Ultimately, Content Matters More Than Craft

The Writer’s Book of Wisdom by Steven Taylor Goldsberry

Witness the success of The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks. This former New York Times No. 1 bestseller is so badly written, so poorly plotted, so rife with wooden characters that it’s laughable.

Ah, but there’s a catch here. How do you explain its success?

The key is the book’s irresistible frame: An old man in a nursing home goes to an upper floor to visit another patient, a woman his age. He introduces himslf to her each time because she has Alzheimer’s and can’t remember him. Then he sits down and reads to her from a notebook that he writes in during the night. The story he reads is their story—from the time they met and because young lovers until now. You see, this woman who can no longer remember his name or their history is his wife.

That story of theirs is rendered in prose that would be considered mediocre in middle school, but never mind. The frame really touched readers’ hearts. People still talk about it.

Do pay the utmost attention to your craft. Never let anyone accuse you of shoddy workmanship. But, above all, find a good story to tell.

 

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