Great Storytelling vs Great Writing

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Username: Marian

Post Number: 89
Registered: 11-2007
Posted on Saturday, May 17, 2008 - 04:45 am:   

Which is more important? Personally, if I have to choose, I'd choose great storytelling. I suppose the definition of a truly great author is one who combines both.

This topic is inspired by something posted on the Asimov's forum. I think it's worth posting here:
This was posted at the sister forum by Sam Hidaka, on staff at Baen.
"I think aspiring and neo-pro writers can learn a lot by reading someone like Ringo -- who is a mediocre writer, but a great storyteller. For every writer like Charlie Stross (who made a big splash with short fiction, as a path to becoming a successful novelist), there is a John Ringo (who bypassed the short fiction route completely).

Who is the better writer of the two? Charlie Stross. No contest.

Who is the better storyteller? IMO, John Ringo.

Who sells more novels? Uh . . . I don't know Charlie Stross's numbers . . . but I'd guess John Ringo. (Ringo's debut novel came out in 2000. By 2007, Ringo had over a million books in print.)

Great storytelling sells lots and lots of novels.
Great storytelling tends to sell more novels than does great writing.

Reading Ringo can give you a good sense of this phenomenon.

... do you know how John Ringo's writing career started?

When Ringo had a manuscript under submission at Baen Books, he got into a huge argument with Jim Baen, over in Baen's Bar.

However, as heated as that argument got, Ringo remained civil.

Jim Baen was impressed with how passionate, and with how thoughtful and articulate, Ringo was. So when he heard that Ringo had a submission in, he decided that it was a manuscript that he needed to read personally.

As it turned out, at the time of that argument, the rejection for Ringo's novel was in the mail. When Baen asked his staff for the manuscript, it was no longer available. So Baen asked Ringo to email it to him.

The writing was a bit rough (which is why the slush editor rejected it), but the storytelling was so good that Baen bought it."
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New member
Username: Sue

Post Number: 3
Registered: 05-2008
Posted on Saturday, May 17, 2008 - 08:10 pm:   

Writers are like any other artist. Take a potter -- one cranks out an endless stream of serviceable crockery that people are more than happy to use in their everyday life, eating meal after meal on them, barely noticeing them or remembering the shape, pattern or colour. Then there are the potters who create really beautiful pieces of pottery that are more art work than kitchenware -- the ones you put on display and admire. People ooh and ahh about them and never forget seeing them once they have.

I see Stross as the latter kind of writer. Who can forget anything he has written? I haven't read Ringo so I can't place him in my little scheme.
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Junior Member
Username: Asterling

Post Number: 115
Registered: 09-2006
Posted on Sunday, May 18, 2008 - 12:38 pm:   

It depends upon what the writer wants to say. With novels, there's little question that the larger number of readers are looking for an engaging story that excites their imagination.

Based on my own reading, I think that the "page turning" thing is different from what many commentators mean by "good writing." By the same token, "good writing" is that which gets the job done.

The ability to connect with readers is really the most important thing. It's well to remember that Baen has a very clear idea of what they want to publish and what their readership wants. Charles Stross doesn't publish with Baen, he publishes with Ace and Tor.

Baen has consistently done well in connecting with its readership and John Ringo is an important part of that. The story illustrates how John Ringo got his chance, and that Jim Baen knew what he was doing, how and why. I think Charlie Stross is a sort of stalking horse in that argument, because the author could have picked any non-Baen author, and it's sort of unfair that he picked Charlie, admitting as he does that he doesn't know Charlie's readership.

Shouldn't have done this; have work to do.

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