She’s a Little Bit Country…..

…and I’m a little bit 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?

33 comments

  1. LOL, I think I'm going to have to disagree with your analogy that Country music is like prose. Oh my gosh, COUNTRY? Seriously? LOL sorry, but I ain't never puttin' me achy-breaky heart inta me books. ;P

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  2. I'm definitely more rock & roll, but wish I was more country. I just want to tell a funny story.

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  3. Ha, you never mentiioned Jazz. Which to me is character driven writing. I've been told because my plots basically all revolve around people falling in love (after several problems in finding it) my characters have to become really developed. I don't usually have much plot. I guess that would make me more country. My critque partners have said my prose is getting a lot tighter so that's something.

    Is there such a thing as country-jazz?

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  4. I'm a little more country (Hate country music though). I do try to strive for a nice mix. It's hard to see ourselves clearly though, so we'll see what others say if/when I get published.

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  5. I'm more of a rocker but working on balancing it with more country. I think both are very important.

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  6. Interesting thought. I'm wondering if it's a little more genre specific. Mystery/Thriller/Suspense/Sci-Fi = Rock versus Romance/Biography/Fantasy = Country. Not exactly sure where I would fall, but then I'm usually my own worst enemy when it comes to analysis or critique.

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  7. Well written prose seems like the most difficult to me.

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  8. I think I'm a rocker, but I need a little bit more of that country twang in my life!!!

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  9. My first book was definitely more Country than Rock-n-Roll, but I think I've changed a lot since then. I wrote that thing way back in 2005-2006. Sometimes I feel impatient because it's still my only published book -- with the next one not due out until May. I want to show off what I've learned about Rock-n-Roll since then! :D

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  10. Interesting post. Not sure where my writing would fall in this as it is all over the place at times.

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  11. '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.'

    I completely agree with you. For me, personally, painting pictures came like second-nature (first?) Hanging my characters out to dry and letting them fight back to normalcy has been my hugest challenge. I learned this past autumn that I couldn't even write a compelling query ... :(

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  12. I think I'm more country, working on my rock & roll. But I tend not to think of the division being between prose and plot but more between character and plot.

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  13. Following your definitions, I'd have to say I'm more country than rock, but I want my writing to be comprised of another mix altogether. I'm a longtime Rolling Stones fan, but also love a lot of other musicians, and types of music... like symphonic. Years ago, I found a CD of the London Philharmonic performing Rolling Stones songs... it blew me away! Familiar themes with a a deeper more-developed beauty... now THAT'S the balance I want to attain.

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  14. I'm definitely more rock and roll. In writing and in my music!

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  15. Me too, although I do pay a significant amount of attention to my word choices. It's all about character voice for me, though.

    I have a few somewhat poetic characters and that reflects, but not when the characters are more direct.

    Guess that's the side-effect of writing limited PoVs. :-)

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  16. I'm a rock and roller too. Descriptions of landscapes and prosey kind of stuff don't come naturally and have to be painstakingly inserted in revisions.

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  17. You definitely collect :) I'm probably more on the rock and roll side - and it sounds like a lot of other people are too. So does that mean it's easier? I don't know. I think that someone can go "too far" into rock and roll or country though. For example, there are some books that have beautiful prose, but it is too over the top for me and distracts from the plot. So while it's good to have both, I think it's also good to make sure it's in a good balance.

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  18. Hmm....interesting post, DL! I think I'm more rock and roll thank country. :)

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  19. Interesting thoughts DL. I'm not sure where I fall, possibly the country comes easier for me.

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  20. I think I'm more rock & roll and like a plot driven story, which is interesting because I've been accused by *some* of riding the breaks... :P

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  21. For me, it all starts with the characters and the emotions. Out of these 2 camps, I'm a little bit more of a rocker :)

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  22. Love that analogy! I start with characters - everything else revolves around them.

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  23. Wait a minute. Pink Floyd. They've got story while being poetic.

    But I think that wasn't your point. It absolutely takes a broad range of skills to be successful at novel-writing...actually that statement is true for many careers. I don't think any part of writing is insurmountable. We just need to work really hard.

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  24. Rockabilly totally for me! But yes, I'm more country. In fact - not to be too braggy - I write awesome characters and adequate settings; but I have to work at story plot. Character plots are easy; but having a specific goal for all those vividly drawn characters to give them purpose is near impossible. Probably why I've been focusing on short stories. Usually the story plot and character plots work together and resolve at the same time, using the same action sequences. I don't have to think of the "duality" of the story.

    I totally get where you're going with this post. I've read some novels that the characters blow me away, the descriptions are vivid and compelling; but I have no idea what they are trying to accomplish. Movement for the sake of movement is annoying. But well written characters with no purpose is even worse. I think given the choice - even though I'm a character driven not plot driven writer - I'd rather have a great plot than read well written prose. Either way, I will put a book down if it is not well formatted and/or has too many typos and grammatical errors. As a reader, I can forgive a lot if its well polished.

    .......dhole

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  25. Ooo good question! And I love Donna's rockabilly answer. lol

    I love delicious writing, but you're right, in that the story is a total bore. However if the characters are intriguing enough, I don't really care. Pride & Prejudice is a good example of that--amazing writing and compelling characters. I'm much more apt to enjoy a good plot with mediocre writing that vice versa too. Finding the middle ground is a challenge for all of us as writers. Something I work hard to try to accomplish.

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  26. This would be an excellent questions to ask my critique partners, but I think I lean a little on the rock n roll side of things. Lol

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  27. totally r&r! loved that donnie & marie analogy!
    takes me back!

    i am continually working on my prose! great post!

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  28. See, this is why I adore Dean Koontz. That guy's got the whole deal. Me, I'm a little more Country, although I'd prefer to call it orchestral ballad. =) Thankfully my hubby/creative partner is a total rocker, so as long as I consult his brain, we're all good to go. (Great analogy.)

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  29. Ew! I know! I know!!! Donnie & Marie. :D

    Uhhh... I know exactly what you're talking about here, DL! I think I'm probably not the luxurious prose person--I know I'm not when I read books like DOS&B. But I'm not a painstakingly plotter either. I guess that makes me rockabilly?

    Hey... I LOVE Rockabilly!!! :D <3

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  30. Great post! I've thought about this before, and I think a mix is important to being a successful author. I feel like I need to work on my plotting more than my prosing these days.

    Allison (Geek Banter)

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  31. I'm definitely Rock&Roll, and I read those authors who are, too. Pretty prose is nice, but it distracts from the story. In the end, everyone remembers a book's story, not if the writing was literary. Too bad most agents and editors don't feel this way. They always say a plot can be fixed, but literary style can't be taught. Nonetheless, it's quite obvious who the bestsellers are. Rock&Roll forever! :-)

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