Storyline vs. Writing Ability

September 20, 2009 at 3:02 PM | Posted in Reading, teen fiction, Writing, YA | 2 Comments

Can the story ever outweigh the writing style?

We’re all trying to write amazing books that showcase our writing ability. But can ever be so amazing that the writing just doesn’t matter any more? Well, not that it doesn’t matter, but that it doesn’t make a difference – you love the book anyway, and will read and reread just for the story.

I seem to find that I favored these types of books when I was younger – back in the day, before I knew the evils of adverbs and how to correctly punctuate sentences. I recently reread a book series that I loved three or four years ago (I won’t name it here, but it was a series written in diary entries) and found myself struggling to get through it. The writing style annoyed me; the only reason I read the last installment of this series was because I had to know what happened to the main character and her love interest. So, whilst the loss of my childhood reading naivety did stop me thinking the books were as amazing as I had done the first time round, the storyline still made me buy and read that last book.

Another example of this is the Twilight Saga. I admit, I’m an addict; I’ve reread all the books, despite my own and many others’ views towards Meyer’s writing style. Despite criticism, she has so many fans that Twilight has become a phenomenon – and she’s famous and rich.

So when does the storyline outweigh the writing quality? Or, once you start writing yourself, can writing style never be ignored? Bonus question: are there any books where the story has been so good, you’ve ignored the writing style – or writing style so bad you just can’t make yourself read to the end?

Let me know!

~ Becky


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  1. I think that sometimes the writing style is what you need to salvage a plot, and sometimes a plot is what salvages bad writing. But if one is bad, likely the other will need to be truly exceptional to recover. I’ve read books where I thought the writing was good and wasted on a plot. Other times, I read the back of the book and thought the plot was fantastic but couldn’t make it through the writing. I think you need both to be able to stand on their own to create a good book.

  2. Um, popularity and riches does not a good writer make. Just so you know.

    I do agree with you that there are some stories that are so AMAZING I can look over the bad writing to excavate the rich, underlying storyline. Mostly this happens with novels I’ve read when I was younger that I still think are fantastically plotted, nevermind the writing.

    But some books are just so bad, I can’t make it to the end–Breaking Dawn queen among them, pun very much intended. The story is bad, and so is the writing.

    It’s like junkfood photoshopped to look healthy.

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