1. QuiIIroots

    QuiIIroots New Member

    Sep 30, 2009
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    Writers ambition:Passion or Money?; Good writing: Story and Style, judge of Quality?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by QuiIIroots, Dec 18, 2009.

    This post is actually my last response to my original thread. I wrote so much I thought maybe it would be best to just make a new thread geared in a slightly different direction with some fresh faces and perspectives. (Hopefully the moderators won’t mind me double posting :p)

    The other thread can be seen here.


    This thread was titled “Writing my first book, what are the odds of it being successful.”

    Wow. I did not expect this thread to get so much attention. This is my only post and it is the most replied topic in this section (neat), I think there has been some solid advice here and I hope others have benefited from this thread as I have. People on opposite ends of the spectrum (and everywhere inbetween) have chimed in with some valid points. Some who have just decided to become writers and others who have been in the business for years. Some who live to write and others who write to live.

    What I have drawn from the discussion is this:
    First you need to determine why you're writing. Is it Passion? Money? Recognition (Fame)? Career perks (potential freedom of hours and location)? Women (the bras practically take themselves off)? I'm sorry, inappropriate ☺

    This is important because this will impact what you write and how you write it. Of these there are two that I feel are the heavyweights (besides women :p)

    Passion. Do you have it? Although it is not vital to success, if you lack it, you have a long and bumpy road ahead of you. Money. Do you have it? How much do you want? Do you have the financial security to write what you want? Money and passion are often tied together. Are you willing to sacrifice your passionate writing and adjust your style and/or topic for financial gain? Someone earlier refereed to the author of Twilight as lucky. Although I agree with this statement, it is for a different reason. I disagree the fact that her success can be attributed to luck. She wrote a book that has not only sold millions, but was also enjoyed by millions. I think that if your book is enjoyed by the majority that read it (even if they are all teenage girls), then there is no way that can be attributed to luck. I do however think she is lucky there happened to be a huge market that matched her passion, and that her targeted market (teenage girls) happen to be the type of people that will spread the popularity of the book via word of mouth or online social sites (facebook, myspace, twitter). What I wanna know from you is what types of thoughts go into your head when you begin the writing process? How concerned are you about the story being marketable/sellable?

    Secondly: Story, Style, and Quality.
    These words got thrown around a lot in this thread. I think this was best summed up by Phantasmal Reality.
    I agree with Phantasmal Reality, I think the level of quality corresponds with whether or not you have come up with a good story. Also, in addition, but (in my opinion) to a lesser extent, your style of writing is important. Which is more important to you? The story itself? or how it's told? With that said, the next logical question is how do you know if your story/style is good?

    I think one unique way of judging a books quality would be to look at the law of large numbers. An example of the law of large numbers would be, lets say you flip a coin four times, three times it comes up tails and one time heads. This wouldn't be an accurate portrayal of your chances of getting heads or tails. The law of large numbers states the more times you flip the coin, the closer your results are to the actual chance of the coin landing on either side. I think this can also be applied to deciding whether or not you have written a good story. Lets say you handed out your book to five people and asked each person to rate it between 1-10 based on story and style, and lets say your average was 8 and 6 respectively. The larger the sample the more accurate the representation is. I feel your cumulative scores, in comparison to other novels, would be the best way to tell whether or not you have written a quality book. Is this fair? How would you judge a books quality?

    I do think there are some factors that would be up for debate. First is weight. Since most of us don’t consider Story and Style equal, when adding your two scores together how much weight would you give story in comparison to style? To me the ratio seems close to 1 to 0.6, or somewhere around there, others would disagree. Secondly, should anything else be added to the equation other than story and style? Another factor might be creativity, or maybe uniqueness. Although I haven’t read Harry Potter or Twilight, I am under the impression they would score highly in this category. Lastly, how important is the sample of readers that score your book? Which sample would be the best gauge of your book’s quality? A sample of accomplished authors? Overall Population? Your target audience? Or maybe even a combination of these, accomplished authors that have written similar books to yours.

    Although it would be almost nearly impossible to come up with a sample size large enough to be an accurate representation. It just something to think about when deciding how many people you let read your works. I think the more the merrier in this instance, with as much honest feedback as possible.

    I thought the first thread was a very valuable source of insight, so after reading the first thread I decided to write some of my thoughts down here, in a new thread. Hopefully we can make this thread also very insightful and helpful to myself and other aspiring writers.
  2. Rei

    Rei Contributor Contributor

    Aug 2, 2008
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    It's all over those things. If you have the talent, you can make any story work, no matter what it is.

    As for money, very few of us make any money at it but we do it anyway. Yes, I do want to make money at it, but that's not because I care more about money than writing. Anyone who cares about money first will not become a writer. While I obviously cannot speak for everyone, I would say that the reason people want to make money at it is because it gives us the freedom to write more rather than have to spend our valuable time doing another job we enjoy a whole lot less.
  3. HorusEye

    HorusEye Contributor Contributor

    Jul 25, 2009
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    1000 hours of logical analysis is no match for billions of years of gut feeling.

