on Fiction University:
There are a lot of rules in writing, but only two you really need to follow.
I’m a big fan of the story. If I had to chose between a great story and great writing, I’d take story every time, because without a great story, who cares about the writing? I’ve seen wonderfully written manuals, but that didn’t make me want to curl up with them in front of a fire.
I’ve gotten myself into some debates over which is more important to a new writer. Should they focus on improving their writing or their story?
Knowing the rules is important. Writing is a skill, and there’s only so far you can go with raw talent. At some point, you’ll need to know what you’re doing. But I also think that no matter how good a writer you are, if you’re not also a storyteller, you won’t go that far either.
Most readers don’t pick up a book because the author is technically skilled–they pick it up because it sounds like a good story.
Provided you have the technical skills (after all, horrible writing that a reader can’t follow will kill even a great story), what does a great story have to do? Once you have those technical skills, what rules does a writer need to follow?