During a recent ANTM junket (it was the one with Jade, the bitchy but beautiful girl I wanted to strangle on every episode), something one of the judges told a contestant struck a chord. She was told she wasn't pretty. Wasn't pretty? But this is America's Next Top Model. And all models are supposed to be pretty? Right?
Apparently, pretty isn't what everyone is looking. Interesting is what the judges wanted from the contestants. Just a pretty face won't get you very far in that competitive industry, and the same goes for publishing.
Some people have a knack for putting together long, flowing sentences that are so lyrical you can hear a harpsichord in the background as you read. But a bunch of well-written sentences strung together without an interesting story behind it will not get you passed an editor assistant's desk. Time and again, usually when judging writing contests, I've run across pieces of work that are filled with beautiful, perfectly written words, but the stories lack substance and have me bored by page two.
There's more to writing than just "pretty" sentences. You must know how to craft a story that pulls readers in and doesn't let them go until the last page. Some people are born with this gift, others have to work for it. But if you want to survive in publishing, it's something you had better master.
That episode of America's Next Top Model reiterated something I've known to be true, but have to remind myself of every now and then. There is room for all kinds of stories and writing styles out there. And what works for one person won't automatically work for another (just check out some of the disparity in reviews of my books). But the underlying core of every good book is an interesting story, whether the writing is "pretty" or not.