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I recently came across this blog entry by writer Nick Harrison . In it, he discusses the importance of a good storyline blended in with great wording.

Image via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Here’s some interesting points he makes:

When a manuscript is rejected, it’s often because the writer has failed on either the story level or the language level…or both.

At the language level, we’re talking about the author’s ability to use exactly the right words to make the story come alive. Two writers might begin with the same great story idea and if one knows how to bring about a romance between the story and language and the other doesn’t, it will be the former who succeeds.

It simply must sound right (to the inner ear of the reader) in order to succeed. And the skilled writer will persist with a manuscript until he or she is convinced every word is the right word for this story.

I agree that language is the hallmark of a story. If there is great plot idea but the words fall flat, then it is hard to enjoy the plot. Reading would be like swallowing sandpaper in that case.

Harrison suggests writers should read out loud what they write so they would know if their words will sound good to their audience. Hmm, I don’t think that is necessary. It can work, but I can’t imagine reading 70,000 words or more out loud during your re-writes. Sure, you’re not going to do it in one sitting, but still.

This is where beta readers come in. A good, honest beta reader will let you know if the words you are using are absorbing them into the book.

I think an excellent book has both great writing and a great, logical plot line. I think my language is good and I hope to keep getting better at it. Plot line, well I think I need to work on that more. But then again, I’m an obsessive perfectionist when it comes to my work .

Writing a novel is hard, and you really have to be in it for the long haul if you want to eventually create something stellar. I think I’ll write a blog post in the future about when is a writer ready to publish their work, because that is a debate onto itself.

Anyway, Nick Harrison says story and language make a novel. Do you agree? What are you willing to tolerate – mediocre language or mediocre plot?