I've recently got a crushing critique. The critic pointed out I was obviously unfamiliar with the basic tools of the trade and that my style was non-existent. She insisted that "everybody can invent a story", but that the art of a novel lies in the way it uses words -- i.e. in the linguistic style of the author. Good style, she decalred, is the product of tireless iterations. If a text is to become a work of art, every word is on purpose, and no description can be more accurate.
Personally, I strongly disagree with this notion. (Not least because I am aware of so terribly few authors whose style lives up to the "every phrase is perfect"-standard. I am aware of the concept, of course, but have only very rarely seen it actually implemented.)
My question, specifically for those of you who have published their work or are involved in the publishing industry, is: How right is my critic? How important is style? How much does it contribute to the overall value of a novel, apart from hooking the reader to the story in the first place and making his or her reading experience more comfortable? If you ranked the elements of a novel -- plot, characters, scene design, style, and everything I have forgotten here --, where does style come in(*)?
I'm desperate for more varied input than the opinion of that one critic. I hope it will help me to process her input and turn it into something constructive.
(*) I would expect such a ranking to be naturally subjective. For example, for me it's "characters > scene design and style > plot", although the distinction between the latter two is quite blurry for me. I can forgive a style that does not resonate with me 100%, and I'm willing to accept slightly flawed plots, but characters need to be up to my standard for a book to wow me.