What is Good Writing?

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What is Good Writing?

My (one and only!) poem seems to have caused some controversy. Whether it's offensive has been covered pretty thoroughly under another topic but, leaving that aside, is it a good poem?

On the NO side we have:
a) It's simple, so can't be any good
b) It was written quickly, so can't be any good
c) It doesn't contain any new ideas.

On the YES side we have:
a) Rhyme and metre are quite good
b) I liked it, so there!

I'm sure if I went to Mistaken Magic's publishers with my work they'd consider it a very bad poem. On the other hand, some people here seem to like it.

So what makes a good poem, or good writing in general? I haven't got an answer, only the question.

As I said before Lucan, that is a matter of interpretation to a certain degree. There ARE some fundamental rules among editors, publishers, and such ilk that go beyond a good rhyme or entertaining read. One of these is original thoughts researched, and showing a knowledge in the subject matter. Good writing should be clean of cliches, and if cliches are used ? They are used in a unique way. Another common rule is to show the reader what you are expressing through images that evoke, and invoke the senses, as opposed to simply telling the reader something. I don't get into the whole idea of "genres" because type of poetry is a matter of taste far more than anything, although some genres tend to fly better than others. I can assume that most people realize a working knowledge in reasonable grammar, definitions, and punctuation is a given with the people of the writing profession as well.
good writing is written from the soul, from a deep need to write, to communicate thoughts to other people, and it changes things inside you and other people. if that happens, that something special, then you know you got it.

Nicholas Schoonbeck

without prejudice quite right Maggie. What were the words your daddy loved, by the way? Lord lucan has disappeared off the fuckin earth hasn't he? (where is lord bleedin lucan). I am so sorry Maggie. Don't tell that to lucky fuckin lucan, will ya? xxx (lol)
Good points Maggie, but the thing I enjoy about writing for fun is that you don't have to worry about the whole publishing paraphernalia - whether your writing fits some genre or other, or is of a suitable style or length for such-and-such a publication. I think I'm answering my own question here. As an amateur your writing is good, or at least not a total waste of time, if somebody, somewhere likes it. Is that about it, or am I missing something?
After reading both the poem and the lengthy discussion which followed I have come to the conclusion that many here need to grow up. And I'm not talking about Lord Lucan. His poem was a fine piece of satirical humour. The same humour that has seen a thousand different versions of the song Plastic Jesus from the Dead Kennedys to the Jackass team. And, as much as I don't find everything Johnny Knoxville and his friends do, a lot of it is very funny and has a huge audience. If something is not your sense of humour then move on, preferably quietly. Don't start whinging like a big jessie because someone got cherries and you didn't, or because you didn't think it deserved to be honoured in such an illustrious fashion and the awarding of those oh so sought after little pieces of imaginary fruit to works you consider unworthy somehow devalues your own similar awards. Go kick the dog, or simply raise an eyebrow if you like, but don't cast aspersions on the integrity of the site and its editors. Right, back on track. What is good writing? And to steal and modify Lucan's answer - 'writing is good, or at least not a total waste of time, if somebody, somewhere likes it.' And seeing as liking something is very subjective and personal, I cannot possibly be wrong, even though I plagiarised Old Lucan. On another, perhaps less serious note for some, but highly important to me at this present time, I was wondering if anyone knows where I might get my hands on a cheap pair of Nikes or a second hand Doris Stokes. Hope everyone has an enjoyable, relaxing Sunday. ps my city will be filled with christians wanting to kill each other today, and by the midnight there will probably be at least one death, not to mention countless stabbings, assaults, wife-beatings and general disorder. Will I write about it? Yes. Will I worry about if it upsets fellow christians? No. Will my writing be any good or maybe slightly funny? Probably not in some people's eyes, but for the audience I write for it will be perceived as being on the money.
Well said OP.


