Author Topic: What is a "Good" Book?  (Read 10500 times)  

Offline Dolphin

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1954
  • Gender: Male
  • Under the Sea
  • Skree'ee--eee, eeek!
    • View Profile
Re: What is a "Good" Book?
« Reply #200 on: June 22, 2017, 12:13:05 PM »
Yeah, Story Grid is for when you've already got the first draft and want to figure out what you have there and what needs to be fixed. I would not use it for outlining. In fact, Shawn Coyne himself suggests not using it for outlining (except for maybe the foolscap part) because you run a big risk of analysis paralysis. It's an editing tool, not a drafting tool.

I think he's right about that, but learning his method has helped me parse things like Save the Cat and Take Off Your Pants, and figure out how I should be using them. He's got a lot to teach that applies to the first draft as well.

The biggest challenge might be looking at your finished draft objectively and seeing what's there, instead of what should be there. That's where the Story Grid can really shine. As he said on the pod, the reason that he does so many passes and looks at everything in so many different ways is so that sooner or later, you'll realize what the book is actually about instead of believing whatever lies the author told you (especially if you're the author!).

Online Kyra Halland

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1575
  • Gender: Female
  • Arizona
    • View Profile
    • Welcome To My Worlds
Re: What is a "Good" Book?
« Reply #201 on: June 22, 2017, 01:54:26 PM »
I think he's right about that, but learning his method has helped me parse things like Save the Cat and Take Off Your Pants, and figure out how I should be using them. He's got a lot to teach that applies to the first draft as well.

Yeah, his way of looking at scenes really clicked with me in a way that other methods don't. The concept of the "turn," the "value change." I'm taking my current revision project through the Story Grid, and it showed me where I had missed some opportunities to go deeper into the theme and character arcs, so I need some new scenes and I'm using that scene concept to sketch them out.

The biggest challenge might be looking at your finished draft objectively and seeing what's there, instead of what should be there. That's where the Story Grid can really shine. As he said on the pod, the reason that he does so many passes and looks at everything in so many different ways is so that sooner or later, you'll realize what the book is actually about instead of believing whatever lies the author told you (especially if you're the author!).

This book I'm working on now has been really slippery to pin down exactly what it's about, beneath the surface actions of the characters. Going through all the genre stuff helped me clarify what the book is really about, though my book's genres don't fall neatly into line with his categories of "external" and "internal" genres. But that's ok. What's important is now I know what the book is about, so now I can revise it into a book that (hopefully) all hangs together and follows a more satisfying progression.

But to bring this back to the main topic, whatever your definition of a "good" book is, it never hurts to always be trying to learn new things and improve your craft, whatever aspects of it you want to stand out for your kind of writing, what you're trying to achieve with your books, and your branding. Some things will click for some people, other things won't; the important thing is to always be working to level up.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2017, 01:57:07 PM by Kyra Halland »


Tales of fantasy, heroism, and romance.
Kyra Halland | Website | Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | Goodreads

Online Shelley K

  • Status: George Orwell
  • *****
  • Posts: 1999
  • Does things wrong.
    • View Profile
Re: What is a "Good" Book?
« Reply #202 on: June 22, 2017, 05:38:33 PM »

My argument, in a nutshell, is that the claim that "story/storytelling matters more than prose" could only be true in a very specific sense of the words "story," "storytelling," and "prose." For example, the statement could only be true if "prose" meant something like "5-10 typos and grammar errors per 50k words."

I don't agree you need to narrowly define prose or any other terms for it to be true. There's far more to prose than whether or not there are errors, and in many examples of books that are poorly written and did very well, errors are one of many problems. 

Quote
The question, then, is what you offer in place of worry. I think a clear examples of "good" is better than what to me sounds like "Don't worry about being a good writer because a few crappy writers became bestsellers." I'm not saying these are your words, but that's how it comes out when you try to make practical sense of glittering generalities like the ones I mentioned above.

Right, those aren't my words, as you've said, and I think anyone reaching that conclusion from the things I actually said is being too narrow.

Story matters more than prose. I don't think it's a terribly difficult idea to define. If you can give the readers the emotional experience they want with your story, that is what matters most. Some, perhaps many, will overlook other flaws as long as it meets their expectations for how it makes them feel. That's not an invitation to not care about good writing, but an urge to focus on a story with the elements in it that your audience wants as the most important thing. That is the one thing that every bestseller has in common, whether someone spent month revising and $2k to have it professionally edited or they put up the first draft of something they wrote as fast as possible.


