Tell Me About 50 Shades of Grey

Or: Should I be feeling the shame?

by Thea Atkinson

I’ve been reading a lot of indie fiction lately, and not just because I want to be supportive. I truly have been finding a lot of enjoyable reads…and a lot of what I’d initially call stinkers, too. Meh. That’s OK. I find the same dichotomy in trad published fiction.

Cue 50 Shades of Grey

That doesn’t look so good sitting there written that way, and my inclination is to go back and delete it lest I be judged by my sourness. I think of the early Amanda Hocking stuff I tried out and ending up feeling an incredible rush of shame over my misplaced sense of author superiority. Wow. That many typos? That much bad grammar? Really?

And then I think of my — again — misplaced sense of superiority, my verbal mocking of the writing when I tried to read the Sookie Stackhouse novels. You really don’t want to know the horrible things I said in those first ten minutes of reading my first Charlaine Harris Sookie book.

Did you catch that? That way I said, ‘first’?

You know that means I read more than one, right? Well, I ended up reading–no, gobbling them up like hermit cookies — the entire series of eleven books. Yikes.

Then I went back and picked up another Amanda Hocking book; I wanted to see if I had indeed misjudged her now that she had proper editing and all.

This is where the shame finally kicks in.

I realized I had been giving in to that nasty lime green sense of writer righteousness over someone else’s success while my books languished, unbuyable, in the Amazon jungle. I loathed that quick-to-fire engine in me that is ready to judge another book when I readily admit I’m no Alice Munro or Margaret Laurence or Atwood.

What gives me the right to judge?

Well, I’m a reader too. And my delicate sensibilities can sniff someone else’s exhausted cliché and misplaced mixed metaphor a mile away, and then turn its nose as quickly as my black lab turns up peppermint. (how’s that for jamming in all kinds of mixed metaphor. woot)

When I ended up giving the books good honest reads based on story, I discovered those authors did indeed have that innate telling ability that makes a great author. Hollowland kept me captivated (OK. Forget the pet lion for a second), and Eric makes me drool in the Sookie series. (um. don’t forget any part of that fella.)

These authors can do what I cannot–lure a reader in. Grip the reader. Hold that reader fast. And all that in spite of some juvenile turns of phrase and bad grammar. Now. I say. That’s a writer, baby.

So. Fifty Shades of Grey. I have to admit to opening a Kindle sample. And just as quickly closing it.

Should I feel shame?

I can’t help wondering if I’m missing something. Is there something in there too that as a writer I should be paying attention to? Tell me. If you’ve read it, because I really, really want to know, tell me if I should invest my reading time in another million-dollar-already-franchised sensation book or another deserved, unknown and struggling indie author who is dying for a buy and a read.



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Thea is the author of several novels that she considers left of mainstream. You can find her on Smashwords, BN, Kobo, Sony, Apple

Anomaly by Thea Atkinson

Thea Atkinson is a writer of character driven fiction.

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22 comments on “Tell Me About 50 Shades of Grey
  1. dorothyanneb says:

    Yes, horrible writing. It did improve about halfway through. I had initially started it and then threw it down while I read some good books, but when I was tired I picked it up again. The story and characters were what annoyed me. The terribly naive heroine who makes it through college without a kiss or any technical support and yet who is instantly able to give a good blow job (sorry for graphic comment but it was a graphic book) and view bondage equipment without a shudder astonished me. I so colossally hate the meme of women rescuing damaged men. A lot of women think this way and it has led to terrible heartbreak and physical damage and all. Controlling men are scary, too. Shall we review the headlines??
    I hate to see this portrayed as something that will work to capture a man to I think may have done more damage to the world’s greenhouse gas situation than any multinational what with all his flying about in helicopters at the drop of a skirt…(well…it seems wrong). The sex stuff was occasionally fun, but dreary in the end. And poor girlie’s sexy move of chewing her lip happens so many times I seriously wanted to refer her to a plastic surgeon for repair of the skin damage.
    I had two responses as a writer. (My first responses were as a nurse who has worked with the fallout of bad relationships, both physical and mental). First was jealousy, I admit. Second was a feeling of empowerment. Surely, if THIS could make such a splash, I still had a chance. Now all I need to do is include a bit of BDSM in my novel and I’m off to the races.

  2. Lori Grierson says:

    What’s driving me crazy about reading this book, is the fact that it is missing the word ‘of’ thousands and thousands of times

  3. I keep hearing about it, and your blog made me look further – but with over 1,000 1 star ratings on Amazon mean I won’t touch it! I have to say though that when I read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, I didn’t find that ‘good writing’ either, but I didn’t mind the book on the whole. epublishing and this whole indie movements is opening doors to writers that wouldn’t normally even get in a toe in without some kind of editing/critiqueing!

    Don’t feel bad for feeling that you could do better, a lot of people do.

  4. I’ve never been one to jump on *any* bandwagon. I’ll miss a good thing before I’ll follow the crowd just because they’re going that direction, LOL. So, I haven’t read a good many of the majorly popular books. The few times I took a chance and did, I was sorely disappointed, and figured that those books’ popularity was a result of the right story, right audience, right publicity all happening at the right time – horrible writing and all. When the right person says they like a book, others will break their necks to read it, and of course love it, just so they’re as ‘cool’ as the other person.

    So, I’ve resisted reading 50 Shades, even though, from what I’ve heard, it’s probably something I *would* normally read. Yep, I’ll admit it. I’m contrary as hell. But from the comments here, and elsewhere, from other writers and picky readers, I’m glad I haven’t wasted the time. One of these days, when I have nothing better to do (like that would ever happen! My story ideas file is over 100 entries, and I’m raising 3 little grandsons!) I might give it a chance.

