LET’S START WITH THE SUBJECT OF GOOD WRITING?
Is there such a thing as good writing?
It’s a myth, isn’t it, that stops so many people writing in the first place. The point of a creative writing course would be to get over the delusion.
Simplicity is the thing, better than being too literary, or flowery – which tends to leave a trail of forced similes, contrived plots and purple prose, all the naughty traits of bad writing.
Of course, there is good writing. Especially evident when confronted with bad writing. Although it is not always easy to describe the attributes, you know a patch of good writing when you browse upon it, absorbing the ebb and flow of the syntax, the beauty of the words, the subtleties of the language, the way it gets hold of you so you don’t notice the noises of life going on around you. You appreciate the tensions created, the emotional connections, filled with interpretation, irony and hidden meaning. Good writing is vivid, clear and concise, no flabby boring bits; it moves with pace, it’s efficient and effective, and has an edge.
A good book is designed, remember. Inspiration is for amateurs. To create a good book, particularly in fiction, you need a voice, that is authentic, believable and compelling, that draws readers in and keeps them coming back for more.
To be a good writer you need self-belief; to believe that there is no secret in being a writer, although all writers like to pretend there is. There is no magic, just lots of late nights, coffee and cigarettes.
There are rules, of course:
You should never start your story with the weather, never start from a dream or from waking up.
Never use adverbs – but never is an adverb.
Don’t ramble, keep it simple.
“Show, don’t tell” – but sometimes you just want to get on with it and tell the story and not show it, which can take so much longer. Anyway, showing is just telling with a different name. There are some great books that are all tell, no show: Staying On by Paul Scott; (large chunks of) The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz; even Margaret Atwood and Hag-Seed.
I would love to hear other people’s views – feel free to post comments.