The idea. Coming up with a good idea is something writers often forget to do. I say this because I've read at least 300 short stories in 2009, and many times a piece will impress me until I stop to actually think about it. And, sadly, I often don't bother to come up with good ideas myself. My desire to write is so strong that I just want to get words down on a page, and then my drive to make those words engaging pushes me to revision, and before I know it, I have spent two years (or seven) polishing a book that doesn't have that critical good idea at its center.Read the whole thing. Malasarn notes how careful planning can be sabotaged through a surfeit of joy in writing process itself ("If my own writing practice is any indication of other people's writing practices, we are not spending nearly enough time on developing that initial good idea") and by the natural way a reader encounters a story, which predisposes authors to flashy phrasing ("While one person's story might be more solid as a unit, another person's writing might be judged as 'better' when readers are initially trying to decide between the two based on opening paragraphs, or sample sentences"). Though pundits who dump on lovely diction are surely going overboard, I have to admit that the stories I've enjoyed the most contain both beautiful presentation and a solid conceptual framework. Their structural facets are perfectly aligned, angled just so to reflect every bit of sparkling prose. It's a wonderful thing to behold and better to create, even if digging for the raw material is back-breaking work.
(Picture: CC 2009 by ForgottenGenius)