To The Writer, From The Reader
By Jadi Verdin
I'm not good at giving writing advice as a writer. I'm much better at determining whether it's good or bad by my standards for what I like to read.
1. When reading fiction, I care much more about plot than the other story elements, despite critics' opinions. What is the problem? How is it being solved? When said problem is resolved, tie up the loose ends quickly and end the story. If you don't, it's confusing. A great plot can probably save bad writing, bad dialogue, and flat characters separately and maybe even more than one. Plot is most important.
2. The characters come second. They are in the situation they are in because of the plot. They can have a few loose screws. They can have odd quirks and closet hobbies. They can make foolish mistakes, but don't make them stupid. There's sympathetic and then there's just plain pathetic. I like characters that can hold their own. Give me a strong protagonist.
3. In fiction, dialogue doesn't have to be great, but, please, don't let it be bad. There's a writing rule about Character A telling Character B something he should already know. The professionals have said don't do it. Now a reader is saying it: Don't do it.
Even if Publishers Weekly gives your book a bad review—as they love to do—that will not lower your chances of being read. Good readers don't care what critics say because critics don't know what readers like.
There's no such thing as The Perfect Piece, but there is The Great Piece. It's no easy task, though!
-July 19, 2010