The book was awful.
Oh, the prose was pretty. Beautiful sentences, evocative paragraphs, sigh-inducing lines.
But the story was crap. Characters were one dimensional. The plot was flimsier than fancy tissues and more cliche than a Meg Ryan rom-com. Continuity problems abounded - I flagged thirty-nine of them in the two-hundred-ish page book. Physical impossibilities, scientific improbabilities, and flat-out stupidity marred the pages of this book, which happened to be the first book in a series that would go on to be wildly popular.
On top of all that, the cover was a metaphor so heavy-handed, I'm surprised I could even lift the thing up.
Lots of other people loved the book, willing to forgive all the problems (which they agreed existed) because of the pretty words.
I decided to give her another chance; when her next series came out, I read the first book in that series. I felt it was marginally better, but still fell flat. Flat characters. Dumb story. Bad science (in a science fiction book!).
Contrast that with my very favorite series, which is written ... simply. Yes. Let's use the word "simply". The writer breaks a lot of popular writing rules and many "real" artists claim this author is terrible.
Oh, sure, they agree the story is good. The characters are interesting and well-developed. The plot is tight and intriguing. The red herrings work, the twists are surprising. They laughed, they cried, but it just isn't. good. writing.
And here's the conclusion I've come to:
I prefer good storytelling over good writing.
Let me say that again, lest your eyes deceive you:
I PREFER GOOD STORYTELLING OVER GOOD WRITING.
Now, to be clear, the writing needs to be passable. Correct spelling, reasonable usage of punctuation, all the words are used correctly, and all that jazz. But when it comes right down to it, I prefer a good story over something that might technically be more perfect in terms of craft.
So this is now my aim. I want to tell a good story. I'll do my best to get the technical stuff right in all the ways that matter most, but story beats craft.
What say you?