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What, exactly, is "good" writing?

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Xanados, Mar 29, 2012.

  1. Xanados

    Xanados Maester

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    On this forum I have often been told that I can write fairly well, but, for some reason, I’m not sure that I know what good writing actually is.

    I have had many creative hobbies, all with their different ladders of skill and technique. Writing is different because I don’t think of it as work. It’s fun. But also with that positive comes the negative in the fact that I don’t actually know what I’m working towards. I know that being published is the dream, but I don’t really know what makes good writing.

    I don't know what I'm supposed to be working towards. If you're learning an instrument you start with scales, etc, but I've just written... and written.

    Good sentence structure?
    Ability to convey imagery?
    Fulfilling promises to the reader?
    Snappy, clever dialogue?
    Sentences that can fulfil more than one purpose?
    Be able to convey character's emotions?
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2012
  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    I personally think it's a combination of all of them. I'm not too certain of what you mean by "fulfilling promises to the reader" -- care to explain that a bit?
     
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    None of these.

    Good writing is about delivering an impact on the reader.

    That said, there's a lot of ways to do that. Reading Dickens, for instance, you get the feeling he could deliver with something like passing the salt, just from sentence structure and word choice. Snappy dialogue can help when it's used right, but there's a lot of people who think they can write good dialogue but fail to tie it in with the plot. And emotions are great, but when timed poorly, writing about the character's reaction to an event can actually get in the way of the reader's chance to react.

    All of these things, individually, can be great, but you need to use them to deliver the story, and not just because you think you can do fun things with them.
     
  4. Xanados

    Xanados Maester

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    I did not say that I only wanted to "have fun" with them. Quite the opposite, in fact. I'm looking for specific things on which I can work and progress. I am a very goal oriented person.
     
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I'm sorry, I was speaking more generally and didn't mean to imply that you were.
     
  6. bbeams32

    bbeams32 Scribe

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    In my opinion, "good writing" entails the ability to draw in the reader through emotional investment in a way that just grows stronger from the first word until the last word. I think this is done through a solid, unique story, believable/identifiable characters, and smooth story flow. Now, to pull that off, some or all of the examples you posted may be necessary, but given the extreme differences in writing styles from my favorite authors(all of whom I would say generate "good writing), there's no given set of criteria for good writing. I think it all depends on what your individual story calls for.
     
  7. I think that, like all other skills, being a good writing comes down to the depth of your understanding of your craft. It's a matter of knowing when to follow the rules and when to break them, to consider subtleties in your narrative that maybe nobody else will ever notice, to trust your instincts even when you are not sure where you are heading, and to understand at a very fundamental level what your story is about and why you want to tell it. One must develop, so to speak, a certain sense for stories.

    After all, different writers write in different ways, which means writing ultimately cannot be quantified by mere techniques. Writing is an art, not a science. Anyone can follow instructions, and anyone can listen to advice, but I think what makes you a good writer in the end is all the little things nobody can really teach you; the things you have to discover for yourself along the way.
     
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