1. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Competent vs. Good vs. Great

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by BillyxRansom, Jul 5, 2008.

    It's sometimes really hard to tell the difference between a competent writer and a good writer. You can be interested in a story written by a competent writer, but you can potentially be thrilled by a good or great writer. But the competent writer will still make it so you want to keep reading to know what happens. Or maybe that IS a good writer, and the competent writer just knows how to string sentences together and form coherent/cohesive scenes.


    That's just how it seems to me. Thoughts?
     
  2. Cyberpunk
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    Cyberpunk Banned

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    I wouldn't fall into the trap that Stephen King has set for you. Such labels are subjective, and useless at best.

    Instead of judging the writer, judge the piece independantly. If I read a story that fascinates me, I don't care if it was written by Christopher Paolini, Clive Cussler or Dan Brown. I'm just going to have to hide the author's name beforehand, though.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This was recently discussed in another thread. I don't care much for sticking people in categories. I'm more interested in what each person is doing to make his or her writing better.

    Where you are going is far more important than where you are.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    re those categories, i'd consider 'competent' and 'good' to be the same thing... as opposed to 'poor' or 'great' at the respective ends of the quality spectrum...
     
  5. Cyberpunk
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    Cyberpunk Banned

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    One man's poor is another man's great. Like I said, subjective.
     
  6. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not necessarily a fair measure of a writer to aggregate all his or her works into a single value judgment. For example, Ernest Hemingway wrote some great literature and a few stinkers. So, is he a "great" writer or just a "competent" writer? Same thing goes for contemporary writer, Tom Clancy. I've read some of his works that were real page-turners, so I bought more of his books based on his reputation and some were terrible.

    I think the only reasonable "great, good, basically competent" assessment is one that judges each book on its own merit.

    .....NaCl
     
  7. The23rdman
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    The23rdman Member

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    I agree with the posters who suggest it's purely subjective...up to a point. As long as someone writes with a basic understanding of structure and grammar I think there's much room for freedom of expression in style. for example, Clive Barker has sold many books yet I think he's a poor writer. Great imagination, but poor execution.

    So many things can make a writer "great" for me. Someone Like Rushdie who pushes the envelope, but is still completely readable, or someone who writes with a pure simplicity like Jon McGregor.
     
  8. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    You only way you are a 'bad' writer, in my opinion, is if you have no interest in improving your self.
     
  9. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    You know, in truth, I don't even bother thinking about such things. If I find a story good, then I read it; if I don't, then I don't. I don't spend time wondering if a writer is "good" or "great" or "competent," because honestly, that just takes time away from actually reading. :D

    And as for what group I myself would fall into, well, again, who could really say? It's not like one can go out and buy a license to be a great writer. All you can do is try to improve and hope that somebody considers you great. Spending time pondering semantics and labels won't do much to make you "great" at all. It's like needing to lose weight and sitting there thinking, "I wonder if I'm obese or am I just chunky?" instead of actually going out and exercising or dieting.
     
  10. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    You guys who have said that you judge the writing, not the writer..

    That's basically what I was getting at. I didn't mean to make it sound like I judge writers based on one or two of their works/novels/whatever.

    Basically, what I meant to ask was what makes a great piece so great, and what is the difference between a great story and something merely readable. Sorry for the confusion, guys and gals. :)
     
  11. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    Oh please, say it ain't so! Did that website rip me off? There goes 19.95 that could have put food on the table. Rats!
     
  12. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Oh jeez.
     
  13. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    I definitely agree with the others. Judging the writing rather than the writer is usually the best path to take. For example, I love some of Cornelia Funke's books; others, I can't stand. It all comes down to the story and the quality with which it's written, not by whom it's written.
     
  14. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Alright well, if I may, let me take this opportunity to shift the conversation to be focused more on the writing rather than the writer. Someone mentioned Stephen King, and that's where I got this question from. But Stephen King is kind of a bum (even though I can't get enough of the Dark Tower series--though the fourth book was very hard to get through), so let's switch it up a bit.

    How do you determine great writing from good writing from competent writing?
     
  15. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Pretty simple for me:

    "Great writing" = any book that I voluntarily finished. If I'm not blown away with a story, I toss it aside.

    "Good writing" = college textbooks or industry manuals that I am/was forced to read, but turned out to be pretty easy to understand.

    "Competent writing" = Competent is not a value judgment like "good" or "great". Competence is a necessary element of "good" and "great".

    For me, "good" and "great" are purely subjective as my personal tastes dictate enjoyment. My wife loves "murder mysteries". I gag on her books, and she can't stand my favorite sci-fi novels. As far as what aspects of a story get my attention, I need a fast start...I get bored quickly. After that, my attention limitations are good for one boring chapter, but two consecutive slow chapters sends me to the TV for tomorrow's weather report.

    .....NaCl
     

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