Recently I read a blog where (yet another) author criticized the writing skills of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. (On a side note, this author misspelled Meyer’s first name, but let’s not be petty and criticize the abilities of others.) Whether or not you’re a Twilight fan isn’t my point. My point is that—whatever her skill level—Ms. Meyer found a way to sell millions of books.
I’ve heard many writers question how a book with such “horrible prose” could become a bestseller, but the problem is that they’re looking for what she did wrong. Twilight became a bestseller because Ms. Meyer did something very right. She connected with her readers. She found a way to captivate them so completely with her story that they told their friends they had to read it. When readers are infatuated with a story, flawed writing fades into the background. Love covers over a multitude of sins.
Yes, I want my writing to be the best it can possibly be, and I will constantly work to improve it. But if I had to choose between award-winning writing and connecting with readers, I’d choose to connect every time. I want readers to fall in love with the characters I’ve fallen in love with. I want to give readers a story that resonates so deeply with them that they can’t stop thinking about it or talking about it—the kind of story that transcends flawed writing.
I think we writers sometimes get so focused on our writing and the story we have to tell that we forget about our readers. We have to find a way to connect with them, and if we fail to make that connection, it’s not going to matter how great our writing is. There are poorly written books getting five star reviews from readers, and there are books with phenomenal writing that are getting shredded in reviews. Connection makes a huge difference.
So readers, keep doing what you do best. Find those stories that resonate with you.
Writers, I suggest we adopt the phrase “it’s not me, it’s you.” We need to continually keep readers in mind because great books aren’t just about great writing. They’re about great reading too.
©2012 Kim Vandel