Monday, February 8, 2010

Good Writing

I’ve been having conversations about writing and what good writing is and if it is always the same. Are there things that are intrinsic to good writing? Can we produce a checklist that we can tick off as we assess a piece of writing? Or is good writing in the eye of the beholder? What about bad writing? Can it be seen straight away?

People who know me and my writing know that I am a composite just as my writing is. I am in introvert who talks too much in public. I love to exercise and get out and active, but I will eat a piece of cake before an orange on any day of the week. I read Victoria Holt and I love Kazuo Ishiguro. I love Sue Townsend and all of the Spud books and I get weak in the knees knowing there is a new Margaret Atwood out and about and I do not own it. My writing is just like that. Just like I hate to be put in a box in my life, in my reading, and I hate to be put in a box with my writing. I write for children. I write romance. I attempt to write literary. I write detective and sometimes even write ghost stories. I write exactly what I feel like writing. I try to do the best I’m able to with each.

But is good or bad writing defined by style? Can people who love literary fiction look at genre and say that it is good writing? Or will people who write literary fiction always see genre as weak writing, as bad writing? Writing for genre is all about plot. It is storytelling. Literary is about an exploration of character; plot is what happens, but of far less importance except for where it moves the character. Of course, occasionally they cross. I don’t see one better than the other- I love them both.

I guess my point is – is there a definition of good writing or is it fluid and subjective? What do you think?


Elspeth Futcher said...

Some would say good writing is the vehicle for readers to experience life through others' eyes.Others would say good writing is what sells. How would I know? I'm another introvert who talks too much in public.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I know good writing when I read it.

Lebelekani said...

Like Elizabeth Bradley, I know good writing when I read it. In addition, basic good writing for me must have proper grammar, punctuation and spelling.Good writing has to be well written, clear, concise, and precise. If it's fiction, the use of words should be able to paint strong and vivid images(poverty for words just makes my reading long and painful). Good writing for me needs to be effective in rhetoric and logic. In terms of style, I am attuned to good writing that is lucid, lyrical and or poetical. I however, respect that writers have different styles of writing, but others have downright boring styles and writing. Just as I know good writing when I read it, I know bad writing when I read it, an example of bad writing and style, Loose Canon from Sunday Standard.

Gutsy Living said...

For me, good writing is simple and clear to follow. When I get sucked into a story, I know that the writing is excellent. When I have to think about: what just happened? I'm lost, then I give up. Augusten Burroughs is an excellent writer. I could listen to him for years.

bonita said...

I agree with Elizabeth and Lebelekani. Often when I reread my writing a few days after 'finishing' it, I find a plethora of ooopses! So annoying. For entertainment, I often stop by After Deadline, a weekly newsroom critique of grammar, usage and style in The New York Times.

marion said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Helen Ginger said...

I think it's judged by the reader - and there's a reader for everything. Unfortunately, it seems that the influential book reviewers mostly think literary is the only good writing. I also think that bloggers and online book reviewers are leveling the playing fields somewhat.

Straight From Hel

Lauri said...

Helen I think you're right about critics and I like that bloggers and the internet are perhaps balancing this out.

Lebelekani- I'm sorry I must disagree with you about Loose Canon. His writing has a strong, distinct voice and style and that's important and not easily found in columns in Botswana papers. I also don't like fiction writing that loses its purpose; where the writer becomes too enamoured with their own words. I'm primarily a story lover and a story teller so writers who show off with vocabulary and description turn me off. I want characters and plot.

Marion- thanks for stopping by.