Recently when doing some Google searching on Ted Dekker I came across a post at a critic’s website called PopCultureEntertainment. The original post was about whether Dekker is a plagiarist but the conversation in the comments moves into talking about art and what makes for a good novel.
It’s so interesting that eventually Dekker himself seems to join the conversation. I don’t really have doubts that it is Dekker, it sure sounds like him. What I found interesting were some of his comments.
Good novels aren’t judged by grammar or any such nonsense, all accomplished writers know that. Any grammar that you read in books like mine have been edited by the best who know this as well. They do fix bad grammar on occasion, but rarely because it’s usually intended. It’s called speaking the language of the people. Using dialogue, introspection, and narrative in way that’s consistent with their own understanding of language. It took me a few years and about a million words to figure that out, but I finally did. Whenever someone criticizes Patterson or King or whoever with this kind of thing, they only show their lack of experience. It’s amusing to those of us who’ve been there and done that. (I used to be a fine critic until I learned how to write) but it’s amazingly common. Some just don’t understand what effective fiction authoring is all about. Entertainment: If you like it, it’s good. Done.
And finally, good stories are judged by the masses who read them, not the few, like mothers, critiques or jealous writers. I can’t really tell you why several million readers love the way I deliver story. I can tell that nearly all my mail tells me I bring story to life in ways that many readers have never experienced before, and they become eager fans of that kind of writing. But why, I don’t really know. I just write. I don’t need the money, I don’t need the pats on the back, I don’t need much.
Just to write.
The conversation continues, with the blog owner Brandon (not sure on his surname) disagreeing with Dekker. They both start talking about the objectivity and subjectivity of art, whether or not people can actually call art ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as it’s largely subjective (for Dekker) and so on. It’s really a good read altogether.
I find Dekker’s comments interesting about the market. He eventually goes on to say (I summarise my understanding of what he is saying) that a good book is only good depending on its audience. One person may find a book bad, one may find it good, and the only reason why it is bad or good is because of its audience, not because it is objectively bad or good. If 1000 people like the book and 300 don’t, it’s not much different if 300 like the book and 1000 don’t. Numbers aren’t that important to distinguish a good book from a bad one. What makes for a good book is whether anyone out there actually likes it — not its grammar, it’s style (Dekker says that a good writer should ensure his writing gets out of the way so people can get to the story rather than be impressed by its writing) but whether or not it’s actually liked by anyone.
I find this encouraging. It means that my writing doesn’t have to appeal to the masses to be good. It needs only appeal to some. I already know it does appeal to some, so therefore I find I’m encouraged to know I can’t be all that bad after all. I extend the same encouragement to other writers — some will like your work, some will hate it, and that’s OK. As long as some DO like your work it’s cool. The same can go for all kinds of art, really.
I also like his comments on being critical of other writers. I have been critical, especially of Clive Cussler. Maybe I’m showing my ignorance here. Cussler has a large audience and many people REALLY like his books. Now I might not understand that but I need to give the guy respect nevertheless, because he has found an audience and he continues to please his audience. Good going Cussler, even if I don’t get your books!
Hope this encourages any artist types out there like me I really would encourage you to read all the comments at the blog link above, it’s very interesting (and Dekker has an interesting way of putting things).
About Ryan Peter
Ryan Peter is a writer, journalist and ghostwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes fantasy, sci-fi, inspirational fiction, and on faith. Ryan is also part of the New Covenant Ministries International (NCMI) translocal team.