What Makes For Good Writing?

Three Essential Ingredients to Make the Most of Your Writing Talent

from Suite101:

Daily practice, trust in the creative process, and the exercise of rigorous judgment are key factors required to produce original, believable, vivid prose.

What makes for good writing? There are a thousand ways to go about answering this question. One might offer examples—Shakespeare, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf. These are all writers who have produced good writing. But listing them doesn’t get at why they are good. And it offers no help to the writer who is wondering how to produce something striking, original, and moving.

A better approach is to turn the question around: What are the things that, if missing, make a piece of writing not good? Three essentials jump out right away. These are: practice, trust, and judgment.

In a recent interview, the Australian writer Helen Garner said: “…you’ve got to practice every day. It’s like practicing an instrument if you’re a musician or keeping your tools sharpened. After many years of daily practice… you actually build up a competence.”

More laconically, Cormac McCarthy put it : “If you’re going to be a writer, then writing is what you have to do.”

These successful authors are on to something. Daily writing is the place to innovate, experiment, try on other voices. It’s exercise, not unlike jogging, swimming laps or working out at a gym, that keeps you fit, trim, well-trained.

Be disciplined: set a goal—one hour, so many words—and do it everyday. A lack of daily practice will show in a piece of writing.

Click here for the rest.

About Suite101
What’s in a name? Suite101’s door is open to the curious novice looking for a “101” intro to any of our 3000 topics, but it’s also a meeting place for over 29 million readers each month who ask 101 burning questions. We aim for the ground-floor appeal our name implies, spiced with an eclectic mix of topical commentary and candid advice.

With 13 years online, more than 300,000 articles and over 10,000 professional, paid contract writers, Suite101 is dedicated to delivering great articles by skilled writers. In doing so, we aim to create opportunities for writers at every stage of their careers.

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2 Responses to What Makes For Good Writing?

  1. Ardin Lalui says:

    Just got to love everything Cormac McCarthy says!
    Thanks for the informative post.

  2. noboundaries22 says:

    Writing exercise is essential in building your literary muscles and strengthening your resolve and confidence in what you write, as an important piece of work. I am returning to a regular routine as a writer on a mission to say something that is worth reading, rather than just writing to write. I know that might sound redundant, but i read alot of blog posts that are simply junk food for the reader with no nutritional value for the mind. Now i realize that some food for thought is just a sugary snack at the end of the night and no thought is required. While other posts are thought provoking and cause you to enter into a new mindset that you wouldn’t have formally even considered. Nothing wrong with sugary snacks as long as they are not the mainstay of your literary diet. Words are digestible (real word, looked it up) and affect the way that one hears, speaks and listens, so one word of advice, EAT HEALTHY!

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