Does Story Trump Craft?
We’ve discussed various aspects of writing many times on this blog, including the importance of mastering the craft along with how crucial it is to have a terrific story (or for non-fiction, a strong, compelling topic). Having been an editor for years and an aficionado of both literary and genre fiction, I’ve always advocated the position that “writing craft” is of primary importance. But I wonder if it’s time to change my tune.
Are we entering an era in which the story is the single most important element, and issues of “craft” are secondary if considered at all?
We are seeing:
The rise of self-publishing
Scaled-back editing at many of the major publishing houses
More competition than ever for readers’ attention and time
Could all of this be creating an environment in which literary excellence is losing its value, and the books that will sell best are those with a juicy or fast-paced page-turning factor, regardless of the quality of the writing?
These days, even to ask such a question is to invite an onslaught of protests in the vein of “but it’s all subjective anyway” and “but who determines what is quality?”
I know people are still reading high quality fiction (I just finished the latest by Barbara Kingsolver, and am about to start The Round House by Louise Erdrich – both “literary” in nature.) I also know readers seem to be devouring genre fiction and self-published books at an even faster rate (and for the record, I’ve read many self-pubbed authors, too, such as Colleen Hoover.)
When submitting projects to editors these days, their responses are all over the map, so it’s hard to know what they really want on any given day. I wonder if they are grappling with these same questions.
What do you think? Are things any different now than they were in days gone by, or is this just my perception? Is craft still important? Is story the be-all and end-all?
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If you’re thinking about getting published, you may be interested in my e-book: How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing, available now on Amazon.