Well, folks. It was fun while it lasted.

As you can see, not much has been happening on this blog lately.

There are several reasons for this, but I will only hit on a couple:

First: It's amazing how much can change in a couple of months--both in our personal lives and on the writing front. A couple of us have signed publishing contracts, and so the need to write, edit, market, promote HAD to take preference over this blog and the services we were providing.

Second: Running this blog, critiquing submissions, providing feedback...well, that's a LOT of dang work. We weren't getting paid for this service. We had a concept and we went with it--for free--not realizing how much time it would involve with very little (nothing) in return for our effort.

Third: Probably the biggest factor that made us come to this decision, was the fact that a good portion of the submissions we received just weren't ready. They needed more revision. We were wanting to give out reviews on AMAZING, fully complete, well edited novels. 90% of what we received didn't come close.

So we've shut it down. We've moved on.

If you liked our comments and our posts, you can check us out on our individual blogs:

Angela Scott: www.whimsywritingandreading.weebly.com or @whimsywriting on twitter or http://www.facebook.com/AngelaScottWriter

D.S. Tracy:

Kacey Mark:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Think readers care about fancy prose? Well, think again.

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 8:27 AM
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).

17 comments:

Marc on July 27, 2011 at 8:50 AM said...

Wow, Angela, excellent post today! I feel like you've said in a grander, more experienced way, EXACTLY what I've been feeling since genuinely starting on this crusade to be an author.

As I've said, I've been writing since I was a little tyke. And much like the rock star that teaches himself how to play guitar without once looking at chords, sheet music or notes, I've never read any book "on writing" (pun slightly intended, sorry for the adverb) to teach me how! So, when I started seeing all these posts on adverbs, and present participial phrases, and to-be verbs (not just here, other places, too), I immediately got paranoid, like, "crap! I literally know nothing about good writing, do I?"

But that's not true. All the writing I've done since middle school, high school, college, recently...it's all been practice in story presentation, plot development, learning how to present a reader with a good bombshell, filtering out details until the final confrontation and climax, building the courage to figuratively and literally "pull the trigger" on various moments and kill characters to enhance the impact, etc.

Especially after reading this, Angela, do you know how I feel now? I feel more powerful than ever! Because I know that the stories I put together are fantastic, the concepts are unique, one of a kind and special, and I can honestly see and hear people discussing them with their friends and family...AND my word usage will be much more buttoned up now. Maybe not 100% perfect, but like you pointed out, it's not the top thing.

Yes, it's important to be able to use words properly and not mangle and dismember the English language. But as I've believed for a long time...

Any lousy schmuck (pardon my Francais) can read the dictionary, follow every literary rule on the planet and use language to perfection. That's all textbook. Anybody can learn it.

The truly successful? They're the ones who can present readers the exact balance of details to tease them, enough pretty words to tingle their imaginations, and mind-blowing circumstances to make them jump back and say...

"Wow. I really thought I'd seen everything. So-and-so has proven me wrong with this book. Freaking amazing!" :-D

Patricia Lynne on July 27, 2011 at 9:21 AM said...

Don't feel bad, I read Twilight in one day, New Moon in one day... You get the idea right? You're so not alone in that fact.

Back to topic. You make a great point. Most readers just want a good story. It's us writers who are the ones that see the good or bad writing. I think a good story should come first, and then worry about how good the writing is during edits. Just my humble little opinion.

Valerie Ormond on July 27, 2011 at 9:22 AM said...

I loved this article, and I hope it stirs controversy. I, like you, want a good story - and even better when it's well written. But good writing without a good story...well, reminds me of some of the stuff I HAD to read as an English major. Thanks for the excellent post; I'm a new fan.

Raine Thomas on July 27, 2011 at 9:32 AM said...

Great (and a bit sad) article! I absolutely know what you mean. As authors, we do need to balance clean, effective writing with storytelling...not always such an easy task!

Lesli Muir Lytle on July 27, 2011 at 10:01 AM said...

As hard as I work to bring some kind of music to a scene, in the end, I still feel like a first-grader when I read some of the lilting things the lovely literary writers have produced.

This makes me feel better. Thanks.

S. Ravens on July 27, 2011 at 12:36 PM said...

I agree to a level...
If the story sucks the good writing can't save the book, but if the writing sucks the story might still get you to like the book. But that's it, I daresay.
I cannot imagine really loving a book that features a great story when the writing sucks, though I have to say that usually bad writing comes with bad stories, anyway. Potential in a story, maybe, but not a really good one.

There is one book I've read lately, for example, that had a really great story but about 1/3 of the pages of this book featured detailed descriptions of cars - their looks, their speed, their smell, you name it. And the story didn't have the least to do with cars, they were just in it as people usually use them to get around. I didn't finish it, yet, though the basic story is really cool ...

