Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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What she said –

Agent Rachelle Gardner says:

“I could be wrong, but I believe we’re moving into an era in which high quality, intensive pre-publication editing is going to be harder and harder to come by.”

I don’t think there’s much chance she’ll be eating those words!

Gardner argues that it matters:

Readers . . . may not be able to identify why they’re not compelled by a book. . . . . BUT. They know when a book is good enough to not only finish but recommend to their friends.

Of course I totally agree! Vehemently, even! But I’m not necessarily the archetype for American readers or anything like that, because I’m pretty sure I’m way more turned off by poor writing quality than most readers.

From time to time you see a discussion about which matters more: pure storytelling or quality of the writing.

And most commenters declare that storytelling is primary and good writing is icing on the cake. And I sort of agree, in only in a yes-but-not-really kind of way.

I’d argue that without a certain level of writing quality, the story itself just cannot be well told. At least, not in written form.

Just what that certain level is . . . that’s a different question, of course! Higher than many self-published books (probably), lower than Twilight . . . in there somewhere.

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1 Comment What she said –

  1. Elaine T

    I know I’ve read books which I put down and say wtte: There was a good story hiding in there but the writing was trying hard to hide it; maybe I’ll check back for the writer’s 3rd book.

    Often it isn’t much better and I decide the writer just isn’t good enough at the craft for me to bother with. If someone later recommends this writer to me I may try again, but otherwise I won’t. Writing matters.
    Of course, I’m talking about published books, too, so somebody saw something in them.

    There are works where I can wince at the prose – ER Burroughs, frex – even while the power of the story pulls me along. Very pulpy, but boyhowdy could the man spin a yarn. (It’s been a long time, I should see if I can still read them.) Other times I wince at the worldbuilding. If there’s enough payoff or confidence coming through the written page I’ll stick with the book anyway – see Rowling. Her worldbuilding doesn’t work – particularly the intersection of magic and mundane. Her storytelling does.

    Sometimes it is voice or maybe what Jo Walton calls ‘mode’ a sort of gestalt of the feel of the story. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell has a unique voice and mode that kept me going because I liked visiting it.

    I followed the link and can’t say much about the best sellers he named because I bounced off them all. They may have been perfectly literate and grammatical and all virtues of prose, but they didn’t come alive for me. Instead the writing thudded leadenly, and seemed calculated to put me off instead of draw me in. Clearly not everyone reacts this way or they wouldn’t be best sellers.

    I think both matter, and more elements that are less easy to tease out like voice, mode, attention – even POV.

    Btw, referring to the post below, I’m glad you found the West HUNTER books good, since I believe I recommended them. That pair is my favorite of all her work.

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