Here's the deal for me Hun in terms of writing. I am going to put something down whether it sells or not, whether someone reads it or not. I have no problem reading something for pure entertainment. But the thing I will never get around is I have been trained to write, and to a smaller degree, read from a professional point of view, a professional eye if you will. That is my eye... It isn't going to change. Is any piece of writing of absolutely NO VALUE ? no... They all possess value of some sort. Someone some where will want to read it, and possibly even like it. I own a rail topper of my Da's. It is blue glass with a crack through it. It isn't worth a nickel. It is not even one of the better ones. BUT it holds value for me because he once his hands on it. Understand what I am trying to say ? In a way you are asking yourself two questions. Is my writing good ? That is a question that often get muddled up with does it have value. Of course it has value. But something can have value with out being "Good" My Da kept my first poem until the day he died, swearing it was a "good" poem. God love the man ! lol No it wasn't. It was the writing of a ten year old that showed no "spark" It was cliche ridden, mundane, trite, and ordinary. Hopefully I have improved a pinch since then *smirks* Now OP makes the fine point of writing for your audience. I have no arguments with that at all. You should to a certain degree, particularly from a professional point of view. And your audience is split in half. So what do you do ? Honestly I do not care about what others think in terms of my opinion. I am a reader ( your audience ) telling you this is how I felt about a piece of your work, ( and your statements cemented some of those opinions. I want to make that clear ) Obviously this stuff matters to you or you wouldn't have started this thread.
OP- I can't forget that you suggested kicking the dog- please don't say that again- Oh I get it, not literally-okay. You write from the heart, you may have a message, you may want to entertain. It may tell the reader something, it may make others think- this I personally like- it may be good, it may be bad but I don't think we have to tell each other on this site that it is bad, people make an effort- if we think it is not worthy of a cherry we contact Tony if we feel like that. You may use images and metaphors- I like poem/prose where I can create my own images from what I read. Good writing stands out from the rest in originality, composition, rhyme, rhythm etc
I didn't really think there was anything wrong with the content of the poem. I did however, think that the title so closely resembled the title of another poster/writers work that one could easilly mistake it for name calling. I didn't join this writing web site to insult other writers or ridicule their work. I don't look down on anyone else here. It takes guts to put your writing on this website, like getting up on stage almost and some people may choose to hurl rotten tomatoes but I'm not one of them. JoHn
"I didn't really think there was anything wrong with the content of the poem. I did however, think that the title so closely resembled the title of another poster/writers work that one could easilly mistake it for name calling. I didn't join this writing web site to insult other writers or ridicule their work. I don't look down on anyone else here. It takes guts to put your writing on this website, like getting up on stage almost and some people may choose to hurl rotten tomatoes but I'm not one of them. JoHn" Are you implying this post to me ?
No. Lord Lucan. As I said, I think that, had he not chosen a title that so closely resembled the title of Marks song then none of this hullabaloo would have really started. JoHn
H jon
My sentiments exactly John ( only to a somewhat further degree ) As I told him I think the piece was poorly constructed ( albeit title or content ) which in itself caused the offense. Which I might add ( once again in defense of Lord Lucan ) he took the critique with decorum, and class.
Good writing? Something you start reading and don't want to stop reading until it ends. Something that moves you to tears, makes you laugh, makes you think or maybe even makes you wanna go and write something yourself or talk to someone about. I guess if you enjoy it and it does you good, then it's good writing, maybe so good you feel the confidence and desire to recommend it, convinced others will share your view.
Hello again. As some of you may or not already know, today's result, on the field at least, was somewhat disappointing. The final body count of christian v christian won't be in until the polls close at midnight tonight. It's at times like these I can see why the Romans liked to feed their lions, but I better not expand on that too much in case FTSE writes about it and Blighters gets upset. (Just a wee joke lads, trying to cheer myself up after a bad day.) Richard, I will try to put a wee something together tonight and post it for a short time only. After all, it's been a while. Hope I don't get cherrypicked. Think of the uproar it'll cause.
Cor! What a lot of posts while I was having a kip. I'm pinching C.P.Snow's analogy when I say I feel a bit like the socerer's apprentice, watching open-mouthed as the water floods in. Maggie, I do see what you mean by the difference between what is good and what has value. Valuable vs. expensive in other contexts. A diamond is expensive but, to me at least, has no intrinsic value - I wouldn't know what to do with one if I had one. I love writing. It's very important to me. I love good writing, but sometimes I get a lot of pleasure from simply starting out with no particular aim in mind and seeing what turns up. I've often been surprised at what comes out - did I really have that in my head? Sometimes what comes out surprises me for other reasons, as in the present case. I didn't expect anybody to take any notice of it. I wouln't feel that the Lucan canon had been diluted significantly if I simply deleted it. BTW Pesky, thanks for your support. I am not a bad man, in spite of what my probation officer might have told you. I'm not ignoring any other contributions to this thread either, there's just too much to respond to in a single post! Oh, and Mags, "Are you implying this post to me?" - perhaps 'attributing this post...'? All in the cause of good writing. ;)
" Oh, and Mags, "Are you implying this post to me?" - perhaps 'attributing this post...'? All in the cause of good writing. ;)" Ha ! I have been spanked ! Properly, and rightly so I might add ;) *chuckling*
If one of the criteria we might reasonably apply in order to judge writing is the amount of response it elicits from its readers, then this was undoubtedly a good piece. This is ironic as much of the response was negative. I find it distasteful, especially on a site populated by writers, that any writing should be judged on the basis of whom it offends. I see no reason to accord religion any more respect than any other belief system; would this have been criticised quite so much, or indeed at all, as a poor piece of writing if it had lampooned astrology? the truth I suggest is that whether the writing was poor or not was not the reason for the criticism; those offended by it were so beceause they believe deep down that the subject matter is above criticism of any kind.
no comment
and silence reigned (halley fuckin luyya (said a voice)
My definition of good writing is this: If I enjoy reading it, is is good writing. Of course, that means that everyone will have a different idea of what is good writing. For example, I know many, MANY people who consider the Twilight books to be good writing. They enjoyed them. I tried reading the first one, and got through about half the first chapter because I thought it was awful. Are the people who say it is an example of good writing, or am I right? I'd say we both are right, because "good writing" is a subjective thing. They probably would call Stephen King (my favorite author) "bad writing."


