What really is good writing?

About a month or so back, Kristen Nelson blogged about how good writing is sooooo subjective.  She was specifically addressing those books that are million dollar sellers but that get a whole lot of criticism about the quality of the writing (i.e. Stephenie Meyer, Dan Brown, Christopher Paolini).  Here’s a link.

Her conclusion?  “Millions of readers can’t be wrong.”  And I would have to agree.

Let’s face it, most people read to be entertained.   I know there are those exceptions who read for good writing, who will read almost anything if it’s written beautifully.  I won’t.  I’d much rather have a great story, written well enough, than a beautifully written but not that captivating classic.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I do think that if you can have a combination of both:  a great story and something that’s written well, then you’ve got the perfect mix.

Personally, I don’t think my writing will ever win a pulitzer prize or anything, but that’s not my goal.  My goal is to entertain, to make people love my world and my characters — and my story.  Still, it has to be good enough to sell to an agent and publisher, and that’s why I am working so hard still, even though the story is actually complete.

Along these lines, I have to admit I can hardly wait for Stephenie Meyer’s “Breaking Dawn” release this weekend.  Say what you want, her story is fabulous.  (And yes, I am a little obsessed!!)  My husband will be out of town Friday night, so I’m hoping to get a copy at midnight and read a little that night and the next morning.  And for those of you rolling your eyes right now, I can live with that.

4 thoughts on “What really is good writing?

  1. yeah, so I am addicted too. Dave got the audiobooks and he read them before I got done, so it’s kind of romantic. Anyway, you can roll your eyes at me too…Heidi


  2. I think there are a lot of people that look down on “genre” fiction as not being literary and in a lot of cases, it has to do with fashion. The fashion today is for fast, punchy stories, written in a light, modern style. And why not? When books have to compete with movies and television, they’ve got their work cut out.

    Personally, I would rather be popular than literary. Who wants to starve for their art?


  3. I have to agree with you about story over style. I read to be entertained. I do enjoy beautifully written books, but… Recently I read Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. It was beautiful and nostalgic, but there wasn’t a single unified or compelling story, and the book was (though I hate to say) easy to put down and hard to pick up.
    On the other hand… I do remember one case not long ago where I tried to read a book called The Jester or The Joker or something like that. I don’t remember the author’s name, but I couldn’t get through more than twenty-five pages because the writing style was atrocious. It reminded of something a fifth-grader might have written for a school assignment. So I have to say: the writing does matter, to some degree at least.
    (My daughter is reading the Stephenie Meyer books, and she loves them. I may have to try reading them, just to see for myself.)


  4. I read to be entertained. I read books that entertain me. I don’t read literary novels, as they generally bore me. So I agree too, story over style. And I’d like to see those of us who write/read commercial fiction to sort of “say it loud and proud” when we refer to our books. Why should we feel any less, uh, special for having written (or read) a great story than the literary hacks? Certainly, most published commercial authors’ bank accounts are fuller. 😉

    Enjoyed your site.



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