Monday, May 27, 2013

The Rules of Writing Part 4: Good Writing vs. Great Writing

First let me apologize about the tardiness of this post. It has been weighing on my mind and I was not sure how to proceed.

In Part 1 of this series I talked about three categories that the rules of writing fall under. In Part 2 I talked about best practices and in part 3 I talked about personal preferences.

This final installment I will discuss the final category - good writing versus great writing.

Great Writing

  • Avoid using adverbs
  • Have a tight POV
  • Avoid using passive voice
  • Avoid 'be' verbs
  • Show don't tell
  • Avoid cliches

The above list of 'rules' are some things that you can do to take your writing from good to great. Now, don't get me wrong, adverbs, passive voice, cliches and the like all have their place in our writing. We just need to be sure not to use them in excess.

Part of the reason it took me so long to write this installment of the series is because I kept trying to think of rules that made great writing. The above are some that I came up with. But you know what - they don't necessarily make your writing great.

So what does make writing great?

I thought back to some of my all time favorite books - the ones that I have read over and over again. I also thought of books whose popularity have stood the test of time. And you know what, they had three things in common:

Really Great Writing

  • Tell a great story
  • Have memorable characters
  • Connection with and inspire the reader

Now, I don't think there are any 'rules' of writing that can teach us or help us to do these things. I think it comes with practice and experience. We need to learn the craft of forming words into sentences, sentences into chapters, and chapters into books. But more importantly we need to craft ourselves as story tellers. That is what makes great writing.

What do you think makes great writing?


  1. I think the thing that makes great writing great is the moment that you convince your reader that everything in your fictional world is real. One of my favorite Stephen King quotes is "You cannot hope to sweep someone away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you." :)

  2. Memorable characters are an absolute must for me!