I, like millions of other Americans, couldn’t help but hear non-stop coverage of the Fifty Shades trilogy both in the press and from various friends and neighbors. I read reviews like this from the Chicago Tribune, heard my neighbor call it the “worst written book” she’d ever read, and even observed some friends criticizing but then defending the book because of its “underlying message”, whatever that was.
Full disclaimer: I have never read any of the Fifty Shades books, nor do I plan to. I find this aspect of that story fascinating, however. It’s clear what most literary critics thought of the books, and supposedly the author herself called it “no piece of literary greatness” and yet she is still holding workshops promising writing tips (see article links, below). So I can’t help but wonder: if it’s so poorly written, why did it become a blockbuster? What made it such a phenomenon?
As an aspiring author who strives for well written material, it makes you question how important “good writing” is to a successful book. Obviously no one sets out to write poorly when they begin a project, and writing mechanics certainly aren’t everything. But is the moral of this story that story outweighs mechanics, grammar, and structure? Can poor writing be so easily overlooked in favor of a compelling story?
I for one am a skeptic. Awkward writing leaves me uncomfortable, it distracts me. I find I am unable to focus on the story if I’m too busy mentally editing the book. But from the success of these books, it appears I am in the minority!
So I wanted to throw this out there. Are major writing flaws equal to major writing sins? Or is the story the only important key to a successful book? What do writers and readers think?