Literary Corner Cafe

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Why Exceptional Writing, Not Merely Adequate Writing, Matters

There's been so much debate over popular novels and their lack of exceptional writing. Many think popular novels don't require exceptional writing as long as the writing's clear and makes good sense, i.e., is adquate. While each writer will have his/her own unique voice, I think any writer, whether he/she chooses to write highly literary novels or more formulaic "pop" fiction, needs to strive to write exceptionally, not merely adequately.

Writers are wordsmiths. They're supposed to be in love with language, not just storytelling. (Of course, to be an exceptional writer, one must be in love with, and exceptionally excute, both.) As wordsmiths, writers must learn and respect the power of words. The pen truly can be mightier than the sword, but only in the hands of a master.

If writers want to be understood, if they want their stories to be truly memorable and live on in the hearts and minds of their readers, they need to use the precise word called for, not just one that's grammatically correct. They need to show us, precisely, why the countryside is so beautiful in summer, why the city is so sinister in dense fog; they need to make us feel the fear in the kidnapped victim's heart, or the joy or heartbreak in their protagonist's reactions. If they don't, their writing, while adequate, will lack imagination and crystal clarity and it won't become memorable. Their books may be "all the rage," but only for a little while and not with those to whom literature really matters. They'll quickly be forgotten and join the long line of oop.

A writer paints "word pictures." With those word pictures, he or she is conveying something of importance, at least to him or her, and hopefully, creating art. Adequate writing, while fine for a high school book report, simply won't do for a novel whose creator hopes will be appreciated, discussed intelligently, taken to heart, and live on. And on.

Writers who don't take the time to find the precise word, the most beautiful phrase, the most sinister, the most captivating, are cheating both themselves and their readers. Worse yet, while perhaps proficient in craft, they're devaluing the art of novel writing, lowering it to the level of reportage. If you're a lover of words, and you write novels, don't let this happen to you.

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