On the other hand a book that has a great story AND great writing may easily be one I love to go back to over and over again. Ones that come to my mind are for example Sarah Rees Brennan's "Demon Lexicon" trilogy. That woman's writing style is one of a kind. I'd even read essays on maths if she wrote them in her usual style. ;)

Of course there are also authors who seem to sell books that neither feature a great/extraordinary story or a good writing style. There is one certain German writer who sells books without end and always writes following the same scheme (boring, predictable...), for example, or a certain lady who wrote the book series a currently very popular TV series is based on - if you agree you'll know who I mean. It's alright that people love those books, too, but I for my part can't enjoy those. (I like the TV series, though ;))

So, basically, I think you're right, but I don't think that it means authors should focus on their story instead of their writing style. In my opinion it's important to try to do your best in every aspect of a book - whether you succeed in delivering is another question entirely, but you at least ought to try.

Jazz K on July 27, 2011 at 2:10 PM said...

I agree with your post to a large extent. However, there's one writer that is largely considered "good" for his prose, not his stories: James Joyce. If you've ever tried to read his later stream-of-conscious novels, you know what I'm talking about.

For me, it's equal writing and story. There can be pretty writing with a poor plot, and I just don't care enough to finish it. Poor or confusing writing, however, is just as much of a turn-off.

Teresa Cypher aka T K CypherBuss on July 27, 2011 at 2:14 PM said...

Great post. I liked this: "...but guess who’s laughing her way to the bank, folks—the lady who wrote “Green leaves were swaying in the wind, greenly." I took from this post a reminder that there is a middle of the road to walk. Most of us will never write a work of literary fiction, yet there is something to be said for good, solid, writing. I think we have to find that balance between writing a piece that is readable and has a great story that sucks in the reader and makes them want to turn the pages--and even better, leaves us laughing all the way to the bank (even if the deposits are small :-), without spending hours looking over M.W.'s thesaurus and stressing over teeny, tiny, details. I needed to read just such a post today. Thank you. I often read here, but rarely comment. I do so enjoy this blog and the advice and opinions of the hookers.

Ready, Aim, Hook Me on July 27, 2011 at 2:58 PM said...

Great comments, guys! I love this. I, for one, would love to be one of those amazing and brilliant writers who can not only weave an incredible story but also write in such a manner to have readers quoting me on twitter :) That would be a dream.

But I am realistic. I know where my strengths are, and though I do think my writing is continually improving, I know I will NEVER be considered a literary author. I'm here for entertainment purposes--I write to entertain, something I think a lot of readers want. (Crossing fingers anyway).

I have read several books in which the writing was so horrid, I had to put it down. I just couldn't force myself to read on.

So, maybe it's safe to say that as writers we need to strike a balance. We need to tell a compelling story, but make sure our writing style doesn't hinder it in any way--does that sound good?

"If it sounds like writing--then rewrite it." --Someone said this, but I'm unsure who (couldn't find it as quickly as I hoped). But I agree completely.

Perhaps, the balance we hope for comes with years of practice.

I'm just hoping I'm getting closer.

Oh, and S. Raven, I totally know who you're talking about. I read her first book in the series and was like, "What the crap? I don't get it--people actually like this?" (The tv series is pretty good).

Teresa, thanks for commenting for the first time. I appreciate it more than you know.

Welcome Valerie :)

To everyone else, you have made this a mighty fine discussion and have given me much to think about. Thanks for the comments.

~ Angela Scott AKA The Reluctant Hook'er

erica and christy on July 27, 2011 at 9:39 PM said...

I read teh sparkly vampire books before I started serious writing and haven't read them recently. Really? Greenly? Ha! But yeah, I liked them when I read them.

I think most readers are about the story. But the agents and editors? They're being very, very careful.
erica

Eliza on July 27, 2011 at 9:43 PM said...

I think the story has to come first. I think the writing would have to be appalling to put me off a book if the story was good. Great if both are good though :-)

Kezia Luas on July 27, 2011 at 11:45 PM said...

Wow...this is all sooooooo very true. I read all the time and I'd have to say that absolutely nothing is better than a great storyline. I mean...sometimes bad grammar can ruin the flow but the better the story the easier it is to ignore the errors.

Tombstone on July 27, 2011 at 11:58 PM said...

Angela,

I read this post. I thought you should know.

S. Ravens on July 28, 2011 at 9:37 AM said...

@Angela:
Exactly my thoughts...
They were the first books I stopped reading in order to not spoil the tv adaption... though usually I'm the one who's all "noooes, we can't watch that, yet, I haven't finished the boooks!!"

Meika on August 1, 2011 at 6:40 AM said...

Great, great post. Thanks so much! I, too, hung on by the nails while reading Hunger Games. Such a good story. And...is that an actual line from Twilight?

BugDreams on August 16, 2011 at 8:22 PM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BugDreams on August 16, 2011 at 8:30 PM said...

I couldn't disagree more. I'll take good, hopefully great, writing over story every time.

I feel as if I've stumbled into fiction's own little tea party.

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