What I will start this post with could very well scandalize some of you. There are some so called masterpieces in literature which have left me stone cold. May be the choice of the book at that age was all wrong. Whatever be the reason, for example, when I was in my late teens, I really struggled through Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” which is considered a historic epic. I don’t think I completed it either, even after several false starts. Call it bias or what you will, but I am not inclined to give it another shot more than 40 odd years later.
I was reminded of this when I sat down to describe what good writing means to me. I’ll start by reminding myself of a few general rules:-
- What good writing is to you may not mean the same thing to me. It is very subjective.
- Business writing or writing in a business environment is wholly different from literary writing.
- Literary writing is again different from what these days is called popular writing.
With these broad points settled, I shall remove my writer’s hat and look at my factors for good writing, from the point of view of me as a reader.
- Overall impact: Be it a poem, a novel or a short story, I would give top marks for the overall impact the writing had on me. There are books that I read as a boy which I still remember vividly. Paul Brickhill’s “Reach For The Sky”, the story of Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader, the legless RAF ace of the Second World War is a case in point.
- Language: Is it appropriate to the genre? Is it supportive of the characters and the context of the writing? I wouldn’t like to see flowery language and too much of metaphors in terse, action packed novel. Yet, perhaps being slightly old fashioned, if you want to see it that way, I would insist on the correct usage of words and grammar. Not for me the modern texting kind of talk with all its zillion abbreviations.
- Creativity: I look for a creative plot and the way the story is stitched together. Many times you find stories which are brilliant in parts but fall away or are largely inconsistent. I am a big fan of plots and believe the best of writing falls down like a pack of cards if the plot is weak.
- Credibility: Closely linked to creativity, I love credibility. May be this stems from my being such a big fan of plots and the characters in the novel. Recently I was vastly disappointed by a book written by one of the biggest names in popular fiction. The reason? I found parts of the story, especially towards the climax, lacked credibility. Sure there should be a hero but the guy in this novel would have made Superman at this best look like a dodo. And he was supposed to be an ordinary guy. In fact, a MP in the US Army.
I guess these are the main points that make up good writing for me, in the context of a novel. As I mentioned before tastes differ and impressions about writing cannot but be subjective.
I have shared my list. Now you tell me, what’s good writing for you? After you have made your list, have a look at Stephen King’s Top 7 Tips for Becoming A Better Writer from Henrik Edberg’s The Positivity Blog .