Sturgeon’s Law suggests that amongst the works of Science Fiction you will find that there is 10% of high quality lurking amongst the 90% of the crap. Neil Gaiman to this one further and suggested that this could be expanded across all genre. I believe that you could go one further and apply Sturgeon’s Law to the stories themselves.
The more you read the more you understand what works and what doesn’t work for you. Some books may contain 90% crap as you slog through it for whatever reason you persist, whether it’s for an assignment, or just honest stubbornness. Somewhere in the work you will find 10% that stands apart from what you perceive as dross.
The same goes for the 10% of wonderful fiction out there, which will have almost everything working exactly as it should do, but then you stumble across a small little bit that isn’t exactly how you’d like it.
I think both sides have a lot to offer you as an aspiring artist and writer, as those stories which make up your 90% have all the lessons on what not to do, encouraging you to learn from them and do your own thing.
Those rare little books that are pure gold almost all the way through can be what you strive for, but it’s the little hiccups or choices in the story that you know you’d like to see a little bit different that make it worth while. Nobody wants to echo someone else’s voice, but there’s nothing wrong with looking towards the greats to give you that little push, especially if you think you can do something similar but in your own way.
I think at the heart of every story is the desire to influence someone to take the time to read it and hopefully take away some of its messages, even bad books encourage people to write their own just to show them up, which has to be a good thing.
So if you have 90% of literature being poor and 19% being of high quality it is important to read them both so you can understand what is it that makes them work or fail. It’s also easy and fun to point out what is bad about something, but amongst every piece of literature there is that 10% hidden in there that either stinks or saves. It might not be all in one lump: it could be the characters or even just one, the pacing, the plot, a particular scene.
So to sum up, Sturgeon’s law is not just about a genre, or genre itself, but an insight in all literature, which all possess 90% and 10%, but differ amongst readers on whether the quality carries the most weight or not. It’s up to you to figure it out for yourself.