Recently, I started reading a book that my friends had raved about–not one that I’ve written about here, by the way. The writing was beautiful. Clear. Clean. Even lyrical.
And I couldn’t get past chapter eight.
Maybe the story would have picked up. Maybe had I kept with it, I would have seen what everyone else loved about the book. After all, this is a famous, well-loved, New York Times bestselling author. But several dozen pages in, I just wasn’t connecting with the characters and I had no real idea where the story was going. So I returned it to the library and moved on to something that caught my interest.
This should be a lesson for all of writers, especially those of us who don’t have a NYT bestseller’s following– story is king. You can write beautifully, but if you don’t catch the reader’s interest and hold it long enough to get them into the story, your lyricism and vocabulary is wasted. Style is an integral part of your unique voice, but it should serve to sweep the reader into the story and keep them turning pages–whether it’s a frantic page-turner or a tale meant to be savored slowly.
Don’t get so caught up in a beautiful turn of phrase that you lose sight of what fiction can do: take your readers on a journey that will be as meaningful to them as if they’d lived it themselves.
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