What is IWSG? It's writerly peeps gathering together to share tales of inspiration and woe related to this gnarly craft on the first Wednesday of each month. You'll find tips for writing success. You'll find cautionary stories of authors gone insane. You'll find writers beating their heads against their desks, pulling at their hair, and screaming, "Why won't my fingers quit typing these damned adverbs?!!"
All in the spirit of togetherness, of course. :)
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What is "good" writing?
If you're a writer, you'd probably agree that good writing is hard work. In fact, we could probably just end this post there and get back to destroying our souls one word at a time. But that's not the entire story, is it?
Maybe we should start by defining what "good writing" actually is.
Did your eye twitch with a compulsive nervous reaction when you read that sentence? Did you dry heave a little? Is there a single tear streaking a jagged path down your cheek? If so, congratulations! You already know the answer:
NO-FREAKING-ONE has a real clue.
Oh, lots of smart folks have good guesses. And we certainly know a lot of the components to good writing. (Remember those adverbs I mentioned before? KILL THEM ALL!!!!) However, good writing often comes down to the house Vs home debate.
A good house has a strong foundation, sturdy walls, a sound roof, basic amenities and comforts, a non-running toilet, and no neighbors. It's easily defined and measured, and there aren't too many identifiable flaws.
A good home, on the other hand, is a much more subjective experience. It's a matter of how well it suits you. Do you like the nap of the carpet? Are your neighbors crazy but also your best friends? Did your kids take their first steps there? The faucet drips, but happens to sound out the exact rhythm of your favorite song, so it's actually a bonus.
The worth of a house is based upon function, form, location, etc. The worth of a home is based upon memories and feelings. Your house might be worth $150,000, but your home might very well be priceless.
Good writing is much the same, which is why it's such a struggle to create it. Good writing is oftentimes flawed, but you--and more importantly--your readers will love those flaws.
A story can be mechanically sound, yet have no heart, which translates to what some might call "bad writing". Conversely, a story can have tons of heart, yet be a bit of a mess mechanically, then be praised as "excellent writing."
So what's to be done? How in the world are we going to create good writing without a blueprint?
By churning out the words until our fingers ache. By mining the depths of our emotions and exploring the outer limits of our imaginations until we're irrevocably lost. By believing down to our bones that we'll never get it JUST right, but trying over and over again anyway. By learning how to build a good house first, and then figuring out what it's going to take to make it a good home.
One thing I'm sure of: to create good writing is to engage in a beautiful struggle, to wage a glorious battle between determination and self-doubt. Learning comes from getting knocked down, and success is usually built on a foundation of failure.
So perhaps good writing is actually measured by our scars, bumps, and bruises. "E.J. looks like he just went nine rounds with a pissed off jungle cat, he must be one heck of a writer!" :)
What about you? How would you define "good" writing? Do any of your favorite authors break the rules of fundamentally sound writing?