Storyteller vs Writer
I’m not sure that’s the best title for this blog post, but it’s all I can think of. What brought this on? Well, I recently finished a romance story by a very successful self-pubbed author. The story was terrific. The characters were interesting. I loved reading how their relationship developed. The tension was good and the climax was well done. In general, I thought it was an excellent story. However, I’ve read several stories by this author, and the heroines are all the same, right down to the dialogue. The author writes dialogue with far too many exclamation points!!! And her heroines trail off in the middle … ohmygod!! … of a thought!!!
I enjoyed the story. I didn’t enjoy the writing. I checked the standings of this author’s books on Amazon, and all dozen or so of them are quite low (meaning they are selling very well) and it made me wonder just what readers are looking for. For myself, I don’t think I’ll read any more of this author’s work because the typos and grammar errors take me out of the story. But going by the rankings, I must be in a very small minority. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer and I notice those errors more. It makes me wonder if she has an editor. I doubt it.
That makes it sound like I think my books don’t have any errors. I know that’s not true. You should see the typos in my rough drafts! Heck, look at 95% of my posts on Facebook! They totally suck. Even though I go over my manuscript before I even submit it, and my editor looks at it multiple times, and the final line editor goes through it before it is even published, I still find errors later. Drives me crazy. I find typos even in the best books from St. Martin’s or Avon. However, there’s a difference between the occasional boo-boo and badly flawed writing mechanics. I expect a book to have sound writing, where the grammar and punctuation follow certain rules.
On the other hand, I once read a book for a book club where the writing was superb. Not just mechanics, but the lyrical use of description was beautiful. It was almost like effortless poetry. The author’s word choices were stunningly perfect. When I read a paragraph, I could see the scenery so clearly I felt like I was there. And I couldn’t have cared less about the characters or their story.
The first author, grammar errors, typos and all, is a gifted storyteller. The second author was a master of the craft of writing. Which is better? Which is more important for the reader? In my mind, clearly the storyteller. But even better would be the author that could blend the two. I think that can be a difficult thing. But there are some authors out there woo do it well. Laura Kinsale is one. Sally Watson is another. (If you haven’t read Sally Watson, I strongly urge you to do so. She writes young adult historicals, and she’s the reason I got a history degree and started writing. I adore Lark and the Hornet’s Nest in particular, but anything she has written is fantastic.) Also, Nalini Singh.
What do you think? Does poor writing take you out of a story, or does it not matter as long as the story itself is good?