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craft vs story (1 Viewer)

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KeganThompson

Senior Member
in your personal opinion, would you rather read a book with a good story but the craft is lacking or read a story that has great craft but not much going on story-wise?
I can see both. You don't want to read a story you find boring with no tension even if it's very clean.
But if the craft doesn't immerse you or takes you out of the story, I can see why it would be hard to focus even a good storyline is there.
Both are important but if you had to pick one...
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I have always been a writer than focuses on craft and that means tension. My strength isn't style. I have found the best writers use both to their advantage to get their audience to read it. I will be working on prose eventually. There are some accessible books on the subject. But it can be pricey for my expenses. So I am mainly focusing on the competency of the prose I write. I don't focus yet on the beautiful prose I was mentioning. I try to write clear sentences so that there isn't confusion. It's a slow process. I am journaling currently to describe what is around me. It's not easy for me. I have yet to get the book that I need since I have difficulties visually describing settings. It isn't easy or comes naturally to me. I think I have tried some creative writing books to try to describe such as Julia Bell's book on creative writing. I need to do some research I admit. The book I want to own will take its sweet time getting here whenever it gets ordered.
 
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TheMightyAz

Mentor
I don't know the story when I first start reading so craft is important and has to be good enough for me to read on and find out what the story is. I'd imagine publishers and editors view it the same way.
 

KeganThompson

Senior Member
I'm not surprised you picked craft lol. I was watching an author on YouTube and she said some people can be really good at writing but their story can be boring and I never thought about that. So that's what made me ask the question.
A story is just an idea until it's implemented which is what makes or breaks it I think...
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I'm not surprised you picked craft lol. I was watching an author on YouTube and she said some people can be really good at writing but their story can be boring and I never thought about that. So that's what made me ask the question.
A story is just an idea until it's implemented which is what makes or breaks I think...
It's the only one to pick. Seriously, if in the first few paragraphs you show a lack of competency, the reader isn't going to read on. Neither is a publisher and neither is an editor. You don't have to be Charles Dickens, Ray Bradbury or Terry Pratchett. You just need to show you're about to handle the story ahead in a competent way. Then people will read on.

It's THE most important thing.
 

KeganThompson

Senior Member
It's the only one to pick. Seriously, if in the first few paragraphs you show a lack of competency, the reader isn't going to read on. Neither is a publisher and neither is an editor. You don't have to be Charles Dickens, Ray Bradbury or Terry Pratchett. You just need to show you're about to handle the story ahead in a competent way. Then people will read on.

It's THE most important thing.
Did you ever read a book that was published traditionally and was like ?-Because the way sentences were structured you had to reread it a couple of times. I got the book "the lovely bones" and after reading a few chapters I was not impressed with how some sentences were worded and the world building was missing something. I like certain aspects about it but not enough to keep reading. I'm not a great writer so for me to notice the way things were worded at times kinda says a lot imo. I think the author had a background in journalism because she has a memoir too. For those to get published I heard you have to have a solid background in writing and connections already-just something someone mentioned.🤷🏼‍♀️
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Did you ever read a book that was published traditionally and was like ?-Because the way sentences were structured you had to reread it a couple of times. I got the book "the lovely bones" and after reading a few chapters I was not impressed with how some sentences were worded and the world building was missing something. I like certain aspects about it but not enough to keep reading. I'm not a great writer so for me to notice the way things were worded at times kinda says a lot imo. I think the author had a background in journalism because she has a memoir too. For those to get published I heard you have to have a solid background in writing and connections already-just something someone mentioned.🤷🏼‍♀️
Yeah, all the time. I won't read anything I don't feel I can learn from. I'm listening to Something Wicked This Way Comes at the moment. It's feeding my needs!
 

KeganThompson

Senior Member
Yeah, all the time. I won't read anything I don't feel I can learn from.
Why are you waiting to write your novel. I know you said to focus on craft but what in particular? You already seem quite advanced to me especially with all the critique and advice you give. I was thinking about what you said about writing short stories to improve. I can see myself doing that after I finish my draft. Take a break work on craft some more and come back to it to revise it so I can make it better
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Why are you waiting to write your novel. I know you said to focus on craft but what in particular? You already seem quite advanced to me especially with all the critique and advice you give. I was thinking about what you said about writing short stories to improve. I can see myself doing that after I finish my draft. Take a break work on craft some more and come back to it to revise it so I can make it better
Because I'm not good enough yet. I'm competent enough but there's something I can't quite put my finger on yet. I'll know it when I find it. I'm sure of that.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
in your personal opinion, would you rather read a book with a good story but the craft is lacking or read a story that has great craft but not much going on story-wise?
I can see both. You don't want to read a story you find boring with no tension even if it's very clean.
But if the craft doesn't immerse you or takes you out of the story, I can see why it would be hard to focus even a good storyline is there.
Both are important but if you had to pick one...
We had this same proposition in a thread a few months ago, almost word for word. :)

Since there are more books available than I have years in my life left to read, I demand BOTH. If the author can't write well, I know before I've wasted much time on very many pages. I don't care what their story is, I dump poor writing in a hurry, with rare exception. There is another book out there I haven't read yet that has great writing AND an entertaining, imaginative story. And if the writing is competent but things in the plot make me cringe, I'm done. (Alan Dean Foster after he got lazy).

I learned my last lesson on that spring of last year, when I started a series that was highly recommended. The stories were OK, the writing was sub-standard. Luckily the books were short. :) I kept thinking the writing must improve as the author learned, thus the recommendation. Nope. Book three was as much of a train wreck as the first. Not doing that again, no matter the recommendation or who made it.

