From the Department of Uncomfortable Questions:
Is there such a thing as bad writing?
Let's assume we're not talking about misspellings galore, egregious grammar gaffes, and other such technical things that make it about as comprehensible as the typings of Pika the kitten. Let's say we're talking only about manuscripts that have been through the world's best spelling and grammar checks.
Then, is there such a thing as "bad"? When discussing things like voice, style, plotting, character, and all that makes fiction worth reading, is there a minimal level of competence? Some magic line below which is an auto-reject and above which is a "well, it depends"?
Do we do ourselves damage when we assume it's all just subjectivity, rather than making the effort to improve our craft?
Do we do ourselves damage when we assume our writing is crap, rather than acknowledging our strengths and the fact that we can't please everyone?
If there is a line, even a murky one, how do we find it? Our gut? Honest critique partners? I'm guessing "murky" is a key word there. Really excellent writing seems easy enough to identify, whether it's our thing or not. I know I've had the experience of reading something and thinking, "Wow, this is so well-written. I'm just not into (insert genre here)." Likewise, writing that's super-far off the mark is easy to spot.
But that pesky gray area in the middle ... what about that?
Lots of questions and no real answers this time around. What are your thoughts?