    Following your passions and intuition is the only way to make a story that really grips. I've read alot of "clever" stories and alot of "smart" authors, but they totally fall apart compared to stories that are told from the heart. There's nothing that leaves me more indifferent than the fanciful ramblings of would-be-intellectuals.
  4. thirdwind

    thirdwind Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Jul 17, 2008
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    If writers are writing for money or fame, then they are in for a big disappointment. I would say that the number one thing that motivates new writers is the passion of crafting their very own story. Although it would be nice to make a decent living as a writer, I don't start a story by worrying about if it's marketable or not. I just write and worry about those things after I'm done.

    How I judge a story: I don't really take other people's opinions into account. I read it on my own and decide for myself. If I like a book, I'll take a look at the author's influences and start reading those, and so on. People have different tastes, so it would be foolish of me to assume that if everyone around me hates a book, I'll hate it, too.

    As for style vs. story, it really depends on the genre. A lot of literary fiction places more importance on the style. Therefore, it is a possible to write a successful story of something as banal as someone getting off a bus. On the other hand, genre fiction places more importance on story. This is especially true for crime fiction. Crime stories are driven by plot/story. I'm not saying genre fiction has mediocre style, but from my experience, it seems that genre fiction emphasizes story more that style. What is preferred (story vs style) really depends on the reader.
  5. Destin

    Destin New Member

    Feb 8, 2009
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    On the same note, assuming your readers have any experience at all reading, they will probably latch on to their favorite genre. If your book is in that genre(perhaps its a crime story as above), they will be looking for either style or story.

    That doesn't sound too clear.

    What I'm trying to say is that if you write a crime story, you better have a damn good plot because the crime story fanbase is going to be looking for it. If you write a crime story with a terrible plot and incredible style, it will flop.

    So basically, your readership will probably be pre-grouped for you in the style/story dilemma. Depending what you like to write, picking the right genre for it could wind up making the difference in terms of success.

    Hope that made something resembling sense.
  6. Phantasmal Reality

    Phantasmal Reality New Member

    Feb 12, 2009
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    Sacramento, CA
    I'm honored that you quoted me. I think you've really hit on the two things that are of paramount importance to all writers: Why we write and what makes a good story.

    The questions I usually ask myself are: "Will people want to read this?" and "If they do, will it change their lives?" I know the second is kind of a stretch, but it's seriously something I aim for with everything I write. I just think that any story with the power to emotionally touch people changes them, even if just a little. The change doesn't have to be large; it can even be so small that the reader doesn't even notice it. Maybe my story won't make a difference in their lives, but maybe my story plus someone else's story will. If my writing helps anyone reach a positive epiphany in their lives, I'll be happy. Even if it's just one person.

    That being said, the second thing I usually think of is, "Will I be able to pay my bills doing this someday?" That's my only objective when it comes to marketing and selling. I don't care about fame and fortune. Maybe those things will come (whether I want them or not) if I meet with great success, but they're not something I crave. Groupies would be ok, but, as long as I'm dreaming, I'd prefer superpowers instead. Maybe the power to project a few of my characters into the real world. On second thought, that's a bad idea. They'd probably beat me up for not writing their stories better. XD

    I suppose the thing that matters most (or that should at least matter first) is how you gauge your work. In other words, don't try to publish something that you only feel half-hearted about. Maybe it's redundant, but I think some authors really do publish stuff that they know isn't their best, either because they can sell on their name alone, or because they know their readers will love whatever they write, or because their publisher is breathing down their necks, etc. I don't know. I would just have a hard time living with myself if I knew I half-assed anything I was charging people money for. Maybe that's just me.

    Ok, back to the real world. I say that because, in the real world, no one cares what you think about your work--they're going to make up their own minds. Just like we all do whenever we're in the reader's chair. So how do we compare one story to another and judge whether or not it's "good?"

    You mentioned comparing books to each other and asked if that's fair. My answer is: Not only is it fair, but it's something we all do by nature. What can be gained from that is kind of hard to qualify though, since two books are seldom so alike that you can clearly say one is better than the other. If I say, "This apple is better than that apple," maybe it really is, because there are criteria that we can agree upon. (How red is it? How glossy? How crisp and juicy?) However, if I say, "This apple is better than that orange," then what? As long as one of them isn't rotten, it's hard to say which is better without bringing our biases into it, and if we do that, what's the point? I'll defend the orange because I like oranges more than apples, you'll do the opposite, and we'll get nowhere. So, long story short, make sure you're comparing like things before you go saying one is better than the other. :-D (Might be fair to compare Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings, but I wouldn't try comparing Twilight to Moby Dick or To Kill a Mockingbird.)

