Fast Food Reading

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27 Calls for Submissions in November 2016 - Paying Markets

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
In trying to rationalise the unfairness of publishing, with poorly-written potboilers achieving best-selling status, I had a startling realisation.

Commercially successful writing, which follows a tried and tested formula in which the outcome is known from page 1, and that uses language which won't stretch the intellect of a ten-year-old, is the equivalent of eating fast food.

Macdonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken isn't healthy nutritionally, but reading a Lee Child thriller or E.L. James erotic story isn't going to add to your brain power. These food and book types may well stimulate and offer temporary satisfaction, with the risk of guilty feelings for having indulged, but they aren't good for you!

I guess that means literary award winning erudite novels, are the food equivalent of cordon-bleu cuisine. This means at least five courses, and being unsure of what you're consuming as you read.

Such profundity leaves me wondering what my three Cornish detective novels are food-wise. If I stay with regional cuisine, they're a Cornish Pasty followed by saffron cakes, all washed down with some cider from Cornish Orchards.

Such an approach may help my self-promotion as I begin another round of querying.

What sort of books have you cooked up lately?

Hmm...I think all MG writing is fast food. You could argue that my books all have underlying environmental themes (just like you can argue that ketchup is a vegetable), but they're primarily just a rollicking good time (I hope).
Is Paul referring to all books or merely books for adults? The examples he mentions are adult examples.

The point is books must reflect the diverse needs and wants of their readers. Most people read novels as pure entertainment, which means some laughs, some violence, some romance; nothing which taxes your mind too much. Read and forget.

I have a YA fantasy and an adult fantasy - they are probably neither fast food nor gourmet cuisine. Probably some horrible mish-mash which will leave a bad taste in the mouth, and maybe give stomach cramps. :oops::oops:
I think you are missing the point about fast food. Yes, its really unhealthy, but it does give you a rush for 5 minutes, then your logic kicks in and says 'never again'. Wasn't that how novellas and pamphlets started out? as fast food fiction? thinking Charles Dickens and Victorian publishing.

If my writing was fast food fiction, I would probably describe it as a 'One Pot Trinidadian Byriani'. Lots of spice, rice, pepper and something meaty to get your gob around.
Is Paul referring to all books or merely books for adults?

I admit, I was thinking about adult fiction, but books aimed at young readers are incredibly influential. I was a solitary child, whose nose was always in a book—indeed, my very first spoken word wasn't 'mummy' or 'daddy', but 'book'!

I was fortunate enough to have parents who were both avid readers, and they helped steer me towards stories that were entertaining and which benefitted my education into the wonderful world of words; I loved looking up a new word in the dictionary.

Just as we learn good or bad habits in what we eat as youngsters, so our reading tastes are formed early on.
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Things moving forward!

27 Calls for Submissions in November 2016 - Paying Markets