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If the grammar police were real, this would be felonious.

the-life-of-a-network-newsreel-cameraman

Is it possible to write an unreadable book? Yes.

How might one go about doing so? There are many things an author can do to mangle a manuscript. You can be way too repetitive. You can write like Donald Trump speaks: Incoherently. You can inflate a sentence to the point of bloat, then do that with every sentence. You can avoid going into detail about the adventures that your book is supposed to be about.

While perusing Amazon one day, searching for a book about TV news journalists or camerapersons, I found “The Life of a Network Newsreel Cameraman.” Two hundred thirty-three pages. I began reading this book on January 11, 2017, while in bed. I groaned on the first page. By the second page, I knew it was destined for the recycling bin.

This sentence is typical: “We were shooting black and white film, no sound — just silent film — so we’d go out and do silent black and white film stories.”

ARRUGH! Please just shoot me now.

It can’t be this bad throughout, could it? I flipped ahead a half-inch thickness of pages. Yup. It could be. This thing was published in 2001 by an outfit called Casa Del Ray Publishing Co. Whoever they are, they should have hired a professional writer to interview the author rather than let him write his own manuscript. Then a professional editor should have made any necessary refinements.

There are enough issues with this book to keep an editor busy for a month.

After 20 minutes of struggling with this man’s god-awful storytelling, I keyboarded this blog post. In a moment, I’ll start reading another book, by TV and film producer/director Garry Marshall, titled “My Happy Days in Hollywood.” I expect it will be competently done and an enjoyable read. Among his many achievements were “Happy Days” and “Pretty Woman.”

Hubris is thinking that you have the skill to write when you do not, and that people who buy your book will enjoy reading it. That you can invent repetitive, bloated, boring prose and splatter it over 233 pages is arrogance, or at least misplaced confidence. Understand that everyone has a skill set. You may be a fine cameraman but that doesn’t mean you will also be a fine writer. This guy had cool stories to tell. But he didn’t. A pro writer would have forced him to dig into the details of those experiences and would then have presented them in an interesting way.

I discovered that this lousy book is autographed. If I had written it, I wouldn’t want to indicate pride by signing it. In the morning, I shall gingerly pick it up with a pair of tongs, as I would something toxic and stinky. Then, I’ll go out to the garage, lift the lid of the recycle bin and deposit it inside. Then quickly shut the lid.

 

Michael McKown

Specialty magazine editor/publisher for 22 years and a partner (with Eric Shapiro) in Ghostwriters Central since 2002.

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