Rock & Roll! I’ll bet money that you can't guess the theme of this post from its title…or the first line. Let’s see if I collect.
There’s something that I’ve always wondered about novelists…or more specifically, the craft of writing a novel…and that is the dualism involved. I’ve read authors who command the written word so beautifully that it takes my breath away, but their plots are so thin it’s a wonder they could support the weight of an entire book. On the other hand I’ve also read books by authors with intricately devised plots, but the writing itself bordered on pedestrian. I’m going to call the writers who excel in prose…Country…and the delightfully torturous plotters…Rock & Roll. Now do you see where I’m headed with this?
In my mind, the ability to paint a picture with words that intoxicate a reader, and the capacity to develop a compelling storyline that both engages the reader and keeps them wondering what comes next, are two different skill-sets. As I pointed out above, writers can definitely demonstrate strength with one particular skill over another, but both can (and should) be cultivated or improved. But whether your own writing style leans towards Country…or Rock & Roll…doesn’t really matter because reader’s tastes follow the same proclivity, so there is a market for both.
Does that mean the perfect balance of the two ensures success? Is a duet between a country singer with laryngitis and a tone deaf rock star something you’d want to listen to? Quality still supersedes everything else!
Which skill do you think is harder to develop? Here's a better question -- which skill is holding you back from obtaining your goals? I’m aware there are many more elements involved in crafting a solid manuscript worthy of publication, but to me, these two are cornerstones of the whole process. I will offer an observation. I can definitely state that my own strengths are more Rock & Roll (plot) than Country (prose), and the authors I read regularly are also so inclined. What I have noticed over time is that the prose of these authors has remained fairly constant, but certain books of theirs suffer dramatically in the plot department. For me, Stephen King is a prime example. It’s almost as if he phoned in his effort on a few of his books. So, what does that say about the two skill-sets? Food for thought and interesting debate-fodder. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
So, do I collect on my bet? Are you Country? Rock & Roll? Rockabilly? Care to share?