A friend told me she would not attempt to write a novel if it could not be of the highest quality. It felt like she was criticizing me for trying.
A reader on my favorite critique site said a chapter I’d posted showed no particular literary quality. His critique was kindly put, so I didn’t take offense. I can’t remember his exact words, but he did say it was “standard prose.” I think he said I paragraphed well. The token praise pleased me anyway. After all, good paragraphing is necessary.
Suspecting he’s a reader with good taste, I understood what he meant. I love substantial writing, images that stimulate recognition and recall, well-expressed ideas that complete my half-formulated thoughts, and characters and stories that broaden my awareness. And of course, words used in eye-opening ways. I call those stories A+. They win prizes, are translated in many languages, and appeal to all kinds of readers. There are never enough of them.
I don’t expect my writing to reach a high literary quality, though I continue to work hard. But while I admire many novels with great language (simple A’s, maybe), sometimes their stories don’t hold my attention. I do often enjoy good B stories (in ‘standard prose’), and would be proud to add one to their number.