Ah, a reoccurring theme. I’ve written on this before, and I am certain that I will explore this topic many more times after this entry too. What is good writing? Am I a good writer? Or asked a better way: can good write me?
I am certain that this question enters the minds of a lot of writers. It is within my own thoughts most days. The wish is to be a good writer. And while sales might be an indicator that some use to describe whether a piece of work in writing is good or bad, that single descriptor doesn’t fit with me. Don’t get me wrong, I will be immensely satisfied to receive impressive sales figures from my writing, but it is enough?
When I think of this, one writer I think about is Stephanie Meyer of “Twilight” fame. Given the immense success of that saga alone, I have no problems with her. And even as I am about to lay forth criticisms in the next few sentences, I do have a lot of respect for her. Anyway, I would never read “Twilight”. It just does not interest me. I was not even curious. As it rose in popularity, I heard a lot of how bad a writer she was. The only comment I had was that while the story sounded poorly contrived, given that I was not going to read it, I reserved comment.
Then “The Chemist” came out. I was mildly curious. Given the premise, I was actually a little more than curious. So I read it…
Suffice to say that my opinion matched exactly what others were saying about her writing: it wasn’t great. I struggled to get through it, almost wanting to put my head into a meat grinder with some of the dialog and plot. (Yet it was still better than “The Last Jedi” and “Harry Potter And The Cursed Child” — both abysmal even at their best.) Still, she made millions. I am not sure how I’d feel about that.
Writing can be technically well composed and still be trash. It can be poorly built and be mind blowing. I’ve read stuff that wasn’t great but touched on some nerve that really got me thinking. Then I’ve read stories that checked off all the technical “needs” of a story, being technically well put together, fluid, well designed — and yet was a flaming heap — to be later forgotten .
A lot of this all is opinion. Few works receive a collective agreement of “good” or “great”. Even many of the works that receive accolades of uncountable quantities can simply pander to the award givers, falling flat everywhere else. There really is no telling what will work and what won’t. So then what the fuck is good writing?
There is almost no straight answer. Many agree that getting the grammar correct and hitting the right notes on plot and writing compelling characters is good writing. Most of what I find involves the technical portions of it. But unlike math, writing is a very subjective topic. Is it really good writing if the story strikes no chords with its audience? And conversely, is it really bad writing if it hits all the right spots for the audience?
I hearken back to the infamous Stephanie Meyer here then. There is a rather large audience that have veracious appetites for her work. Where I thought “The Chemist” was shoddy, others go crazy for her work. So is her writing really bad? I would argue that her writing is only bad… for me (and others who don’t like her work). In other words, I would have to argue that she is a good writer then.
There might be more evidence to say that those who wrote “The Last Jedi” and “Harry Potter And The Cursed Child” did poorly at writing them as there are large swaths of the core audience for those brands who disliked those stories. They were both hugely successful, but share significant amounts of vitriol from brand loyal fans. (I cannot genuinely comment on “Rise Of Skywalker” here as I refuse to watch it.)
Oh, but that parenthetical statement above illustrates another point: “The Last Jedi” was so bad, that it immediately killed my desire to continue the story as they were telling it. That’s what I could call bad writing.
I think that for now, this is where I am settled in on the case. Bad writing is such that causes the audience to disconnect from the story, whereas good writing draws them in. It is extraordinarily subjective, meaning that good writing to some might be terrible to others and vise-versa. Whether the audience is only one person or millions, good writing connects with them. I can only hope that my writing connects.