For us as writers, we should be demanding both of ourselves. If you paint a room, are you asking yourself if you'd settle for an ugly color with a smooth paint job? Are you satisfied with a great color, but with streaks and splotches? No, you want a great paint job competently applied. That's what I want when I read.
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Like @vranger, I always find this choice impossible to choose They go hand in hand. It's like eating good food. Could you make a choice between good texture or good taste? What would you rather have? Sorry, can't pick one. :)
 

KeganThompson

Senior Member
We had this same proposition in a thread a few months ago, almost word for word. :)

Since there are more books available than I have years in my life left to read, I demand BOTH. If the author can't write well, I know before I've wasted much time on very many pages. I don't care what their story is, I dump poor writing in a hurry, with rare exception. There is another book out there I haven't read yet that has great writing AND an entertaining, imaginative story. And if the writing is competent but things in the plot make me cringe, I'm done. (Alan Dean Foster after he got lazy).

I learned my last lesson on that spring of last year, when I started a series that was highly recommended. The stories were OK, the writing was sub-standard. Luckily the books were short. :) I kept thinking the writing must improve as the author learned, thus the recommendation. Nope. Book three was as much of a train wreck as the first. Not doing that again, no matter the recommendation or who made it.

For us as writers, we should be demanding both of ourselves. If you paint a room, are you asking yourself if you'd settle for an ugly color with a smooth paint job? Are you satisfied with a great color, but with streaks and splotches? No, you want a great paint job competently applied. That's what I want when I read.
Since I've done other arts like drawing and I am decent at that (though I need to get back into it) Ive been trying to compare my drawing experience with my writing. It's hard because I am at that place where I know it needs work especially when comparing it to books I read. I have the knowledge that it's sup-par
but I don't have the skill to figure out exactly why and how to fix it. That's what I find so frustrating. Knowing it's off but not knowing how to fix it...
 
in your personal opinion, would you rather read a book with a good story but the craft is lacking or read a story that has great craft but not much going on story-wise?
I can see both. You don't want to read a story you find boring with no tension even if it's very clean.
But if the craft doesn't immerse you or takes you out of the story, I can see why it would be hard to focus even a good storyline is there.
Both are important but if you had to pick one...

Hello

I don't have strong feelings about stories (as ends in themselves) really, just in the sense that I wouldn't necessarily seek them out. Ideally a 'piece of fiction' (for me) would be interesting, or funny, would create a world I wanted to be in, or a character I wanted to spend time with - and I think you could have all of these without a 'story' as such.

I have read books set up to be page turners and they pulled me through but I kind of resented them for what they were doing - luring me on into worlds that I wasn't getting much out of. On the other hand a good story can tug you in and provide the framework to 'look around you', as it were - it can pull you into a world you like.

As for the craft - an evocative, poetic, style can be one of the things that keeps you 'in' a book, and if so then that's fantastic. It's easier for a story to do this but if the prose is so good it can do it on its own then that's perfect (for me anyway) ...
 
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JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
Craft above story - with the allowance there's a lot of real estate between a beautiful picture of the mundane and commonplace versus a story about nothing.

By and large I think you could make the comparison to houses. Ideally a carpenter will build a solid house with good aesthetics that stands a hundred years (the best of both worlds). That same carpenter may build an ugly house, though if he puts the work in it'll be around for generations to complain about.

A poor carpenter may build a beautiful house with a leaking roof and uneven foundations that collapses on itself after ten or fifteen years. Incidentally, a lack of craftsmanship may easily mean this house is also an eyesore.

In fiction the difference is in the reader. If you're looking to rent (say, reading the kind of novel that takes away the sting of sitting in an airport for a couple of hours) the latter probably isn't a concern. It doesn't have to be Great Literature because that's not the point. Which is fine if that's your thing.

If you want to buy in on something to appreciate for the long term, an airport novel probably won't cut it.

But ideally you get both.
 

voltigeur

WF Veterans
You need both.

With out a good story and engaging characters no one will get past a few pages, (may not even get past a few sentences).

Same is true if there are tons of mis-spellings gross grammar errors will also cause a reader to drop your manuscript. (Actually faster than a boring story.

The only rule of writing that I find true all the time, "Your first draft sucks"

Never show your 1st draft to anyone, always deep it personal until after you have read it through and edited.
 

KeganThompson

Senior Member
You need both.

With out a good story and engaging characters no one will get past a few pages, (may not even get past a few sentences).

Same is true if there are tons of mis-spellings gross grammar errors will also cause a reader to drop your manuscript. (Actually faster than a boring story.

The only rule of writing that I find true all the time, "Your first draft sucks"

Never show your 1st draft to anyone, always deep it personal until after you have read it through and edited.
I showed my first draft to my s/o who knows nothing about writing. I went over once before sending it, not that did much. Now when I look back at it just a mere 5 months later I ask them...why didn't you tell me this was god awful?
I was also in denial about my first draft sucking cuz I didn't want it to suck. But hey all suck. I got over it pretty quickly once I realized...yes it sucks and really bad😂
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I showed my first draft to my s/o who knows nothing about writing. I went over once before sending it, not that did much. Now when I look back at it just a mere 5 months later I ask them...why didn't you tell me this was god awful?
I was also in denial about my first draft sucking cuz I didn't want it to suck. But hey all suck. I got over it pretty quickly once I realized...yes it sucks and really bad😂
Immediate and extended family and friends are for morale, not honest critique. ;-) I have one friend who will point out things he didn't like, so I trust him. But it takes approval from a stranger before I know I got it right.
 
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