Good Story, Good Writing, and Twilight

I recently read an article called “A reader’s advice to writers: A word to the novelist on how to write better books” by Laura Miller. She gives 5 tips to authors about what the reader wants in a book. Her fourth point caught my attention the most:

“Remember that nobody agrees on what beautiful prose style is and most readers either can’t recognize ‘good writing’ or don’t value it that much.” [emphasis added]

Sigh. Don’t we know it.

One of my big beefs with, say, Twilight is that the writing just killed me. I think I was tempted to bash my head against the wall if Bella talked about Edward’s perfectly chiseled, god-like body one more time. That and dozens of writing flaws made me cringe. And yet, I kept reading…all the way to the very end of book 4.

Which brings me to Laura Miller’s 3rd point–story is the most important element of a novel for most readers. Story comes before characters, theme, atmosphere/setting, and definitely the writing style. The story is what kept me going in Twilight. I hated Bella. I disliked Edward. Her writing drove me crazy. And yet I read on. The story was good. Stephenie Meyer had something there–a great story.

As I read Laura Miller’s article, I knew that what she said is sad (to me) but true. The average reader just doesn’t care if the author overuses -ly words or doesn’t use “said” as tags 99% of the time or doesn’t follow any of the other “don’ts” in writing. A good story will find readers. Good stories sell books.

Then why do I spend so much time worrying about whether my writing is polished, “good” writing? Because it matters to me. I think I have a good story. Well, dang it, I want a great book. And a good story + good writing = a great book. Or so I hope.

This is why I have to give two different ratings in my book reviews. I tried giving just one, but found that I can enjoy a book for its story and I can enjoy a book for its writing, but not every book is enjoyable in both categories.

Do you notice the writing style? If you notice an abundance of cliches and such in the writing, does it bother you? Or do you not care all that much?

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About Karen Krueger

I write for teens when I'm not chasing after two cute kids. I love to sing and eat cereal (though not at the same time), and I most certainly am not a vampire because I'm addicted to sunshine.
This entry was posted in Books & Reading, Q4U, Writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Good Story, Good Writing, and Twilight

  1. amie borst says:

    i think it’s true. i blogged about something similar not too long ago – about breaking the rules. many authors have successfully broken writing rules (diary of a wimpy kid – TELLING, all telling). so while i think the rules are there for a reason, i also believe rules are made to be broken. and all that stuff about cliches? drives me nuts. saying something is a cliche is a freaking cliche.

    • I think writers who break the “rules” successfully know the rules and then decide not to follow them, so I agree with you there. It’s when the do it on purpose that it’s often good.
      I think what bothers me is when the writing doesn’t seem polished. Like an editor could have helped it along and made it a lot cleaner than it was before.
      Ha. And with cliches….I have to admit that often I don’t notice that something is cliche. There are only a few times. And sometimes authors go overboard trying to come up with a new kind of description, so much that it sticks out and is laughable. So yeah…ha, I know what you’re saying. 🙂

  2. I care!!!

    Bad writing makes me want to abandon the book, even if there is a good story. I didn’t finish reading Twilight, it made me want to edit instead of enjoy. I tried, but there were so many other books to read…..

    When I write, I want the prose to be polished. I appreciate when someone says they love the story, but I want the writing to be just as loved.

    Maryellen

    • You know, there were times that I wanted to put the books down and just forget about it, but I’m actually glad I kept going. I think as an aspiring YA author, it was important for me to read at least one. (The fact that I continued on through book 4 is for reasons I don’t even comprehend.) In fact, in one of my creative writing classes we had to read Twilight and write an informal paper on what was good and bad about it. And believe me, it was NOT because my professor enjoyed Twilight. (Quite the opposite, in fact. It was “physically painful” for her to read it. Ha.) But I think it was good to see what was so appealing to teenage girls about the book. And I was able to look at the book as a writer and figure out what Stephenie did right and did wrong. I think it helped me to realize when my writing was going the Twilight way and I’ve been able to stop it. Because I totally agree with you–I want my writing to be as admired as my storytelling abilities.

      (I feel slightly bad for bashing Twilight on my blog. Like somehow Stephenie Meyer will read it. Or one day when I’m published I’ll meet her and have to talk to her knowing that I publicly said all this stuff. But she’s rolling in the money, so I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad. 🙂 )

  3. I absolutely, 100% agree with you. I feel like a lot of people hate on Twilight because the writing is cringe-worthy (and it is. it really, really is.) but Stephenie Meyer herself says she never claimed to be a great writer, just a good storyteller. That’s why people are so rabid about the books – the story sucks you in, whether you want it to or not lol. But like you, I obsess over my own writing. A great story + great writing is what equals a classic. You can’t have one without the other and still have great literature. But you can have one without the other and still have a bestseller. Clearly. =) I really enjoyed this post! Thanks for writing it! And thanks for stopping by my blog, as well!

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