"Which is more important, to tell a story that compels readers to turn pages, regardless of writing craft technique OR to spend time on each sentence, on each word, to fine tune your writing so that your prose is admired by critics and scholars?"
Hmmm, With all due respect, I think that’s a false dichotomy. My desire to tell a page-turning story in which each sentence is crafted may be part of the reason I’m not a prolific author. Many of my friends do much better at this, writing two or even three full novels a year. I can only hope I get better at it before I kick the bucket!
And, since when do scholars parse the words in genre fiction? I think the general feeling is we’re permitted into the waiting hall of the literary lounge because the best of us write in provocative, evocative language about things that really matter – crimes against the defenseless, the environment, civil societies, art, truth. If we’re admired by critics outside of the commercial fiction arena, so be it, but I haven’t met a crime fiction author yet who is waiting, hat in hand, to be dissected in an MFA program or in the New York Review of Books. Fifty years from now, a few contemporary crime writers will be elevated by the staying power of their books into the pantheon of the finest, transcending the genre because, in part, the genre itself will have changed, or the topics they wrote about will have become so critical to our understanding of the way the world works that the stories resonate widely. (Look at Robert Towne, who wrote the original screenplay for Chinatown, or Agatha Christie, who created two characters that simply will not die – in the literary sense.)
This is a question I’d love to hear readers respond to.
- from Susan