Good Writing v. Talented Writing

Cincinatti, Ohio – Peter Smythe © 2019

Cincinatti, Ohio – Peter Smythe © 2019

Maria Popova writes about Samuel Delany's new book, About Writing, in one of her latest Brain Pickings posts. Here are a few juicy quotes:

If you start with a confused, uncleear, 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.

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.

The talented writer often uses specifics and avoid generalities—generalities that his or her specics suggest. Because they are suggested, rather than stated, they may register with the reader far more forcefully than if they were articulated. Using specifics to imply generalities—whether they are general emotions we all know or ideas we have all vaguely sensed—is dramatic writing. A trickier proposition that takes just as much talent requires the writer carefully to arrange generalities for a page or five pages, followed by a specific that makes the generalities open up and take on new resonance. . . . Indeed, it might be called the opposite of "dramatic" writing, but it can be just as strong—if not, sometimes, stronger.

In the legal world, I'd say Bryan Garner teaches good writing. Irving Younger was the bomb.

Get Delany's book here, Garner's latest here, and Younger's best here.