Offline sela

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1541
  • Gender: Female
  • Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do.
    • View Profile
Re: What is a "Good" Book?
« Reply #203 on: June 22, 2017, 06:01:10 PM »
:)

There are plenty of writers who are failing because they're neither writing nor storytelling nor marketing well. If I were addressing one of those authors, I'd tell them that, by my definition of those terms, the latter two attributes are more important than the former, but that each of the three deserves their attention. If I were tasked with creating a equation showing the relative weight that should be given to each, however, I'd have no idea. In fact, I'm pretty sure that most indie authors who have achieved success probably have all weighted each differently and still been able to get to where they are. In the end, though, I find it hard to fathom that many authors attribute their success to putting writing technique far ahead of the other two.

I agree.

I tend to think of a successful novel as having three -- maybe four -- components:

- quality of writing as in mechanics
- story idea
- quality of storytelling
- effectiveness of marketing

The story idea and the quality of the storytelling are far more important than the writing mechanics and marketing but both can add to a book's success.

Focusing on the story idea and the quality of storytelling and effectiveness of marketing will probably get you a lot farther than focusing on the story idea and quality of writing as in mechanics. I mean, you need a basic level of competence when it comes to writing mechanics but beyond that, the most important part of the whole process is the quality of storytelling, IMO.

I would never advocate for authors to not care about writing mechanics. We use words and language to tell stories and our choice of words and how we use them affects our storytelling.

BUT... our story ideas and storytelling skills are the most important. At base, people want a great story well-told and well-written. A great story idea told poorly with great mechanics will likely not succeed. Readers are not interested in a bad story no matter how well it's written. They will accept a great story well told with mediocre writing mechanics as many blockbuster books with less than stellar prose will attest.

By all means, study writing mechanics. Learn how to construct grammatically correct sentences, use strong verbs instead of too many adverbs, don't over do the adjectives (pick the best ones, in other words), use proper punctuation, learn how to use dialogue and when appropriate, show instead of telling. Those are basics that everyone who wants to publish should master, and if you're on the clunky side of things, get someone with a keen eye to proofread or better yet, do a line edit. Show some respect for your readers if you can afford it.

But it's far more important that you know what is and how to tell a great story. That means coming up with great story ideas, understanding story structure, understanding plot basics, writing compelling characters, learning how to properly pace for your genre, and delivering on expectations for your category, etc. Put it all together in as compelling way as possible, hooking your reader right away and keeping them hooked the entire time so they don't want to put your book down unless they have to.

That's what authors should really focus on because that's where the magic happens and where the gold lies.

Readers want great stories and great storytelling. Some readers don't care as much about the writing mechanics as they do about the storytelling. They will put up with less than great writing mechanics if the story is compelling enough.

How do you know if you have storytelling skills? In the end, you have to put it out there and see how readers respond. That means you have to be a good enough marketer to help your story become visible so the readers can decide.

If you think you have a great story, then the key is to tell it in as compelling enough of a manner to get and keep people reading. That comes down to hooking your reader early, keeping them hooked, giving them great characters, and a satisfying end.

The marketing part is pretty easy in comparison. Heck, compared to telling a great story, it's child's play.

The real magic is in the story idea and how well you tell it. Your writing mechanics are important, but more important is your ability as a storyteller.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2017, 06:15:48 PM by sela »

Offline Sapphire

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2895
  • Gender: Female
  • Omaha NE
    • View Profile
Re: What is a "Good" Book?
« Reply #204 on: June 23, 2017, 06:55:26 AM »
This subject has been explored from every angle and, IMO, has been beat to death. Here's how I've sifted the grain from the shaft. (No, I've never lived on a farm.)


Readers want a good story. If it's good enough, they'll overlook mistakes and rule-breaking. Nevertheless, a certain number of readers will turn away from poor grammar, punctuation errors, multiple typos, sloppy formatting, bad spelling, or whatever else you can add to the list. So why take a chance? Clean up your manuscript! Don't use so-and-so's best seller as your excuse. A great selling book might sell even more, an average seller might become a top 100, a mediocre seller could produce decent income...all by engaging those readers who reject mistakes.


At that point, get busy with effective marketing. What's effective? YMMV with every suggestion or dogmatic proclamation you hear. Get busy and find out what works drawing readers to you and your book. Meanwhile, write another book.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2017, 09:25:24 AM by Sapphire »


Offline gilesxbecker

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 156
    • View Profile
Re: What is a "Good" Book?
« Reply #205 on: June 23, 2017, 07:56:47 AM »
I have noticed that I start mentally 'logging out' on a book when there's no variation in the pacing. It's all direct scenes and pages and pages of dialogue. The writer doesn't know how to use a graceful, easy sort of narrative summary, or slow things down into some interior monologue to vary the narrative landscape so to speak.

dystopian sounds grim but actually fun abounds
Giles Becker | Giles Becker

Buy Scrivener for Windows or Mac