What makes for good writing—and what doesn’t.
Good writing is about getting the reader to the next line in an organized and inspired fashion, imbuing them with the ideas you hold word-by-word, line-by-line, story-by-story. At the end, they should feel like they’ve encountered something profound, and they should look around to the nearest person to share that new feeling with.
Every word becomes a calculation with good writing: does its definition add to unnecessary complexity or does it tailor the exact experience you want to convey?
“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
All good writers have their own voice, so it’s not up to me to dictate that trade-off point for you. This is your experience you are trying to convey, and not mine.
However, it is good to get back to the root of writing: a good writer tries to make an idea resonate with somebody else. Defining that experience in a way that is mutually pleasurable, and comprehensible, is something all writers should strive for.
Good writing is about good ideas. If you want to be a good writer, strive to find good ideas wherever you can. Constantly strive to read new stories, meet new people, and to dream for those special ideas that move you and others.
Express those ideas in their simplest, and most beautiful form.
Good writing is about touching the undefinable sacred, and profane. Sometimes no words are more powerful than many.
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”― Albert Einstein, Living Philosophies
Do not mistake word count for insight. Marx wrote his Manifesto in 48 pages. It was the ideas behind it that really mattered, and those 48 pages shook, and continue to shake our world.
Good writing is not about showing off how many words you can look up in the thesaurus, or how well you can spell and punctuate.
Good writing is about holding a reader’s attention so that they can coherently absorb the idea you’re trying to communicate.
Good writing evokes imagery: it makes the right words dance across the mind’s eye with the right rhythm. It makes the reader feel like they are stuck one wisp away from an engaging conversation over coffee: good writing makes them want to pay for the writer’s next coffee so they can narrate every detail, to the last, of the reader’s life and make them comprehensible and tied to something greater, in ways the reader themselves never fathomed.
Most importantly, good writing leaves readers wanting for more.