Anyone who knows me will not be surprised when I say that I tend to become rather passionate in an argument regarding writing. Just ask my friends about my stance on the Oxford (or serial) comma, and you’ll probably get an eye roll and a smirk out of them. Really, you don’t want to go there with me. But I think one of the next biggest issues for me is talking to someone who doesn’t understand what a “good writer” is.
For me, when it comes to analyzing, critiquing, or just plain old discussing a book (or Tv show or movie or whatever else has a written core), I divide the discussion into two parts – the ideas and the execution. A book should be a seamless meshing of these two things, and if it that happens, then the writer did his/her job perfectly.
My arguing gland usually kicks in when someone calls an author who has great ideas, but poor writing, a “good writer”. That’s wrong. That author is a good idea person, a good concept creator, maybe even a person whose imagination is working beyond full capacity. But if that author cannot execute those ideas in a way that makes a story work, then that person is a bad writer.
That’s about when the argument from the other person turns to, “Well, if he/she is such a bad writer, then how come he/she is so popular? How come he/she has been on the bestseller list for weeks on end? How come he/she is so rich off of his/her writing?” And that’s typically when I know the person is unreachable. If you can’t understand the simple concent of “popularity does not equal good at what you do”, then I can’t really help you understand my side of the argument. And I’m not going to waste my time explaining marketing hype to you.
Okay, chances are that I will waste my time on it, but rest assured that I will regret it later.
I understand the call of a good idea or concept. One of my favorite authors is Dean Koontz, arguably one of the most prolific authors out there on the market. I love his books (with only a few exceptions), and I always look forward to reading a new one, but at the same time I know that he is not a good writer. He has amazing ideas, and he pumps them out a pace that is unbelievable. But his writing? While easy to read, it can tend to be a little flat at times, and even a little flawed (sometimes very flawed). I realize that, yet I still return to his books. But I’m smart enough to make the distinction that he is not a good writer, and I won’t get mad at someone who says so. And honestly? Compared to many other popular writers out there, he’s far better at his craft. At least he understands how to craft a decent character.
But I digress.
Now, on the other side of the coin are authors who may be able to execute their writing superbly, but their ideas might be contrived or repackaged, certainly nothing to get excited about. I’ll be honest; I can’t think of any examples in this regard, but I’m not going to say that in a world with as many stories as there are, there aren’t authors guilty of this. If you know of any, I’d be interested to hear your input. I’m guessing it would have to be a writer who is more well-versed in technical writing. But regardless, I think the latter situation good-idea-bad-writing is the more common scenario.
Much more common…