reader not enjoying or “getting” it? (Obviously not every story is for everyone.)

 

Do any of you have criteria for deciding which it is?

 

That's the million-dollar question, isn't it? 

 

As you said, it can be a very subjective experience. An engrossing read to one person can be a boring ordeal to another. Add to this that an exceptional writer can also take a mundane story and turn it into a best-selling novel. You can just never tell.

 

8 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

I'd suspect it's lame if it doesn't hold the reader's interest beyond the first 3 pages, though. 

 

I think this is the best measure I've come across. I've heard it said many times before. 

 

This is also where beta-readers are your best friend. They can really save you from wasting your efforts on an embarrassing endeavor. Even boiling your idea down to an elevator pitch can help. I have a writer friend who will send me a list of two-line story pitches to see if anything rises to the top.     

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1 hour ago, Accord64 said:

 

This is also where beta-readers are your best friend. They can really save you from wasting your efforts on an embarrassing endeavor. 

 

Yes, I agree. Beta readers are perfect for catching silly mistakes, fake-sounding dialogues, shallow or confusing motivations...and when the beta readers are happy, it’s a major confidence-booster.

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10 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

That's a good question, Zee, and one that I am seldom asked.  I'd suspect it's lame if it doesn't hold the reader's interest beyond the first 3 pages, though.   But I reject manuscripts if they don't hold my interest for more than 1 page.

 

I agree, that’s an excellent test. For me personally, when I’m reading, it’s less the promise of an exciting plot or unusual situation that catches my attention and more the unique character (writer) voice. But even this ought to be apparent right off the bat...

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For me it's about the characters. If I care about what happens next to/with/for a character- whether I love or hate them- is what makes stories for me. Can't remember who said this, but I read a long time ago how people don't remember stories, they remember characters. I remember Atticus Finch, Don Corleone, George and Lenny, Tom Joad... and at the end of those books, I missed them.

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2 hours ago, Pete B said:

and at the end of those books, I missed them.

This is every writer's dream and ambition. Lame means not engaged. A book is lame when it tells me what I already know in a way I already know. (here, "Know" means "experience") I'm happy to learn what I know in a way I don't know, and visa versa. The double whammy turns me off. 

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21 hours ago, Zee said:

...if a story really is lame, or if it’s simply a case of a reader not enjoying or “getting” it?

 

I look at the genre and make sure I'm delivering on the promises I'm making with the title, the first paragraph, the cover art, all that stuff. 

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On 3/26/2021 at 3:14 PM, Zee said:

Do any of you have criteria for deciding which it is?

I'm sure my own criteria are somewhat subjective, but I tend to pay attention to the "logic" of the plot and the characters. Are people making rational decisions - or, if irrational, can it be explained why rationally (grief, they're young, etc.)? Are their decisions, whether rational or not, motivated properly? Do events of the plot flow from one another in a sensible manner? And so on. There are too many stories where things just happen or people just make a random decision because "plot", with no thought to making it reasonable.

 

I'm sure this is a very left-brained way to analyze a creative work, but it works for me!

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On 3/26/2021 at 6:14 PM, Zee said:

...if a story really is lame, or if it’s simply a case of a reader not enjoying or “getting” it? (Obviously not every story is for everyone.)

 

Do any of you have criteria for deciding which it is?

 

Watch an episode of anything on The CW (TV network), Star Wars, The Rise of Skywalker, or anything by J. J. Abrams.  If the story reflects ANY elements you see in these films / TV shows, trash it and start over.

 

This is doubly true if your solution to a particular problem involves time travel or the Multiverse.

 

 

 

(I'm only half-kidding on this one...)

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On a  more serious note: if I'm writing the story to just complete the story, and pulling elements out of the air to that end, then it's a dog.

 

In the last few weeks, I've killed two stories and re-started from scratch because I just wasn't "feelin' it."

 

The nice thing, however, is that I've been able to recycle a couple of characters that I liked.

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It’s one of those things where most of the beta readers are liking the story, but there’s one who thinks it makes no sense and the characters are awful.

 

I’m inclined to go with the majority vote, but there’s always that glimmer of uncertainty...maybe that reader is the only one who really sees the story for what it is.

 

I suppose that’s what makes an incredibly subjective activity like storytelling so much fun...or not.

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8 minutes ago, Zee said:

but there’s one who thinks it makes no sense and the characters are awful.

Yikes! I'd say go with the majority. From what I've seen of your story, it's good. Has this beta reader read your other books?

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I'm inclined to go with @HK1 here. That just seems a little odd, and maybe the genre just isn't their cup of tea. 
 

If you don't mind my asking, how many betas do you have? You could always find a few more to make you more comfortable, but judging from what you said, I think @HK1's advice is sound.

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11 minutes ago, Zee said:

Right now, about ten...I think I got a little beta-reader happy. But I’ve only heard back from four so far.

I'd advise to hold tight and wait and see what the others say. You might very well find that this one is the only one. 😊

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If you are taking about your latest story it is not lame. Maybe in need of a bit more revision but that is why you are having it BR.

 

Did this reader give you examples of where and how in the story  was lame? It might just be that those scenes may need a bit more work on them.  I would hold tight. We always remember er the negatives rather than the positives.

 

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4 hours ago, Shamrock said:

Did this reader give you examples of where and how in the story  was lame? It might just be that those scenes may need a bit more work on them.  I would hold tight. We always remember er the negatives rather than the positives.

 

 

True words! Having given it a bit more thought, I believe it may simply be a case of unmet expectations...i.e., she expected characters to act/react in a certain way, and they didn't...or she thought the plot was going a certain way, but it wasn't. That can certainly be disappointing, but doesn't necessarily mean the story in itself needs to be chucked (or heavily re-written.)

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On 3/28/2021 at 2:15 PM, Zee said:

Having given it a bit more thought, I believe it may simply be a case of unmet expectations...i.e., she expected characters to act/react in a certain way, and they didn't...or she thought the plot was going a certain way, but it wasn't. That can certainly be disappointing, but doesn't necessarily mean the story in itself needs to be chucked (or heavily re-written.)

This! All of this! 

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Now you've also had my beta feedback. 😊 I can say with confidence that your story is not lame at all. However, it may not be to everyone's taste. Those who enjoy that type of story, that particular emotional landscape and journey you're creating, will absolutely love it.

 

It's not the type of story I typically write or read, but I think I'm objective enough to recognise good writing when I see it. And your writing and storycraft are undoubtedly good. I make a distinction between writing and storycraft, and you nail both.

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As has  been said here before - selecting MS out of the slush pile is a highly  competitive and subjective process. The most important thing is to hold on to the belief in your ability and work on your query letter, synopsis & 1st three chapters. 

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