Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Good Writing Seems Effortless and Invisible

Writing Wednesday

The question of what constitutes good writing is to writers as chum is to sharks.

It is with full knowledge of the dangers that I bring up the topic. Agent Mary Kole tackled the issue of good writing on her KidLit blog.

In response to a reader, who observed,
"What I am realizing is that, if done correctly, few readers really notice the shift in scenes or the chapter breaks. It is just when they’re awkward that they require attention."

Mary said:
"This emphasizes one of the biggest point I can make about writing in general. You know you’ve attained successful writing when, ironically, nobody notices. That’s when I know I’m in the hands of a master, at least.


"When I’m caught up in your voice sounding inauthentic, or slow pacing, or awkward dialogue tags, or in grown-up language or phrases that sound like they’re better off in a business memo, or a character acting, well, out of character, or slang that doesn’t need to be there, or clunky sentences, or too-long chapters, or one-dimensional scenes…I know that the writer is still working on their process.


"And that’s okay. We’re all always working on our process. But there’s a difference between an obvious work-in-progress and writing that has a publishable quality to it."
This is congruent with the observation that experts in any field make their endeavor look effortless.

In your own writing, one sign that you're on the right track is when reader comments shift from pointing out things like poor grammar and awkward sentences to questions about plot and characters.


Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net