Art of Writing or Thrill of the Plot?

Recently I got into an interesting discussion with a fellow writer about the importance of good writing. I had mentioned that I was hooked on a series of books that had a fantastic plot but that the writing wasn’t great, even though it was a New York Times bestseller. My friend was shocked to hear this.

I shared with her a conversation I had with a Literary Agent regarding this very thing. The agent stated that just like most things in our society, it comes down to numbers. If a publisher has taken a chance on an author and the public has responded by gobbling those books up – sending them straight to the top of the best seller list – then the publisher will be less likely to tamper with the way that author creates. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? The audience loves the way the author writes, therefore, that author can get away with breaking some of the rules that other authors that haven’t been published are urged to follow. Make sense?

This then led into questions as to why I would want to read a book that had writing that was less than excellent in the first place. And that’s a fair question. Why would I do that? Especially if I want to improve my own craft, which of course would be easier done by reading great writers, not just mediocre ones. I spent quite a bit of time pondering this question and it was only after I finished reading a book with truly fantastic writing, that I think I found my answer.

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What I discovered is this: There is a time to enjoy a book for the story, and there’s a time to enjoy a book for the eloquence of how the writer crafted those words.

And I think both are ok.

There are some truly great storytellers out there. Stories I can’t put it down. Stories where all I want to do is burn from cover to cover as quickly as possible. But what I sometimes discover with these authors is that the writing is very ok. (That’s not to say it’s atrocious. I honestly can’t continue to read a book when it’s obvious the author hasn’t taken the time to learn the craft of writing and has given zero minutes to editing.) But, their story is so intriguing, so captivating, that I can’t imagine putting the book down, even to do laundry or to cook supper! I love, love, love these types of stories and these books are one of the reasons I wanted to share my own stories with the world! They are entertainment at it’s best! And they should be part of the literary market.

Then there are the books that can take your breath away with just one sentence. You know which ones I’m talking about… the ones where you can’t seem to read another paragraph until you go back and re-read that other one four or five times? Until you feel like you’ve digested it and allowed it to hollow into your very bones? Yes. Those types of books. These are the writers who are so gifted it wouldn’t matter if they were writing greeting cards. These guys bleed eloquence and poise and allow their words to make the world a better place. I love these books, too, friends. I really do. These are the ones that make me a better writer, just by reading them. These are the people I aspire to be like.

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But I ask, must I make a choice between one or the other? Must I choose to only read great writing, even if it bores me? Can I not enjoy a story just for it’s entertainment value, as well? Well, I guess you can figure out by now that my answer to that is a resounding yes! Yes I can and yes I do and no, I won’t apologize for it. If you’re one that would rather leave the mediocre reading to other readers, that’s fine, too. There are still enough of us out there that those stories will get read. Someday.

What about you? What do you enjoy reading? Are you only a fan of reading truly inspiring writing or are you a fan of getting lost in a fun book, despite what level the writing is? I’d love to hear your thoughts below! 🙂

P.S. Wondering what that book with the ‘truly fantastic writing’ was? “Perfect Ruin” by Lauren DeStefano. If you haven’t read it and enjoy YA, I highly recommend it. And yes, I read many of the passages over and over again! 

Happy reading, friends!!

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2 thoughts on “Art of Writing or Thrill of the Plot?

  1. Dawn V. Cahill says:

    And then there are the best-selling authors who write boring stories atrociously….I’m tempted to name names, but I’ll refrain. I always wonder, who reads these?

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