Boy, if I had the answer to that question, I’d be rich. I know what it is about the authors I enjoy reading. Or at least I think I know. Trying to quantify and qualify it is another matter.
I sort of covered this in a post about the five things I look for in a good read. While that ultimately (I guess) is about the author, I was coming at it more from the standpoint of the novel itself. In this case, I’m focusing more on the author and their style. I hope.
I like good descriptions. A good place description can ground you in the work better than just about anything else. But when is too much detail too much? One of my favorite authors has said that the hardest thing he had to learn was to trust the reader. By that he meant that he should let them fill in some of the details. Not only does that help to tighten up your writing, it also helps the reader to become more involved with the story. Personally, if it doesn’t involve me, if it doesn’t pull me in and keep me coming back for more and if I would rather solve a Sudoku than read a particular book, well then it has a problem.
I’ve read a few books wherein it seemed as if the author had written out the whole thing start to finish as a they-went-here-and-did-this-and-that kind of story then went back and threw in some descriptive passages here and there. The passages did nothing to forward the story and were egregious and annoying. That isn’t the answer either.
I like witty conversation. But not all your characters are always going to be witty. And as I have found out, it’s difficult to write witty banter if you are not, yourself, witty. Wit requires quick thinking. Since I don’t really place myself in that category, I rely on going over and over a conversation to find ways to improve it. I imagine it’s like that for a lot of authors.
You need to come up with a good story. Duh. Doesn’t matter how good your descriptions and conversations are if the story isn’t captivating. Everyone wants to write a “page turner,” but very few can pull it off convincingly. Maintaining that kind of momentum can be exhausting. So engaging the reader in other ways becomes critical. A couple really good characters can do that. If you can create empathy for your characters early on, then the reader will want to know what happens to them. I tend to write more character driven stories. But I do enjoy a good action packed novel. Some authors manage to combine both elements. For me, those are some of the best writers.
Some people think there has to be strife and peril and injury in a story to keep it interesting. Frankly, if I like the character, I don’t like to see them hurt. It upsets me. So I tend to leave the physical peril to other writers. I create awkward social situations, misunderstandings that are sometimes (hopefully) amusing and other similar things to keep my stories interesting and moving along. A cliffhanger at the end of a chapter doesn’t hurt either.
My husband reads far more books than I have the time to read. He’s joined Kindle Unlimited and gets a lot of them for free. He says that’s a good thing because some of them are so bad that he never finishes them. He’ll tell me why from time to time. Frequently, it’s just that the story isn’t any good. Or there are inconsistencies that he just can’t overlook. Or the characters are flat. Or it is poorly written with poor grammar. And typos. He hates typos. So he avoids that author in the future.
So for him, a good author is one that pays attention to detail, maintains consistency, employs good grammar (with the exception of within conversations … not everyone speaks with good grammar) and can keep the reader engaged.
I flatter myself from time to time, thinking that I am a poet as well as a novelist. Some might rightfully argue that thinking of me as a novelist is also a gross example of undeserved self-flattery. Oh well.
What Makes a Writer Good?
What is it
That makes a writer good?
Is it his ability
To take us in
Catch us up
Make us believe
In the world he has created?
Is it the way
She knits her words
Stitch by careful stitch
So that we smell the freshly cut grass
Green and damp
And feel the soft caress
Of a summer’s breeze
Upon our faces?
Is it in the way
We are taken down
That dark and lonely lane
On a moonlit late October night
When chill is the air and our breath fogs before us?
When the leaves swirl madly around our feet
As the owl hoots good bye
And we feel as if
We could fly
Yes. It’s all that and more.