Art or Craft – which matters?
It’s rounding on ten o’clock at night and I just saw this:
23. Storytelling Is The Art, Writing Is The Craft
Writing matters. It has rules. It can be artful or utilitarian, it can be languid or merciless. But it’s just the vehicle. We keep coming back to the authors we love — Atwood to Gaiman, King to Morrison — not merely because of the quality of their prose but because their stories are engaging. It’s the stories that matter. The art lives in the story. It’s the hardest and most essential part — you can write beautifully, but if the story there doesn’t sing, fuck you. The opposite is also (usually) true: the writing can be execrable, but as long as the story grips us by the nipples, we’ll buy the ticket and take the ride — and we’ll beg you for more when we’re done.
Chuck, you’re right.
I talked about this with my brother several weeks back. We both came to writing in our lives, but for different reasons. I came to writing because I am in love with language. He came to writing because of story. We both write, but for disparate areas of focus. In this regard, I must confess that I disdain the fact that people with ugly prose still get the girls because their stories are the hit of the parade.
Don’t get me wrong; it makes sense. If Harry Potter just opened up by talking about a guy named Harry who wore glasses and was almost a teenager and wasn’t sure what to do with his life or who his friends were and was mediocre when it came to school, but he was okay at it and……
… If that were the case, that book would end up in someone’s fire or toilet paper stand. There has to be progression. Yes, I get that. You have to have something happen. In fact, it’s best if you have a whole shit ton of things happen, each one throwing the reader off, but still making sense. And on and on et cetera..
Yeah, I get it. I just think there should be something said for good writing as well. Not that it can only be good writing, because again, if your “good-writing” about nothing, then you’re giving you’re giving your keyboard a hand job, and yes, you write, but what’s the point? I’m talking about writing a good story AND you know how to write good prose. There has been a sizable handful of books which I have put down (against the raging applause of the masses on how good the story is) because I just couldn’t take the writing anymore. My go-to story is always Sanderson’s Mistborn. I got 400 pages into that book and I had given a liberal dose of grammar and good prose passes (subjective, yes, but aren’t all books subjective when they’re in individual hands?). I had to put it down.
The masters out there are masters of both. They know how to use their craft and make (as Gaiman says) good art.
I agree with you, Chuck. I don’t think it’s right necessarily, but c’est la vie. The point is, write. Writers write. As much as my readerly self doesn’t like shit prose, my writerly self lauds the fact that at least they made it to the shelf of readership. What does that say about the masses and literature? I don’t know. No, it’s not England in the 1800s anymore and this is not the literate society Simon Winchester mentioned in the beginning of The Meaning of Everything.
They want story. You’re a writer. Give them a goddamn story. Even if it’s not the story they want. Your job is to make a story. Write like a cracked-out booknana-lovin’ monkey, and give them a fucking story.