A member of my writing group, Tess Grantham, has done an excellent post on DIY covers. Well worth a read if you’re interested in design, books or working on your own cover - and it's vital to do a good job, especially of meeting your reader's expectations.
Because we all know it by now – we do judge a book by it’s cover.
Here’s a few of my favourite covers for fun - some due to illustration & font, some for the expectations they establish in the mind, some for the use of colour or detail, others simply because they are plain old awesome.
Browse an internet forum or a blog about writing, browse a site like Amazon or Goodreads, speak to a teacher or reader, a friend, a stranger – anyone, and they’ll probably have an opinion on what ‘good writing’ looks like.
Especially in regards to fiction.
Thankfully, most of those opinions will be varied. For every dogmatic claim there will be a more reasoned response. Now, you can relax, this post isn’t leading to a rehash of the utter tedium that is the 'literary fiction' VS 'commercial fiction' debate.
Instead, what I find missing from typical responses to the question of ‘good writing’ is a definition of terms. Musicians and other artists also appear to fall victim to the same fallacy when claiming that only one definition could possibly fit such a complex idea.
But ‘good writing’ isn’t one thing only.
For me, the criteria I think most useful is whether a piece of writing is effective at realising purpose. And further to this, to deny the possibility of multiple responses when considering the question of ‘good writing’ is to deny proper consideration, proper discussion.
So, is good writing:
Some people will tell you that good writing can only be one of the above. And that’s reductionist thinking that so quickly damages the idea of what is worth reading.
Of course my list is in no way exhaustive but the answer to what 'good writing' looks like should be a complex one not a simple one.
A piece of fiction deemed 'emotionless' might be an engaging read because it challenges the reader. And if the purpose of the text is to challenge, it's succeeded in its purpose and thus could be called ‘good.’ A set of logical instructions for a cabinet might not read in a way that is beautiful, but if the writing helps you put that cabinet together, it must surely be ‘good.’ If writing can operate like a window pane, to borrow a phrase from Orwell, it must have achieved the purpose of showcasing the ideas or the stories it is attempting to communicate.
It must therefore be good.
Easily one of my favourite Neil Gaiman books – so much so that just thinking about it makes me wish he had a new novel out right now. I’d read it immediately.
Well, turns out he does (I first wrote this review earlier in the year and posted it on my poetry blog).
Back to Neverwhere. In this wonderful book readers are given a brilliant mix of comic, dark, surreal and fantastical elements as they follow the out-of-his-depth Richard Mayhew through the mysteries and horrors of an otherworldly ‘London Below’ in his efforts to save the mysterious girl known as ‘Door.’
Now, I know it’s a cliche, but I found it tough to put this down. Really tough. I generally annoyed those around me with my distracted state and I think everyone was pretty happy when I finished it and was able to listen properly again. And that's each time I read it.
Part of what enthralled me most was the way Gaiman interwove the ‘real’ world with the magical one below. It was always entertaining and often surprising. I didn’t expect the oddities of the Floating Market or Marquis de Carabas’ endless supply of cleverness. And I didn’t expect the wonderful evocation of loneliness the book achieved when Richard was ‘above’ either. Certainly there was action and suspense, but Neverwhere is often a touching story too – Gaiman has a knack for getting to the core of a character very quickly, often through his wit and use of dialogue.
Reading it again I do wish I’d been to London. That way I could experience the extra layers of meaning he evokes when using (often in an amusing way) recognisable places like Earl’s Court or ‘Night’s Bridge’. Of course, it’s not a requirement to enjoying the story and in the meantime I can always read it again, right?
Five stars indeed.
I saw these a few days ago and I'm just writing a short post to say 'wow'. Re-purposed art can be hit and miss to my eye, but these are brilliant. My favourite is probably the fairy, but fox is fantastic too.
Susan Beatrice works in all manner of natural mediums, but first, check out more of her steampunk works here or jump over here for a little background.
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Ashley Capes is an Australian writer of fiction, poetry and very occasional non-fiction.
Imperial Towers (Never Book 5) - draft 1
Moss Dragon - draft 1
Reed Lavender (working title) - draft 1
Unnamed Spec Fic - draft 1
Whisper of Leaves (sequel) - Outline