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  1. Jason Govender

    Jason Govender Member

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    Is bad writing okay?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Jason Govender, Jan 9, 2018.

    Greetings!
    This is going to be half venting and half asking for advice.
    I took a break from writing during the holiday season and am trying to get back into it. The tough part is, I feel like my writing is just plain bad. This is the main reason I took a break in the first place.

    While I write, I constantly have voices in my head ( not in an insane way ) telling me that what I am writing is not good at all and I should just hold backspace. This really ruins the process for me because I constantly second guess everything I put down. I now want to just shut the voices down and write whatever I want regardless of whether it's good or bad. I think I can definitely get more written down this way.

    My question is: Is it okay to just write whatever, even if it's bad? Or listen to that voice and keep trying to make it good, at the expense of progress?
    I ask because many people say that good writing comes with experience, but will you gain experience if you aren't constantly trying to write well?
     
  2. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    There is a huge gulf between the technical ability of popular novelists, just like how many pop artists couldn’t pass an audition for art school.

    You won’t know if other people will like it unless you write until it’s finished.

    I think it’s useful to think of the first draft as an unworked block of wood. Once it’s done, follow some kind of an organized schedule to rewrite and refine it. Then, other people can read it, you make more corrections, and then you can pat yourself on the back for having become a better writer.

    The quality of the prose in the first draft of my second novel might be better than the last draft of my first novel. I’ve written what feels like a lot of bad, unreadable prose, but I do feel like I’m getting somewhere.
     
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  3. DueNorth

    DueNorth Senior Member

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    IMO, you certainly need to write—get your ideas down. The first part of good writing is having a good story to tell. The “art”of writing is telling that story well, and that takes time and experience. For me, often my best writing, crafting of sentences, pacing, etc.— comes in revision rather than in the initial writing.

    Also, if possible, get in a critique group, both to get supportive feedback and to see how other writer’s writing evolves. And, read good authors as well as reading about writing. Some of it seems to come more naturally for some people, but many of the skills can be learned by most of us. Becoming good at anything takes a lot of time and dedication.

    I’ve recently being going to watch my 3rd grade granddaughter play basketball. Most of the girls play hard, but aren't very skilled and don’t really understand the subtleties of the game. Watching them, I am reminded of the countless hours I spent (as a kid) playing ball in driveways and parks developing an understanding of the game and a modest skill set. It takes a long time!
     
  4. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Yes.

    Noooo!

    You learn by making mistakes. It often takes other people to point out those mistakes. You gain experience through a cycle of write, edit, get critique, edit, write... over time, the writing part gets easier.

    Some writers will reach the stage where they can turn out a clean first draft that won't need much revision. Some never do, and almost have to write a disorganised, rough first draft before it's possible for them to clean it up. In fact, we all do the rough, crappy draft - just some of us do it in our heads and can translate it well onto paper, whereas others need to get it down on paper before it can be translated to something good. Neither method is superior, even if one takes longer. All that matters is you achieve what you set out to do.

    A few things that might help:

    - Do writing sprints. This is where you set an alarm for, say, 30 minutes, and write as many words as you can before the alarm goes off. Stops you spending ages revising as you go or agonising over word choice - you just have to type as fast as the ideas come. Works better if you get other writers to join you, as it brings out that competitive spirit ;)

    - At the end of a writing session, start a new document and paste in only the last sentence you wrote. Start with that document next time, so you're not able to go back and read what you've already done and start tampering with it.
     
  5. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    You can also help yourself by spending some time reading, not just for pleasure, but with an eye toward how the author crafts characters, lays out a story, builds tension, works in description, uses language. What authors do you most enjoy reading? What is it about their work that draws you? Now, compare your own work to theirs and see where yours may be lacking. Next time you write, keep that comparison in mind. It's not that you are looking to copy the style of another author, but rather you are using examples of good writing to improve your own, to find your own voice.

    Best of luck.
     
