And on to what sucks. Disagreeing with a perfectly nice agent sucks. Yes, I've read another post over at Nathan Bransford's blog. A post in which he insists that the one thing a writer should not say is that another writer's work sucks. Particularly if the work is a novel that has found a place in the hearts of many, many readers. Surely if every fourteen-year-old and her mom in the world love a book, the book must be doing something right.
No, it's not.
I won't say to a new writer that their work sucks. Because they are learning. My work sucked when I started, and I'll be the first to admit it. I wrote a great deal that did not even begin to rise to the mark. I'll note that even if someone had pointed out the glaring badness of my work I would have kept going, first because I agreed and second because I loved learning the craft and knew I'd get there eventually.
Do I think there is anything wrong with pointing out that the writing in certain popular novels is bad? Nope. These writers are in the major leagues. Their agents and editors ought to be willing to hold their clients' feet to the fire. And these writers ought to respect their craft a bit more. Yes, you may have come up with an idea alluring to the pubescent set or the infrequent reader of fiction, but that does not mean you executed it well.
It's not just the books about Jesus' kids and the creepy pedo-vampires here. I've been disappointed by fantastic writers and called it like I saw it. Even the best can have off days, and off novels. Sometimes they suck. I refuse to participate in the self-congratulatory "good effort, gold star for everybody!" culture. Because yesterday I picked up Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses and it is so good that my jealousy and respect cannot be measured by any caliper known to man. Lordy, can that man write.