    Until then, I’ll keep choosing books the way I always have. By browsing back cover blurbs and sample passages and looking for stories that drag me in.

  5. ricktaubold says:

    I think it depends on one’s perspective and how much “bad writing” affects or offends you. I can usually tell in a few pages whether a book is for me. I go for story first, and as long as the writing doesn’t get in the way of that story, I continue reading (assuming the story has grabbed me, of course). As a good friend once said, “Life is too short to read bad books.” A few months back, I read an indie-published YA book (great cover, great synopsis, great opening). It was a long book (130K words or so as I recall), but the story was very good (if a little slow in the middle), and I enjoyed it. The writing was good overall. However, it was peppered with typos and grammatical errors. The point is that while I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been edited better than this, the errors didn’t get in the way of my reading enjoyment, and the errors were more like 1 or 2 per page at most, instead of every other sentence being an offense to the English language. But if the writing sounds like an amateur composed it or the story opening fails to lure me in, the book is out of my life. I hope I’ve mostly gotten past the point of “I can write better than this” and moved on to “this just isn’t a book for me” for whatever the reason I decide to pass on it.

    • Amen, Rick. I thought I had gotten past it too, which is why it surprised me so durn much. Maybe it didn’t bother me when I was just writing for the sheer joy of it. I had assumed I had grown a thicker skin over the years and could put down a book and say, meh, that’s not for me instead of trying to measure my own value against another’s. Imagine my chagrin when that little reality seeped in. For shame, I tell myself. Nice way for the universe to keep my ego in check. Grin.

      I’m enjoying the vast array of opinions on 50 Shades. It seems to be a love it or leave it type of book.

      Check for my latest books at Amazon

      see what I’m up to at wordpress

  6. I loved 50 Shades. Loved the humor of the inner goddess and dearly loved the emails. I would have enjoyed the book for either one of those things. But… I also loved the twisted character of Christian. He’s tortured and controlling and oh so interesting, at least, to me. And isn’t that why there are so many different types of books, different writing styles, different authors? I also found it quite titillating. Yum. It definitely appeals to my baser side. I’m not ashamed to admit it…

    • Tessa:

      so glad you chimed in. I feel the same about Sookie series. There were some redeeming qualities in it that kept me reading, and I ended up loving it. Character makes the difference for me, I think. I’m glad you mentioned characterization.

  7. I guess I’m going to have to play the other side…I loved the series, bad writing and all. YES, the first book had some seriously annoying moments, and the writing *at first* felt juvenile. BUT, somewhere around the 1/2 way mark, the author finally found some sort of groove and it only improved. I found the story. I found myself drawn into the way they changed each other. Twisted who the other was and molded them into someone they could love. Beyond EVERYTHING, this story is beautiful. YES, I said beautiful. Christian Grey broke my heart in so many ways. He’s so damaged and the sex was in no way gratuitous b/c he didn’t know how else to handle what was happening to him, which was falling in love. He didn’t understand it. I could have done without the lame attempt at a love triangle, but I loved Ana’s inner voices who actually made me laugh at times. I adored their emails. ADORED. ADORED! What this book was for me was every woman’s dream of finding a damaged man and, with all the love they possess, fixing them. And believe me, he’s damaged.
    Also, for those who decided not to try the second book, that was a million times better than the first.
    Lastly, I’m a writer with very little patience for bad writing. The story has to grab me and make me see past everything else. I found Christian a big enough character to hold onto me until the story really kicked in. I couldn’t make it through Hawkings book, but I frickin loved Charlene’s Southern Vamp Mysteries.

  8. asraidevin says:

    I’m following Jennifer Armintrout’s recap of it. I’ll probably read it eventually. But from what I’ve heard the characters come off juvenile and abusive and controlling.

    In the novel, 21 year old Ana doesn’t have a computer or know how to use the Internet, nor does she have a cell phone!! did she hand write all her college essays? And the sex is pretty lackluster. And the author appears to be seriously misguided about what BDSM is about.

    Bad writing doesn’t phaze me. I think the rules are like the pirates code, guidelines. 🙂

  9. Viv says:

    I flipped thru 50 shades in the supermarket, and put it back after laughing out loud at the writing.
    More than that, neither Ana nor Christian were people I could care about. I found her just downright stupid and annoying, and him distastefully creepy (because Eric in the True Blood series is creepy but deliciously so; only seen the TV series).
    I feel no real envy but a sense of wonder that something has created its own gravity, and sucks in anything within a certain distance. I also find reading about any sort of sex almost excruciatingly boring. So ploughing through an entire book that is almost solely about sex is hardly something I’d bother with.

  10. My thoughts were this: there’s a story buried in there, but it never quite makes it to the surface. The idea behind the first two would have been good, but I felt like the ball was dropped somewhere. It read a lot like fan fiction (which it originally was), and as everyone says the writing is bad and it never gets better. It made it hard to follow a lot of the time.

  11. Michelle M. says:

    I read 50 Shades and it sucked. I don’t know any other way to describe it. The writing was just bad. I won’t be reading the other 2 in the trilogy. I’m not a writer, I’m a reader. I’m not envious that this woman is making a killing off of this drivel. If people want to pay to read crap then good for them. I read all kinds of books, those from main stream publishers and self-published and indie authors. I don’t care how a book came to be IF IT’S GOOD. I also don’t care how it came to be IF IT’S BAD. I just want to read good books and 50 shades ain’t one of them. I’ll never get the time I wasted reading it back.

  12. kittyb78 says:

    I can’t get past the horrible writing. It gave me a migraine for two days to try.

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