  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I think every writer thinks they suck from time to time. And most of the time it isn't as true as we think. But writing more, regardless of what level you're at now will help you improve. As for those voices of self doubt... Try listening to the voice telling you the story or the voices of your characters in dialog. I am so into my writing while actually doing it that everything except the story gets blocked out. Now, I don't know if the story is any good while I'm writing it, but I am completely into it and will worry about not being good enough later, not when I'm actually writing.
     
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  7. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob Here ;) Contributor

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    Correction: all the time (for me anyways :p).
     
  8. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Okay, so read and write more. It works like magic.
     
  9. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob Here ;) Contributor

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    I do, and I definitely have TONS of room to improve, but I'm working on it ;)
     
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  10. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    This is exactly what to do!

    However, I will add that one should also explore writers that you haven't experienced before, and perhaps even don't like. I recently discovered Joyce Carol Oates and her, Mysteries of Winterthurn and love the way she fashions complex paragraphs that have an odd lyrical quality to them.
     
  11. Tomb1302

    Tomb1302 Senior Member

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    Absolutely. The way I see it ( certainly not the way I execute it :( ), you need to get your ideas on the paper before they escape you. Write it down - ALL of it. From there, you can begin to envision how you'd like to portray and present those vague ideas to reader. You can consider emotion, detail, description, and anything else you'd like the reader to experience.
     
  12. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    If you're afraid of making mistakes, you'll likely just write and re-write the same bit over and over again, and get more and more frustrated. That will hold you back more than anything else I can think of.

    Just be aware that :

    a) you don't have to show your work to anybody until YOU are satisfied with it

    b) you don't have to tell anybody that you are writing. Wait to tell them that you have written once you have finished to a standard that pleases you

    c) you can eventually change anything you don't like, as long as you don't rush to publish it before the ink (proverbial) is dry
     
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  13. Tomb1302

    Tomb1302 Senior Member

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    BASEBALL... Pffff :D
     
  14. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Excellent advice from everyone here. I will share something that has helped me in many endeavors, learning to fly, learning languages, learning to run well for long distances... and that is to visualize success. It motivates you to do well. If you are focusing on what a piece of crap you are writing, that too, is what you will write. There was a book in the 60s and 70s that influenced my thinking on this called Psychocybernetics. Back when cybernetics meant control theory rather than computers, from the Greek word cybernetes, helmsman. It began by pointing out that a guided missile must have an error between its target and where it is heading, because that is how it guides itself, by steering into the error to minimize it. It went on to point out how simply visualizing success actually leads to physical success, such as rehearsing mentally over and over how you are going to put a basketball through the hoop, including all the sensation you feel in doing so. It won't replace physically doing it, but it helps motivate you through the long frustrating process of learning how to do something well, and it also allows your brain to rerun practice sessions mentally which actually reinforces the learning gained from doing it.

    So embrace your mistakes! And visualize writing well. When you hear those voices telling you it is crap, visualize people telling you what a great story it is, how much work you must have put into it. Savor that feeling, enjoy the glow, and the other voices will indeed shut down.

    You can let them out again when the story is finished and you need to edit it! They come in handy then!
     
  15. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I really like this. Not only is bad writing 'okay,' it's more or less inevitable! :) At least at the start.
     
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  16. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I'd agree with almost all of the above, but would add that you shouldn't just read and write, you should read and write with the active goal of improving your writing.

    You've probably already read a lot of fiction over the years; you've probably already soaked up the stuff you're going to absorb easily. If you've done that and your writing still sucks, you need to get a bit more directed.

    What is bad about your writing? Are you able to tell? (I suspect you have some idea, or you wouldn't know that it is bad). So then once you've got an area where you think you need improvement, read your favourite books and favourite authors and really pay attention to how they address the issue they're struggling with. Then try to write something, and, sure, let it be bad overall, but really try to focus on improving that one area of weakness.

    Once you've got that more-or-less figured out, take a look at your work and if it's still bad, figure out what a problem is, study the problem, fix the problem. Repeat as needed.

    This feels like a really mechanical way to do things, and I don't think you need to be quite this rigorous, but I think you should do something more than just writing, writing, writing, without ever analyzing. If you spend time in fandom you'll see some writers who spend years producing hundreds of thousands of words of crap that doesn't seem any better by the end than it was at the beginning.

