Good writing, to me, is descriptive. The key, of course, is to put your reader in the middle of what you are describing without being verbose. To describe the scent, sounds, colors, vibrance of a scene without recounting for your reader thirteen pages of how your hero ordered dinner is where writing begins to become art.
I often find that my favorite writers are not beloved of the critics. My college English Lit professor put his head in his hands on Poetry Reading day when I whipped out Gunga Din. Few critics will ever rate Louis L’Amour as high American literature.
I think what makes their writing so compelling to me is that they actually lived what they wrote about, so they wrote with authority. When Kipling writes about the crack of bullets, you know he has actually heard them. When L’Amour describes a canyon, you can find that canyon and those stone formations on a map. They had tasted the dust, slept in the mud, been bitten by the bugs, thirsted, hungered, staggered from exhaustion, swum in the lagoons and crossed the passes.
As I follow in their footsteps, I have now been to many of the places around the world they describe. I’ve poled the swamps, climbed the mountains, slept in the snow, baked in the deserts, eaten with the natives and heard the crack of machine gun fire. I hope it begins to show in my writing. I have never really considered myself a writer, though I did win 1st place in our 6th grade literary contest for my how to Wild Game Cookbook. But what runs through my mind is so incredibly vivid. If I could begin to find a way to lay that down in black and white I might make a speck on the shadow of some of my favorite writers.
I’m still looking for my niche. So many things interest me, but other than crafting my descriptiveness of what I find beautiful I just have to depend on my muse to show up with a topic. Not very crafts-manlike, but where I am at the moment. Perhaps this navel gazing is the warning signs of my muse’s return…
In the meantime, here’s to the true craftsmen; L’Amour, Kipling and Hemingway.