As heartbreaking as it is for all us writers out there, a poorly written book has a chance of becoming a best-seller as much as a well-written book does. Yup, that's right.
I could go on for a while about the North American education systems, and the writing skills of high school graduates, but that's another post, no sorry, another blog. So when the bulk of the population doesn't know — and more importantly, doesn't care — what an adverb is, or passive voice, or a spelling mistake, well then that gives a lot of power to people who don't write clean, or have a commanding grasp of the English language, but can tell a story.
So let's think about what story-telling is. You can have your voice, your technique, your structure, action and dialogue, a great character arc for a character that may even seem likeable. You can build tension and deliver a great reveal. In fact, you can have all of these things and then write the book well, using gorgeous turns of phrase, original description and not a grammar mistake to be found. Still, you may not have a best seller even then.
Now I'll say it again: a poorly written book has a chance of becoming a best-seller as much as a well-written book does. Why? To put it in the words of Simon Cowell, it's because of the X-Factor.
Just like one dancer can execute all the right moves, with superb technical skill, and fail at winning an audience, another dancer without a day of training can win the heart of every single person in the room. Why? Because of the X-factor. And you either got it or you don't, sugar.
Because writing is a literary pursuit, I think that often it's not compared enough to performing and then we all miss this very important point.
The irony of the X-factor though, I think, is that as much as you can be born with a certain talent, you can also loose it. So you can perhaps not be born with something and somehow gain it. My guess is that this probably has to do something with how much you believe in yourself, how hard you work, and how much love you can put in to what you do.
Now don't throw away your Strunk and White because you think you've got the X-factor. You may only have a teeny little x. But if you equip yourself with all the right tools, work hard, put everything you've got into it, then maybe your X will grow bigger and bigger.
Or, you can have a dream about girl and a vampire talking in the woods and six months later, with no previous writing experience, have a book deal and be on your way to selling millions of copies.