    So, yes, practice is necessary, but I think it should be reflective practice. (Assuming your goal is to improve your writing. If your goal is just to enjoy, then... do whatever's enjoyable!)
     
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  17. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    As a group, us writers are pretty mean about bad writing. It’s no wonder so many of us are scared of it.

    Remember how lots of people hated on Paolini for Eragon for its first novel problems, even though the writer was 16 and better than any of us at 16, and it was loved by a lot of people, or how people sometimes still identify the book with his skill even though he’s like 40?

    It’s messed up.
     
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  18. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    Most people can't write very nicely, really.

    Published authors even - produce huge trails of the 'was' and 'was' and 'he was' and 'was.'

    I say, we must blame the readers for their toleration of the 'was:' simple folk curled under blankets, the rain at the panes, or the editors and their huge & white teeth, vegan-flatulent, cosplay dressers, not real people like one sees on public transport.

    Meanwhile at WF we are supposed to write badly, it is the scene, it is CW. The more people who/that write our dreadful shite, the better for the .001% messianic, genius, true voices of English literature, the poets, those people, and not including @deadrats

    @Matpoetry.com
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2018
  19. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Vegan flatulent? That will be the beans. And maybe the cabbage as well? Together? ....:eek:
     
  20. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I tend to throw everything at the wall and then clean it up later. I'll often repeat myself, run-on every sentence, and flip back and forth in tense. I think it helps me just get the story out first, which I find I have a hard time doing if I worry too much about how I write it the first time. I then edit it all down, take a break, then edit it some more.
     
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  21. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I think this is very true. Some people don't understand why they are struggling to write even if they are new to writing. I know I was like that a little. I remember thinking I worked so hard on writing a 20 to 25 page story and gave it to my cousin to read. He didn't get it. It was confusing and hard to follow and he actually thought the ending was much different than the ending I wrote. Bottom line was it was a mess. Here's the thing, though, I didn't suck. And probably all the new writers who think they suck aren't even half as bad as they think. They just haven't practiced enough. It really does take practice. I wrote like crazy and took classes and then went for my MFA and then still it was hard sometimes and sometimes it still is. My efforts were an attempt to fast track the learning process. I don't think I would be this far along if I hadn't done those things. I know not everyone likes or is interested in a classroom experience, but I do so it really did help me along. But you don't need to go get an MFA. What you probably do need to not suck is write as much as someone getting an MFA. Writing is something we train for as we write more and improve. I said earlier that writing and reading more work like magic. That I truly believe.
     
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  22. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Hey... LOL.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2018
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  23. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Three thoughts:

    - I think that people who sensibly understand that there's going to be a whole lot of badness produced when they learn a musical instrument, or learn to cook, somehow think that they should be able to write competently when they start. That's partly because they've been made to write in school, and partly because they speak English all the time, so surely they should be able to write it? But, no. Your school experience and your experience speaking English just gives you the illusion that you can write. You don't experience something as bad as the first fumbling with a violin, so you don't realize how much you don't know.

    - And you particularly don't know much when trying to write fiction. When you're writing nonfiction, the words that you speak and the monologue in your head has a medium-strong relationship to the words that you'll write. But when you're writing fiction, the thing in your head is very likely to be more like a movie, and getting a movie (aside from the dialogue, which thankfully is words) into words requires a translation process that is utterly new to you. It's as foreign as that never-before-touched violin.

    - You're not going to be able to improve everything at once. If you have SPAG issues, you may start with nonfiction, diary-like or blog-like writing, just to get some words down on paper and discover what your SPAG weaknesses are. If you're uncomfortable with the narrative part of fiction, you may start with naked dialogue. When you're stringing dialogue and narrative together, you may decide that this month you're going to work on third person close point of view and eliminating POV leakage. There are hundreds of skills to improve, and you're almost certainly going to have to work on them in subsets. That means that skills that you're not working on in that moment are going to make your writing feel like bad writing. But you're still making progress.
     

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