|Tell me again, Ms. Myers, how PERFECT he is! I need no other other description than that.|
Here’s the thing about writing—readers don’t appreciate fancy words and intelligently written prose. It’s true. It is. For the most part readers don’t even care about GOOD writing (does a certain shiny vampire come to mind? Just saying). You can slave away trying to perfect the most amazing sentence, paragraph, or novel, but I’m telling you right now, most likely, no one will even notice.
I’ve been there as a reader. I’ve done the very same thing. I hate to admit this, but here I go anyway, I read the shiny vampire book in one day—beginning to end. Ahh, I opened up to you. Please don’t stone me. You may hate her writing. You may dis her and whatnot, but guess who’s laughing her way to the bank, folks—the lady who wrote “Green leaves were swaying in the wind, greenly.” Why? Because readers are interested in a good story. And whether you liked the shiny vampire or not, she told a humdinger of a tale and several million people loved it.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to ignore your commas or toss aside rules of grammar and adverb usage (I hate adverbs). But what I am saying is this, don’t get so caught up in the form and style of writing that you forget to tell a great story.
The number one thing writers want and care about most: the story. It is then followed by character development , theme, and then atmosphere/setting (The Writer, August 2011, Laura Miller). I have yet to hear a writer commend the actual writing—“The story was so-so, but the word usage was superb!”
Ain’t gonna happen. If a reader does say this, then they’re just plain weird.
Also in The Writer, August 2011 article written by Laura Miller, she goes on to say the following (which I find perfect and decided to quote directly): “You probably don’t go to the movies to see the lighting and photography, and most readers don’t come to books in search of a breathtaking sentence.”
I couldn’t agree more.
And I’m thrilled.
Here’s why—I’m not an eloquent writer. I may have one sentence, two if I’m lucky, that someone might say, “Hey, that’s good stuff. I’d better underline that.” But for the most part, my writing is at par. Nothing fancy. Nothing to earn a MFA degree with, and I’m okay with that.
BUT, I do think I spin a good story. I work really hard to keep my readers engaged and desiring to read the next chapter, and the next one, and the next one.
That’s my goal. I love The Hunger Games, and I use that book somewhat as my model, my Holy Grail, if you will. Was the writing to just die for? Nope. Not one bit. But the story sure was! She had me hanging on by my nails, nervous and afraid for Katniss and Peeta, sitting in bed for a full day in my pjs, unshowered, because I simply couldn’t function until I knew how the story ended.
THAT’s the kind of story I want to write. That’s my hope and desire anyway.
Of course, my true goal is to write a fantastic story that is written well. I’m constantly trying to make sure my writing doesn’t make me look like an idiot—improve, improve, improve. But, without a great story, who will care that I “show” more than I “tell” or that I found a way to eliminate all to-be verbs from my writing (wouldn't that be awesome)?
These are the stories I’m looking for as well amongst the many, many, many submissions we’ve received. I want a good story. Give me something different, something that makes me say, “Holy cow! I need to read more of this!” We've had a few. But I sure would love to see more.
The Reluctant Hook’er
P.S. I posted the question, “What do you think readers value more? A good story or good writing?” on twitter.
Though several responses indicated that good writing should be the most valued, there were far more responses that placed a good story above that of good writing. Many even went on to say that they would
forgive bad writing, if the storyline was excellent.
I’d love to know what you think? So please leave a comment. (I love me some comments. They make me so happy).