Over at Pub Rants, Agent Kristin posed this dilemma. In Why 50 Shades of Grey Makes Agent Lives Harder, she writes:
We agents go to conferences and really drive home the fact that writers need to master their craft. Wow us with masterfully written opening pages. Stop butchering the English language.
Then a work comes along and blows that advice out of the water.
Readers have called 50 Shades of Grey any number of things: campy, fun, spirited, hilarious, worth the money, a fast read.
But well written has not been one of them.
So what do we say when a novel inexplicably becomes wildly popular, sells like crazy, and part of the cultural lexicon?
I suppose this could simply be evidence that there IS no formula to publishing success. At least, I hope so.
The other option — the one which suggests that readers will sacrifice craft for a “campy, fun, spirited, hilarious, worth the money, fast read” — is the one I kinda dread.
Especially after working so damned hard to hone my craft.
Maybe that’s my problem, thinking that craft actually matters that much. You see, I’m one of those odd folks who’s a sucker for style. A well-written book will keep me reading far longer into a slow story than will a poorly-written book keep me reading into a decent story.
Apparently, I am in the reading minority.
So are readers looking for books that are well-crafted and polished, or books that get to the point and read quickly? Are readers looking for books that have depth (expansive storyworld, dense characters and complicated plot) and style (beautiful prose, grammatical grace, literary complexity), or books that are simple (“campy, fun, spirited, hilarious, worth the money, a fast read,” modest characters, uncluttered plot, and broadly accessible)?
Maybe it’s all of the above.
Then again, maybe my problem is that for all these years I listened to the “experts” who are, just now, admitting that they might have been wrong…