Hell if I know.
Yes, I get all the rules. The ones about adverbs, showing versus telling, sentence structure. I understand the importance of spelling and grammar. The necessity of plotting (though my blog posts beg to differ). But is it all that stuff which makes something worth reading?
I read a post from the Writer’s Circle blog yesterday. All about words and phrases that slow down a piece of writing or don’t serve a purpose. It’s a very 😉 good post, so if you’d like to read it, click here.
I enjoyed it and some excellent discussion has come up on Facebook and Twitter as a result, but I can’t help but feel that when people talk about ‘good writing’ they’re missing something.
I finished reading The Cuckoo’s Calling last month. It was freakin excellent. Comoran is a great character as is his secretary. The only thing I couldn’t handle was the motives of the eventual ‘bad guy.’ It just didn’t make sense in my head, no matter how nutty someone might be. I guess that goes to show that I’m more sane than I thought. 😛
Anyway… I bring it up, because the book was excellent. I’m not going to review the whole thing (can’t be bothered if I’m truly honest) but I can say that its strengths were in the plotting and the characters. The writing itself (word choice, structure and all that jazz) bugged the hell out of me. Robert Gilbraith (or JK Rowling… d’uh!) breaks every single rule that us ‘amateur writers’ are constantly told we should. The rules we break at the risk of eternal obscurity and scorn from our peers.
Passive voice all over the bloody place. Needlessly complex and pretentious language. Over the top (and in some cases boring) descriptions, obscure imagery. If it were a literary text she could probably get away with it, but it’s not. The Cuckoo’s Calling is a crime novel and, if the story wasn’t as good as it was, would have been dumped in my ‘I-have-too-little-time-as-it-is-I-can’t-be-arsed-to-read-this-shit’ pile.
Writing isn’t just about stringing words together. It’s about taking the reader for a ride. Bringing them with your characters on a journey that changes something small within them; even if that’s turning a frown into a smile (or a smile into a frown).
Something can be poorly written and still do that.
Similarly, a piece can be a marvellous example of how versatile and fascinating the English language really is, and yet still be a crock of shit.
With ‘Slippers & Chains‘ back from readers, this has been in my mind a lot. I keep looking at the text and wondering if the characters are engaging enough. If the story is interesting enough. Does it make sense? Is there enough growth? Is there a clear thread from A to C with a suitable stop at B?
According to my lovely readers, yes.
According to the nerves in my gut….? I need to shelve it and ask Asda (Walmart to you guys across the water) for my old (ooooooooooooold) job back.
Ileandra’s post on reviews is very telling. From those comments it’s very clear (if you didn’t already know) that all readers are different. They want different things. So what one person may think is excellent, another may wish to use to wipe their backside.
That’s actually a good thing, but it does make the poorly worded (and spelled) question above nearly impossible to answer.
What do YOU think makes good writing?