StJimmy You hit a helluva point there Hun. Now see I wouldn't call King a bad or good writer to start with. He is a writer. He has WROTE some good material, and some bad material ( and has had the balls to say the same I might add ) This goes for every writer since the beginning of time. That is the difference between calling a writer this or that, and critiquing the WORK
Hello folks---to me a good writer is one who takes you on a visual journey and parallels it with heart felt emotion. Everything is subjective and your audience is your barometer. Richard L. Provencher
Richard L. Provencher
another interesting post from the poem that I haven't read. Good writing makes your heart do a handstand when you are sitting in your chair.


celticman---good writing... is one of the most creative statements I have ever read. Great words! Richard LP
Richard L. Provencher
CM big hug for 'Good writing makes your heart do a handstand when you are sitting in your chair.' ...but there's also the writing that you know will leave a subtle ache of longing before the story ends, because, you don't want it to end. And you will return to it; it has becomes part of you. :-)


Nice Lena. Very nice.


Dear OP - as Blighters said, though with a much better turn of phrase that I could ever achieve, you have wittily cut through the crap as usual. Please write about Sunday's match, however many tears you may shed over it. Can you make the dialogue as authentic as possible? It would warm my cockles and provide a great antedote to this increadiby cerebral discussion, which my brain cells can't possibly process in time for me to make a meaningful comment. I've promoted you quite enough already. I'm off to read the controversial poem, and if it got a cherry I might do a spot of plagiarising too.


Reading a book by Paul Auster,`Brooklyn Follies` American Writer, and although I've only read a few chapters, I love his writing, It made me want to create something, or just be better. I love to sense the heart of the writer. I loved `The Master and Marguerita`, because of the heart of Bulgarkov, such humanity. Love George Orwells non fiction, DH Lawrence's Critism, Robert Grave's Poetry and Everything I've read of him, especially Goodbye to all that```. Weirdly, and it says much more about me than that, I couyldn't stand Margaret Attwood and Ian McEwan yet could immediately sense their inyellect, and masterful control of language, both left me cold. I suppose for me, after reading so many books is, I look for the voice, or `hyeart` (how subjective is that?) of the writer.
sorry for typos!
Thought I'd take this opportunity to sneak in a wee something about Stephen King. I've never read any of his fiction books, but by the number of great movies that have been adapted from his books I can only assume he is rather good in many people's eyes. However, it is his On Writing book/audiobook that I have found extremely helpful in learning what little craft I have learned so far. Mark, you mention George Orwell's non-fiction. His Shooting an Elephant essay is one of my all-time favourites. Never tire of reading it.
Love that one Old Pesky! Brutally honest and evocative!
Now see Mark, although I haven't read all her books but what I have read ? I adore Margaret Atwood. She has been a very good read for me thus far.
Totally respect your taste. It was `Blind Assasins, in a book group. Didn't care about any of the characters, too cold for me to continue,completely subjective, I know how well thought of she is. Have you read any Paul Auster? I'm intrigued by him.
I haven't read "Blind Assassins" nor Auster that I can think of. Tell me about him
Just discovered Auster, but he seems very well thought of. Blind Assassins I'm pretty sure won our Booker Prize.
Hello Mark, The Master and Marguerita will always remain a favourite, though it is a suprise that Atwoods' poetry doesn't stir your blood; in this I am in heart with MaggieG. Do Listen: 'You Begin' http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16789 and 'Siren song' http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/singlePoet.do?poetId=96 Inevitably, it is all a matter of personal taste. atb Lena x ------ *woops. wrong link, edited*


Good writing isn't bad !!
Never read Atwoods poems before , very, very good! Thank you Lena!
I wonder if your neck is ever aching with that 90 degree position Ftse? Must be difficult to write? But then you are probably used to it! You know Ftse I write the way I like to and you are right- it's a personal thing whether you like it or not but you know poetry can be more difficult to interpret than prose and you know what else? Some people just don't understand poetry and write it off as incomprehendable,. Now that is sad. But then I don't understand all the prose I read either. But I usually know whether I think it is good. And that is only my opinion. I may be biased- I know I am actually as my outlook on life can differ from others and I may have certain opinions that also differ- so yes it is pretty personal whether we like something or not. Must look Atwood up- she is pretty popular- she appeals to quite a few- see that is good writing I think.
Actually I coudn't abide (oops word?) Opera until a short time ago when I heard la Boheme for the first time and then I have listened to other operas since but not anything I do daily. But poetry has always had my attention and I just love the quirkiness of certain poets and the rich imagery and especially the deep symbolism you can use. I am hopeless at writing prose, a bit of a drawback as I would love to be able to write sommething along the lines as you do Paul- something with a lot of wit- crazy comedy. It is such a good outlet for a lot of feelings and not all the darkness I usually put into my poems!!! ha ha Yes I know the one who puts science stories up- I have no knowledge of it at all but I am sure it is a gift as well, and maths. I have always hidden behind fiction since I was quite young and am so thankful that I learned to read very early. I think we should be very grateful that we are gifted with the ability to read fluently. As they say- it is never too late to learn something new Paul- if you feel like getting into poetry!! And thank you very much for what you said about my english. very encouraging. ;D Indeed- made me really happy.
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