Grammar counts. Spelling counts. Constructing a well thought-out paragraph complete with coherent sentences counts.
You’d be surprised how many people argue about those points.
In this final instalment of a series about the three aspects of being a fiction creator, I’m going to talk about writing. The craft of writing well.
Oddly, this is the part of the equation which causes many writers and readers to argue. There’s certainly an idea out there that the quality of the story is the most important part. Grammar, formatting, cover art — all those things don’t matter if the story is good enough.
Part of me wants to agree. After all, most people read fiction for enjoyment, for escape. Hardly anyone would read an utterly dull book with perfect grammar, but there are many people who are content to enjoy a rollicking great tale with less than stellar spelling and punctuation.
This is, of course, because of these three different aspects to fiction. Some readers really do only care about the story. And, of course, if you’re a great storyteller, you can always hire or barter for other people to take care of the details. But if I’m serious about creating fiction, then the craft of the medium is an important part of the work. If I were telling stories through film, I ought to have a good working knowledge of the nuts and bolts of filmmaking. If I’m telling the story in written words, I should work on the craft of writing. Just as if I’m seriously trying to get other people to read my work, I have to tend the authorship part of the process.
In many ways, this aspect of the work is the easiest, since it is entirely a skill which can be learned. There are numerous writing courses, books on craft, technical manuals on grammar and punctuation, which can all help people improve their skills in this area. Also, there are technological tools available which help with some parts of this process.
My point with this series is to highlight the many aspects of the serious print fiction creator. It’s not enough to be a perfect grammarian, just as it’s not enough to tell a great tale. To be on top of one’s game all these aspects need to be involved: authorship, storytelling and writing skill.