Some people have gone to schools or institutions for years to learn their fields of employment or their areas of expertise. But it isn’t until they practically apply the knowledge that it is cemented via the experience of actually doing what they’ve learned. And inevitably what they’ve learned is modified and adjusted because rarely do we find that everything goes according to the book. There are too many variables in most cases of application. Of course there are invariables too, those things which will not be manipulated and remain solid and indisputable.
If you’re writing fiction, you must learn the basics of storytelling and grammar. As you’re fine-tuning your learning experience by reading fiction, you will consciously spot or subconsciously absorb techniques of other writers. Sometimes it depends upon the depth of your learning experience. If these unique variables have been taught to you and become a part of your field of expertise, you will notice precisely how another writer decided to use them. Whether or not you appreciate the writer’s choices or his/her style is a matter of your opinion. And while you can justify your opinion based on your expertise and declare why you do or do not like his/her efforts and the choices of how he/she has decided to tell the story, it can be irrelevant if you’re holding his/her published book in your hands while reading.
There are multiple experts in the blogosphere who give credible reasons for what writing good fiction entails. If you stick with this writing gig long enough, you will make decisions about whose opinions you respect, no matter how learned or what prominent positions they hold in the writing world. Another thing you will discover is that everybody has an opinion on what constitutes good writing. So, who’s “right” and who’s “wrong”? Everyone. No one.
It’s somewhat easier for those writers of fiction to form opinions about what good writing actually is, and, fortunately or unfortunately as the case may be, writers often do just that. One thing I’ve noticed about some of them is that they’re blinded by their preferences. Aren’t we all? Even when we disagree with someone or what they’ve done, we will support them if we have formed an alliance with them. If they are our friends, someone we admire for whatever reason, someone we’re drawn to for who knows why, we will defend them, not necessarily for what they’ve done but rather for who they are—even when we don’t know them personally. It’s one of those variables that can’t be accounted for or even reasoned away. I’ve read one writer suggest another writer’s tools for the trade are perfect guides for writing—invaluable measuring sticks for how to write superb fiction explained with precision and the published novels to prove the expertise involved. However, when I’ve read the work of said author, it was anything but my favorite. Not only that, but what it was purported to do (hold my attention) and demonstrate in exquisite prose (which seemed unemotional and average), it did not do for me.
And while I know recommendations for how to write are governed by a passion for prose and story, the audacity of some, both beginners and “experts”, to assume that because they have spotted and identified some technique or style which resonates with them is cause to label a writer brilliant and his/her books outstanding, it so often rings hollow because of the inevitable invariable: subjectivity. I don’t have to like what you like and vice versa.
Another component of the good writing/bad writing agenda is the audacity of writers who acquire their first contract and suddenly become experts in the whole publishing arena and how-to-write classes.
We writers all have our opinions about writing—whose we like and whose we don’t. The readers have theirs as well, but the bulk of readers don’t “critique” novels, they simply like or dislike them based on their opinions of the story. Sometimes the professionals base their judgments of selection on more complex issues and purport that only the superior writing gets published by their houses. While it can be true with some of their selections, it takes a measure of audacity to proclaim it as absolute fact for all. Same with agents.
It’s okay to have your opinions about writing and writers—who can stop you from having them anyway? But do keep in mind as you’re exercising those opinions not everyone is going to have the same ones. No matter how much education, writing experience, or published novels you have, you won’t be able to please everyone—not with your writing or with your opinions.
Father, if we humble ourselves before you, you will lift us up. I am nothing without you. I can do nothing apart from you. Lift me up, Lord. I’m desperate for you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.