I never get stumped over this question: What’s more important, an engaging story or a book that is well written?
I want both as a reader. And I want to create both as a writer. (Oh, please, Orpheus!)
I’ve read some enticing, gripping stories that I wished paid a lot more attention to the words that simply zip along as if writing should be a feeding frenzy of activity.
Slow down, brother, and feel the space between the words!
And I’ve read some leviathan tales that spread a whole new language on the daily bread. But I’ve left the book feeling satisfied in my writing soul, but wanting in my body.
Pick up the pace, brother, I want to feel a beat!
I struggle over pacing myself. I feel the gluteus maximus tightening as I strive to make sure the action doesn’t slow down and a reader gets bored. But how easily we all get bored these days. Am I to cure this with my writing? And so what if my story is lacking in pace? Can’t I engage a reader on the language level, too, or have we all given up with being impressed by a sentence that rolls around in our skin and sucks the marrow from our bones and oxygenates the very blood that is luke-warm and cooling as we flip the page in the hopes of finding the next car chase, the next killing, the next unsloved mystery, the next best seller. Am I supposed to type my books with a mattock in one hand, ready to plonk a reader over the head every time I think he or she might get bored? Surely it’s better to seduce than to shovel it to them. In this sense, writing is a bit like sex: A quick shag is fine from time to time, but it’s the foreplay that really gets the party going.
Still, I’d take a maximalist with style and purple, self-indulgent prose over the slave to pace. That must be because, fundamentally, I aspire to some day write a book with sentences that show just how great the written word can be.
But I don’t want to neglect the reader in me, either, the person who wants to enjoy a book, be entertained, lose myself in a well-paced story. That’s important, too, the way a cup of PG Tips is important in the morning to get me going as a glass of port is in the evening to get me idle and pondering and slowing down, alive to every sense.