Saturday, August 8, 2020
Defining Great Writing ~ by Cindy Ervin Huff
Over a decade ago, I finished the first draft of my debut novel. Two years of an online course, five months of writing and editing completed by a former teacher—it was ready for the world to see. I was confident that I could capture a well-known publisher’s attention. After all, it was a good story.
Four different editors at a conference asked for my proposal. Back then it was only paper—no emails allowed. Each sent me a rejection email. Because one editor had been particularly gracious to me at the conference, I asked what he disliked.
“The writing wasn’t great.”
Wow! My translation: your writing is garbage. What a blow to my naïve ego. My dream of having it picked up quickly dissolved in the acid rain of disappointment. But I’d dared to ask, and he gave me an honest reply. I needed to grow a thick skin and press on. And it did eventually get published after years of rewrites and continuing to learn writing craft.
Years later I understand the publisher wasn’t being insulting. My story was good, but it wasn’t great—it didn’t rise above all the other submissions he had piled on his desk.
Good writing is a story that’s enjoyable and interesting. Great writing goes deeper into the characters and settings, so the reader feels part of the story, not just an observant bystander.
When a publisher says, ‘this is great writing,’ it’s not the pinnacle of a writer’s career. Each new novel that follows needs to grab the reader by the hand and pull them into the pages of the story.
Reading is my superpower. The more I learn about what makes stellar writing, the more I can discern between the good and the great. Now I find myself willing to abandon a story because I’m not walking the streets with the characters.
If I stay up way past my bedtime on a work night reading, that is a great book. Certain author's names on a book cover immediately draw my attention. I will grab their book without question. These authors have mastered storytelling, weaving in all the elements of writing craft that make a virtual world in the reader’s mind. Once I open the cover, I will be AWOL from the rest of the world around me until I finish the story. My mind will replay scenes, and I’ll take every opportunity to get back to the story to find out where the characters and I are going next. These are my author heroes. I dream of putting on their Super Author capes and receiving their larger royalty checks. Large enough to support a livable lifestyle. Those sorts of checks are my plumb line. Then I will have arrived at the Great mark in the publishing world.
How about you? How do you define Great writing? What have you learned about Great writing along the way?
Cindy Ervin Huff is a multi-published writer. She has been featured in numerous periodicals over the last thirty years. Her historical romance Secrets & Charades won the Editor Choice, Maxwell Award, and Serious Writer Medal. Her contemporary romance, New Duet released in 2018 placed second in the 2019 Serious Writer Awards and a finalist in the 2019 Selah Awards. Healing Hearts, her novella is included in The Smitten Romance Collection, The Cowboys.
Cindy is a member of ACFW, Mentor for Word Weavers. founding member of the Aurora, Illinois Chapter of Word Weavers and Christian Writer’s Guild alumni. She loves to encourage new writers on their journey. Cindy and her husband make their home in Aurora, Illinois.
Secrets & Charades
Listen to Cindy Ervin Huff's podcast episode here.