Good Writing VS Talented Writing — What Wins?

Interesting quotes found in this article about good writing vs. talented writing. Here is one from the basis of the article, creative writing professor Samuel Delaney, and how he divides the good from the best:

“Though they have things in common, good writing andtalented writing are not the same.


If you start with a confused, unclear, and badly written story, and apply the rules of good writing to it, you can probably turn it into a simple, logical, clearly written story. It will still not be a good one. The major fault of eighty-five to ninety-five percent of all fiction is that it is banal and dull.

Now old stories can always be told with new language. You can even add new characters to them; you can use them to dramatize new ideas. But eventually even the new language, characters, and ideas lose their ability to invigorate.

Either in content or in style, in subject matter or in rhetorical approach, fiction that is too much like other fiction is bad by definition. However paradoxical it sounds, good writing as a set of strictures (that is, when the writing is good and nothing more) produces most bad fiction. On one level or another, the realization of this is finally what turns most writers away from writing.

Talented writing is, however, something else. You need talent to write fiction.

Good writing is clear. Talented writing is energetic. Good writing avoids errors. Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.”

And what I got out of this is that the greatest of writers will say everything in their work except what is actually going on. Think about that for a second. A GREAT writer will provide back story and character information and plot points, but they will not spell it for the reader — literally or figuratively — because the best writers are the ones who want (see: make) their readers delve deeply into the soul of the story.

Here’s some more wisdom from Delaney:

“The talented writer often uses rhetorically interesting, musical, or lyrical phrases that are briefer than the pedestrian way of saying “the same thing.”

The talented writer can explode, as with a verbal microscope, some fleeting sensation or action, tease out insights, and describe subsensations that we all recognize, even if we have rarely considered them before; that is, he or she describes them at greater length and tells more about them than other writers.

In complex sentences with multiple clauses that relate in complex ways, the talented writer will organize those clauses in the chronological order in which the referents occur, despite the logical relation grammar imposes.”

This way of looking at writing is integral to becoming your own kind of writer, as is to say that you need your own style but you also need to let the reader come up with his or her own conclusion.

If someone is reading a book and reads the sentence, “Johnny went to the store to buy milk. Upon making his way to the back aisle, he saw an old man with a monstrous white beard passed out in the corner where the milk stays.” Every reader will have a different image in their heads; they will examine how big the beard really was, what Johnny’s reaction was to seeing the old man passed out, and how big the store is. That is the definition of good writing because you let the readers form their own visions of what is actually happening.

So, I advise all you writers to adhere to a rule that can be applied to all facets of life: less is more.

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