Wot Makes Gud Riting? ;-)

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 πŸ˜‰ 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. the cuckoo's callingIt 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. πŸ˜›
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?

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About Raven ShadowHawk

I take great pleasure in writing erotica and am merely one side of the proverbial coin. My other half, 'Ileandra Young' writes fantasy and the occasional comedy piece. My six-part series 'Meeting Each Other' is available in full, through Amazon and Smashwords while my debut novella 'Sugar Dust' is now re-released (!) available through Amazon via Little Vamp Press.
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7 Responses to Wot Makes Gud Riting? ;-)

  1. Sandy says:

    Oophs, my comment disappeared. Will try it again. I agree with your thoughts, the grammar things sometimes is over the top and leaves a bad taste in my mouth, much like those bad teaches who loved to use the red pencils back in the day. I’ve seen people really slam others on facebook over silly things about tense or words…get over yourself people. However, when I’m reading a blog that doesn’t use paragraphs and or capitals for the beginning of sentences, I find it hard to read.


    • Grr, sorry the blog ate your comment. o.O That’s a bit weird, but I’m glad you took the time to persist. Thanks for doing so!

      I must admit, I’ve seem some really vicious posts on Facebook about books. I get it, kinda… Facebook is so personal and chatty and informal; people forget that there may be others at the other end who disagree or who are hurt by it all.

      But working on grammar, spelling and– ugh, basic SPaG. The things that you get tested on in school… those things, at least should be of a standard. At least.


  2. I think the key is to be willing to keep improving and polishing the story.

    Typos and grammar problems will creep into your work even if you’re usually careful about those things. No need to obsess about them though, just spend a reasonable amount of time cleaning up.

    However, story consistency, pacing and reader entertainment are areas that you can spend time on for a significant improvement. How much time do you have? How much of that time should you spend? As much as you need to, really.

    Thing is though, all that time you spend improving one story is time you can spend on another story. If you like having several projects at different stages, you may appreciate that you can take something you have learned from one and apply it to something else. Or, perhaps it’s good for your sanity to do something different now and then. There will always be times when you have to write full steam ahead on one story, but it’s nice to have a variety of available projects, isn’t it?

    If you take a look at some stories on Wattpad you may notice that writers may be derivative, writing under the same tag and including very similar plot elements. The reason why these stories work is that readers aren’t always looking for something different, they’ll happily read a story with similar characters, seeking similar enjoyment. However, if the story execution is poor or readability is atrocious, it will get dumped from a reading list before the reader reaches the end.

    The thing to take from this is that readers are fickle, but their expectations may not be what you think. Which is why feedback is useful!


    • Yes, always useful! And the fact that writers can now respond to reader in a timely fashion is just another indication of the changing times. Something that we should all take advantage of.

      Admittedly, I’ve never used Wattpad. In fact, it’s only through talking to you that I’ve even figured out what it’s for or what it does. I’ll be there are some real gems there, though. Just like everywhere else.


    • Oh, and having lots of projects on the go…? By our nature, Ileandra and I can’t help but do that πŸ˜‰ and you’re quite right; the variety is what keeps us buzzing and cheery over what we do.
      …aside from the fact that we love it, of course.


  3. jmmcdowell says:

    I think you’ve hit on a major point here. The best writing in the world can’t save a crappy story. (Well, some critics of literary fiction may argue otherwise.) In my own writing, I’ve come to see that I do a good job at the techniques of writing. But I still need to improve significantly at storytelling. The characters and plot must keep readers asking, “And then what happens?” if we’re to succeed. A great story can easily trump slips in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. But decent technique rarely carries a yawner of plot and characters.


    • Yep, that’s exactly it. I’ve forgiven poor writing and SPaG in a lot of the stories I’ve read recently because the story itself was excellent. These are the sorts of stories were more time on the craft, or the use of a good editor would do the overall experience a world of good. But insofar as the story… I’m hooked enough to keep going.


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