Good vs Bad Writing?


#1

What makes a passage enjoyable? The style, the grammar, or something else? In other words,how can I improve my writing?


#2

As long as your writing is better than mine you’re going in the right direction.


#3

That is such a massive can of worms to open. My advice would be to write a lot and have people give you feedback on what they liked and what they didn’t, combine that with how you feel about your writing and figure out what you can emphasize and what you can cut, and most importantly what common faults you need to pay attention to so it doesn’t happen.

Entirely technically, grammar would be the most important part, but at the same time language is a fluid and constantly evolving thing. Grammar mistakes are often abhorred unless it’s a passage meant to copy the spoken form of a language.
Other than that, any conversation about style of writing is entirely subjective and has been a matter of debate since someone first wrote down a story.


#4

Personally I like a short, to the point style with flourishes. the best example that comes to mind is the Guinevere (thanks spell check) WIP: there are descriptions but the text leaves a lot up to your imagination. Compare something like Thomas Hardy’s books where he goes on for paaageeesss describing meadows and things, ugh, kept thinking I was going to fall asleep.

Have you got any examples of your writing? I’m no great critic but there are some excellent writers around here.


#5

There are a lot of things that go into making a passage enjoyable, but a lot of that’s going to be heavily based in opinion. Now if you want my opinion, the absolute fastest way to break that great immersion you have going though is through poor grammar. I’ll stop and stare at little errors sometimes and it’s really difficult for me to immerse myself again after that point. So I guess the takeaway from that would be proofread, proofread, proofread. Of course no amount of proofreading will let you catch every error, let other people look at it and read it over.

Beyond that, passages to me are enjoyable as long as they flow well. Style doesn’t count into it overly much, as long as the style you use is not superfluous. If the sentences and passages seem like they are woven together, then you’ll be on your way.


#6

Grammar and spelling are important to make it readable writing. But to make it enjoyable writing takes knowing how to write in a way that conveys what you want to say to the reader.

For example: http://london.sonoma.edu/Writings/CallOfTheWild/chapter5.html

We sure get a sense of how tired Buck and his companions are there, but that doesn’t mean you should just copy London’s style. It is, however, an example of how effective choice of words is more important than whether you use many or few.


#7

Good spelling and grammar are almost always a prerequisite to good writing. Errors on either front will distract your audience. Then they’re looking at your spelling and your grammar instead of your writing, which is exactly what you don’t want.

With that said…

The thing that will make a passage most enjoyable is if you find your own voice, and then write in that voice with confidence. If you’re cribbing off someone else’s style, it’ll be slower for you to write and less genuinely you.

Once you have an idea of your own voice, there are ways to tighten it, polish it, and help the quintessential you shine forth. Two books that I personally find valuable in that regard are Stephen King’s On Writing and Ken Rand’s The 10% Solution.

Chuck Wendig is also a fantastic source of information (blog, books, the works) as long as you’re willing to put up with him sounding like Chuck Wendig, which is to say, littered with extremely strong visuals and profanity. I have no problem with it, but your mileage may vary.

The other blogger I’d recommend for this purpose is Ferrett Steinmetz. He writes about whatever interests him (beekeeping, polyamory, activism, kink, woodworking, Magic the Gathering, etc, etc), not just the writing process, so his blog should probably come with a warning label as well. But he routinely breaks down his WIPs and discusses his personal tactics and editing procedures and so forth. (I discovered The 10% Solution from him.)

A digression about writing styles:

One of the most interesting opportunities to look at writing style is in modern epic fantasy, where Robert Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time was finished by Brandon Sanderson. Jordan and Sanderson are working with the exact same characters in the exact same world, but Sanderson didn’t attempt to adopt Jordan’s style (a very good call!) so you can easily compare and contrast the difference between the two authors.

You don’t have to read the entire Wheel of Time to do this. Pick up Knife of Dreams and Towers of Midnight, and examine the writing from various pages on a paragraph-by-paragraph, sentence-by-sentence, word-by-word level. Of course, the plot will be spectacularly confusing, but that’s not the point of this exercise.


#8

I expanded my answer here into a Sibyl Moon blog post: Write Like You (The Best You Possible)

I hope this is helpful/entertaining/useful!


#9

Wow!!! That was an amazing post . Thank you :slight_smile:


#10

To be honest I think a person’s writing ability is largely based on opinion. I mean, James Patterson is a New York times best seller, but I can’t stand his writing style. Although common points seem to be proper grammar and relatable characters and scenarios to catch an audience.


#11

Re grammar & spelling, I’d like to point out that there do exist some exceptions to the rule - works which consistently display substandard spelling and/or grammar (intended or otherwise) but are nevertheless excellent reads (usually because they make up for it with superb narrative flow). It is possible for English to flow well with broken grammar, counterintuitive as it seems.

To quote an example, Robert A. Heinlein (who had an exemplary grasp of grammar) wrote ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’, which was entirely narrated by a character who tended to speak in clipped, broken sentences. It ended up an award winning masterpiece.

Captivated me from start to finish, too - I’d heartily recommend it to anyone willing to give old sci-fi works a try.