What’s “good” writing? Is it writing that wins awards? Is it writing that makes you a lot of money? Is it writing that simply makes people care about one another, teaching them empathy, or does it need to serve some higher moral purpose, like advocating change for good.
It’s easy to get confused.
Last week I heard from a young writer who had written several books and self-published them, but he said that he looked at his books one day and realized that they “weren’t really written to professional standards,” so he took them offline and decided to start over. He wanted to write books of higher literary quality, and so he rededicated himself to his craft.
It reminded me of a woman that I’d met last year. She’d started publishing romance novels and had made a lot of money with books that she described as being more pretty racy erotica, until she looked at the impact of what she was doing and realized that her fiction was “deeply immoral,” and so she took her books down with the goal or writing books that helped teach people the proper way to love.
In the examples above, one writer aspired to higher craftsmanship, another to writing stories that showed the more-noble elements of love. In short, there are a lot of ways for writing to be “good.”
Yet people get confused. Some people think that if you want to write good stories, your characters need to be saints. But you can tell great stories about deeply flawed people. Shakespeare did it in Hamlet. We saw it again with the television show “Breaking Bad.”
And you can tell bad stories about good people, exposing their minor faults and waving them around like dirty underwear as you seek to trash them.
But the question is, what is it that you want from your writing? Do you just want to make loads of money, or at the end of your days do you want to look at your work and realize that you did some good in the world?
I can think of dozens of ways that as writers we can serve the world. As nonfiction writers, we can uncover what is going on in the world and reveal uncomfortable truths. As mainstream novelists, we might show the world in all of its glorious imperfections and ask penetrating questions that make readers think. As humorists, we can elevate our readers’ moods. As novelists we can ease people’s burdens while entertaining them and teaching them to care about others.
This has been a traumatic week. So on tonight’s Apex call, I want to take some time to talk about how we as writers might be able to use our powers for good, and put an end to racism in America. It’s a big topic, one that I hope other writers will consider carefully.
Lately, my personal motto has been, “Do good each day until you are exhausted. Then go to sleep, rest, and then get up and do it again.”
Hopefully, with tonight’s call, we can learn some ways to affect lasting changes.
It is not too late to join Apex! Tonight we are discussing how to fight racism through with our writing. You can apply to be a Apex writer by emailing us at Apexwriter@Xmission.com
Rob Sawyer has a new book out "The Oppenheimer Alternative"! https://www.
Here is a cool kick starker to back. "Essoe's Guides to Writing: Action Sequences & Sex Scenes!"rhttps://www.
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