Recently, some events have come together like planets aligning (or the Confluence of the Three Moons – see Sword & Illusion – 31 May), and these things have gotten me to thinking about the difference between good storytelling and good writing. Which is more important?

I read the Twilight series about four years ago or whenever it was, at the insistence of my daughter who loved them. I didn’t.

I will admit that I read books these days like a writer, critiquing as I go, but also, later I kind of analyze what I’ve read. There are many times I ask myself where the author’s critique partners were when books were in their formative stages. What about all the things I’ve learned in all the conferences I’ve attended?

Why is it that some authors can seemingly break all the rules, or at least the big ones, and yet their books not only get published but are wildly successful?

Bella was not a great heroine. She has no wants, needs or desires of her own other than getting Edward. She wasn’t really complete person, and we never got any sense that she had a life before she stepped onto the first page of the book.

I could go on, as I’ve thought a lot about this, but that’s not the point of this post.

Those books were amazingly successful and they do generate discussion, especially among writers. There are people who love the series and others who cringe whenever they’re mentioned.

Regardless of your feelings about them, the author has to be thrilled. They sold, they have rabid fans of all ages, and they have become a cultural phenomenon. What more could an author dream of?

But most of us struggle to hone our craft, attending workshops, reading technical articles, polishing, critiquing, submitting, polishing more. We work hard every day to have our books be the best they can be, to make them shine, sparkle and sing, and yet we collect rejection after rejection, while books that seemingly never saw a critique or an editor’s red pencil soar to the top of the bestseller charts.

There’s a new series out now that is creating the kind of love it or hate it vibe that the Twilight series had. I haven’t read this “book everyone is talking about” except for the first chapter, and again, the writing isn’t great.

Last night, I went to a meeting of the Vacation Bible School committee at our church, and several of the women there – devout Catholic women – were talking about these books. Not just talking, but RAVING about them. One of them even said, “She’s such a good writer.”

I cringed. An author I admire has been doing a chapter by chapter critique of these books over at Goodreads and her post are hilarious.

Even with the not so good writing, the books are selling.

Why? Why do some of us struggle for years to make our work the best it can be and never succeed while someone can write a book riddled with cliches, inconsistencies and characters no one likes and the books soar?

I can’t figure it out. Do some books touch a nerve in readers that have nothing to do with tight, polished writing? Is it that the story hits the target market at exactly the right time? Is it that some stories are so new/timely/primal that they fill a need in their readers’ soul/unconscious/subconscious/some undefinable thing?

If you have any thoughts on the matter, I’d love to hear them. Also, have you read “The book everyone is talking about”? Did you like it? Why? Why not?