Earlier today, I was taking part in a conversation at Coffee Time Romance [http://www.coffeetimeromance.com] about what readers need in a novel to hold their interest and whether or not they would give an author a second chance if the first they read wasn't very good.
It reminded me of another conversation at Author Nation [http://www.authornation.com] recently where a genre writer was cursing "literature" (meaning literary fiction) and said he couldn't tell anyone why "It was a dark and stormy night" was not a good opening line.
Personally, I'm not interested in reading work by an author who does not know why it isn't, regardless of their genre. That was one thing I pointed out in the first discussion.
I realize the writer's point was that much literary fiction is overdone and pretentious. However, the generalization that it all is and that authors shouldn't have to study the craft well enough to be able to write pretentiously makes me shake my head. Yes, they should. No matter what genre an author writes, the craft should be studied and the rules learned, even if they are broken.
What do you think? How many of you readers and writers know the problem with that opening line? How many think I'm crazy to think it isn't a good way to start a novel?
The rest of my answer as to what I need for a novel to hold me:
1) Characterization -- they have to have real depth
2) Writing quality -- beautiful, deep characters will mean nothing if the craft of the story is poor
Oh, and watch the adverbs.