by Gina Burgess
Several years ago an author sent to publishers in London, England several of Jane Austin’s classics: “Pride and Prejudice”, “Northanger Abby”, and “Persuasion” with his name on them. He did this because he was bumfuzzeled why his own work, a thriller, had not been bought. Only one publisher called the author on his blatant plagiarism. Others sent the manuscripts back unopened because they didn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. But some had issues with the manuscript content–not plagiarism, but the actual writing. “Pride and Prejudice” received a letter back from an acquisitions editor saying the work was way too wordy, had too many archaic sayings, and it wasn’t something the publisher could purchase. [Insert shocked, bug-eyed look here.] This is the kind of editor that is supposed to know books.
I am bumfuzzeled there isn’t at least one or two new authors out there that have the talent of Jane Austin or Alexander Dumas or Baroness Emmuska Orczy who wrote “The Scarlet Pimpernel”. Their works were not blatantly Christian, although God was mentioned and morals played a large part in the plots. There was no foul language or graphic sexual content in their works. They wrote excellent stories. The emphasis was story, not “realism”. The realism came through, of course, because of human nature. That is what makes an excellent story real, not foul words or graphic scenes (which to me, is lazy writing when trying to develop character). When will writer’s learn this simple fact?
What I’m seeing is either great storyline with poor execution, or great execution (good writing) and a storyline full of potholes. Maybe one or two in the last year has been professionally edited. Sure. I’ve read lots of debut books that are 4-star worthy. Usually, it’s the 3rd or 4th book where the author gets his stride, though. Creston Mapes is one of them. (He already knows I said this because I told him so.)
I know publishers have huge amounts of slush piles (that’s a stack of unsolicited manuscripts that are almost never read). But, if Jane Austin gets tossed, we are in real trouble. That speaks volumes about how books get chosen for publishing.
Here we have a situation that is not only annoying, but frightening, too. Publishers who are very well respected in the literary circles as well as by the buying public rejected the works that have stood the test of time for 200 years, not to mention the multi-millions of dollars they have made around the world (remember “Bride and Prejudice from Bollywood”?).
Maybe the publishers problem is the screening process. Maybe their problem is… I don’t know what their problem is.
What is “classic” about that?
It would seem that standards have deteriorated to fluffy-nothings or coarse discourses peppered with vulgarities of foul words and graphic scenes in the guise of “realism” or “modernism.” What, I ask you, is literary about that?
I hear the refrain, “I wanted it to be as real as possible.” That is the mantra of almost every writer I have come in contact with, including the Christian fiction writers on two message boards. It is fiction. What, I ask you, is real about fiction? Why do authors need fiction to be real-life?
When I was about 10, a new mall was built in Monroe, La. My mom and sister would shop the clothes stores and I would shop the book store. I used to spend my entire allowance on books at a secular bookstore. I spent my evenings and free time on weekends reading. Television never held any fascination for me, besides my imagination was much more vivid when reading than watching something on TV. The books are always better than the movies. (Remember “Bride and Prejudice” from Bollywood?) My parents never feared I would choose some book that my child eyes would be subjected to foulness of the underworld kind. It just wasn’t published.
Even the movie “Gone With the Wind” paled in comparison to the book by Margaret Mitchell. My parents were subjected to many burned dinners until I finished that book.
I think movies and television have snatched the creativity from our children, which is why there are so few really creative, imaginative, and good literary works today. And which is why publishers seem satisfied with publishing fluffy nothings or coarse discourses. And which is why the buying public is not discriminating enough to demand better fare. (Of course, present company is excluded. I know you are writing a work of sheer genius or you wouldn’t be part of Authors Community, right?!)
Now you’ve heard my rant. Why do you think classics are still best sellers today, but we are not being served reading fare that is classic worthy? Or are we?
Gina Burgess is an editor, illustrator, and author. She is COO of AuthorsCommunity.net owned by Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC.