Caveat: Reading is a subjective exercise. One woman’s masterpiece is another’s mess. I read a book not long ago, by an established author from a major publishing house, that I thought was pretty awful. It suffered from a ton of Telling, not Showing. The plot had holes you could drive a Hummer through. The heroine was schizophrenically passive/sheltered/feisty/yeah, there’s a strange drunk guy in my bed, let’s get it on ; the hero the usual “I’m not a real rake, but you’ll think I am because the heroine keeps catching me in the arms of my old lover whom I hate but I’m rescuing because I’m rich and a nice guy.”

Here is a sample:

Most of the privileged, rich and well-connected guests had already arrived. Swarms of titled, wealthy and influential people invaded the house, lawns and terraces, their colourful gowns, jackets and painted parasols echoing the bright colours of the flowerbeds and the graceful sculptures.

Lady____, widowed after just five years of marriage, was flitting among them like a butterfly. With her confident manner she presented an imposing figure.

Umm, a confident, flitting, imposing butterfly-widow. Privileged, rich, well-connected, titled, wealthy AND influential guests, in case you missed the implication. House, lawns, terraces, gowns, jackets, parasols, flowerbeds and SCULPTURES, brightly coloured. I’m picturing a giant Bob’s Big Boy or maybe a Ronald McDonald on the widow’s lawn. I know I’m being snarky, but somewhere an editor was asleep, or possibly deceased, at the switch.

I go through long bouts of deadness myself, and when the muse is not flitting like an imposing butterfly, I usually prefer not to write. God help me if I ever have to write to a deadline. I’ll have to invest in a whole lepidoptera house. With my luck, the little buggers will stay caterpillars and never flit at all.

Read any bad stuff lately? No names, please. Has writing spoiled reading for you? If you’d like, please indulge your inner editor and revise the passage above.