It’s the Story, Stupid

TOP SUSPENSE BLOG HEADER 3Seems to me that authors are losing track of what really matters… not the formatting, covers, tweeting, pinning and promotion…it's the story, stupid. I blog about it today at Top Suspense. Here's an excerpt:

I’ve listened to new writers at conferences or while lurking on writers’ boards and the newbie writers seem obsessed with everything except what matters most: the writing.

I believe it’s that misguided obsession that s leading to the ethical scandals we’ve been seeing lately… like John Locke who hired people to buy his books and write fake reviews (to artificially boost his rankings and acclaim) to establish himself… and Stephen Leather and RJ Ellory who both used “sock-puppets” on Amazon and social media to generate false buzz and fake reviews to boost their popularity and attack their "rivals."

What authors need to remind themselves is that all of that formatting, pricing, tweeting, social networking, etc. is meaningless if you don’t know how to tell a good story, create compelling characters, develop a strong voice, set a scene, establish a sense of place, or manage point-of-view.

I rarely hear writers anymore talking about the pluses and minuses of out-lining, the importance of an active protagonist, the different kinds of conflict, or the elements of structure. The craft of writing has taken a backseat to the business of publishing.

6 thoughts on “It’s the Story, Stupid”

  1. Well it’s not called “show art”–it’s “show business”. You also wouldn’t build a house starting with the roof. There’s a place for business talk, but the fundamentals are important, too. I think how we write is so individual that discussing it gets boring unless there’s a problem to solve, and then we’re back to the fundamentals. Maybe the writers in question take it as a given that the basics are understood, but maybe that’s giving some of them too much credit. I have been writing and reading about writing and reading everything I could get my hands on for 20 years but I still sometimes need a kick in the head because sometimes a character is flat or a plot makes no sense. I’m sure I’m not in the minority but I probably don’t know enough writers to know for certain.

  2. Oh, Generation Y… And I can talk about them because I’m one of them.
    Everyone wants to be a reality star and, thanks to social media, everyone gets to feel like one, if only in their own little world. There’s also this emphasis on personal branding – I don’t know if I got that from growing up Gen Y or business school – but it can be dangerous.
    It’s hard not to put the branding and hype ahead of the quality of work when (a) the goal is to be famous and (b) image is rewarded over quality (see Kardashian or 50 Shades of Grey).
    Maybe it’s always been this way but it seems more apparent now.

  3. I know you’re a big proponent of the eBook revolution, Lee, but this trend you’re describing sounds to me like an unintended negative consequence of writers becoming their own agents/publishers/editors/publicists. In the old days, writers could leave marketing talk to the publishing house, and concentrate on abstract concepts of storytelling. This was not necessarily a bad thing.

  4. Lately it seems that celebrity is valued above substance. In the hyper-social electronic madness, I feel bombarded with news about vacuous, ill-mannered people who have become famous for being vacuous and ill-mannered. Small wonder newbie writers mistake being “famous” for being talented.
    Give me genuine storytelling talent over hype! We know that gifted storytellers will have their work thrill readers long after the authors are gone, but does the ‘instant-gratification’ generation care?


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