    As for which readers' opinions matter, I'm going to have to go with target audience for the very reasons I just mentioned. If I'm writing an apple, I'm writing it for people who enjoy apples, not for people who enjoy oranges. Not to say that appealing to people outside of your target audience isn't good. It is! If you write an apple that's so tasty that even orange lovers have to admit it's good, you've really hit the mark. The best example of this I can think of off the top of my head is Harry Potter. I think it's safe to say that J.K. Rowling aimed that series at young people, yet readers of all ages have fallen in love with it--from teens all the way up to senior citizens. Not only do people of all ages like it, but people who otherwise wouldn't read Fantasy like it. (In other words, "Harry Potter for the win!")

    I think another important measure of how good a book is is the strength of the impact it has on its target audience. I would call this the "cult" or "fanatic" factor. Best example I can think of is Twilight. Unlike Harry Potter, Twilight is a very polarizing book--people either love it or hate it. And those who love it are overwhelmingly in the teenage girl bracket. In short: It doesn't have broad appeal. That doesn't matter though, because those teenage girls love Twilight enough to make up for everyone who doesn't, and then some. I mean, if Stephanie Meyer proclaimed herself a god tomorrow and ordered the construction of a golden effigy in the likeness of Edward Cullen, it would be done by next week. That's how much her fans love her work.

    The last people whose opinions I think you should care about are other authors and literary critics, unless you're writing in that field. They can pan your book all they want for being this and that, or not being this and that, but I think a spot on the New York Times bestseller list and a legion of fans speaks much louder than anything they might have to say. (Let's be honest: half of them are jealous.)

    Whew. Ok... I think that's my two cents. (More like a buck fifty.) I look forward to seeing what this thread blossoms into. There's plenty to discuss here. :-D
  7. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    There are different niches in the market. Genre niches are defined more by saleable qualities, literary niches by depth and complexity of the prose and the character develepoment.

    "Best" is determined by the niche you are targeting in your writng, ot the one you match best irrespective of your original intent. Each publisher favors a particular set of niches.

    Write with whatever focus you are most drawn to, and work continually to improve in those focus areas.
  8. bluebell80

    bluebell80 New Member

    May 20, 2009
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    A person can break down and analyze all the reasons for writing all day long and still never write anything of any value. As you pointed out, telling a good story is the paramount point in writing fiction. A person might start out in the craft by wanting to be famous, or wealthy, but after a short time of writing crap they are going to see that it requires much more than those two desires.

    A person who starts writing because they love to write, or finds they can spin a great tale may or may not succeed. Whether the pasionate person succeeds depends on their willingness to learn to craft a good story through learning the skills needed to write sensibly. Grammar, spelling, sentence structure, logical/critical thinking skills, character development, plot planning...ect. are all tools of the trade. A person who can spin a good tale has to be willing to learn the tools of the trade before they will be able to tell their tale effectively.

    The passionate person has to be a willing student as well. This tends to weed out the writers who will become successful from those who will never succeed. Success in writing then brings with it the fame and money,though many published writers only make a modest living with writing, very few will make the million dollar deals. This is why most writers who choose writing as their career do so knowing they will never make it big. So in effect, they are not doing it for fame or money, but doing it because they want to write something others will want to read, even if it never makes the NYT best sellers list.

    I write because I love it. I love learning how to craft a better scene that will make the overall story great. I love sitting at midnight pounding the keyboard because a bit of the story came to me and had to be put on paper or be lost forever. I love thinking "what if..."

    I've always been able to spin a tale, so it is just a matter of learning all the tools and how to use them effectively.

    Can someone looking to write for only the reasons of fame and money ever succeed? Sure.If they can tell a good tale and are motivated by fame and money enough to study the craft of writing...but they are also more likely to give up than the passionate person, because the fire to write is missing in their motivation.
  9. MelissaL

    MelissaL New Member

    Nov 16, 2009
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    Fame and money for writers are pretty much a fluke or a real stroke of luck. Look at JK for example, when she wrote her Harry Potter story and had it published, no one not even JK had ever expected this worldwide popularity. Somehow JK got the readers attention and soon the fame spread! I'm not saying fame isn't possible, but don't go looking for it. Writers who don't search for fame are the ones who usually get it.
  10. marina

    marina Contributor Contributor

    Sep 7, 2008
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    Oh my goodness, you've asked a ton of questions! I've tried to quote most of them.

  11. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
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    Northeast England
    I like the short time of logical analysis to be honest.

    I would like to have them all in equal measure, but If I had to pick I would have style and quality over all else.
  12. Kas

    Kas New Member

    Jan 30, 2009
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    The ***hole of the world
    Jeff Lindsay's Dexter isn't the most fascinating story ever told. Dexter's character and style are extremely entertaining, though, and unique. As a reader, I seem to enjoy style and characterisation over story. I just haven't encountered many stories that have wowed me as much as style has--and I read tons of popular fiction. Dexter is an interesting combination of literary prose, storytelling and originality of concept, with no element stressed in particular. It's not a literary work. Perhaps my favourite books, then, are simply well-balanced.

    As a writer, all aspects of the craft are equal priorities for me in the long term. I still haven't figured out what my niche might be, if I have one. I'll probably end up a jack-of-all-trades, choosing different areas of focus according to the nature of each piece and its anticipated readership.

    Cogito's response is sound advice.

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