bad writing and what you can do to fix it

Writing can be frustrating

While there is always doubt in a writer’s mind, there comes a day when you just know what you have written is not working or that it is simply rubbish. I have just had this day and have decided to trash a project I have been working on now for a few months.

There is always the option of cutting, pruning, trimming, re-working or savagely editing, but sometimes the best option is to go back to a blank page and start all over again with a brand new idea. Although a painful and seemingly wasteful decision to make, there does come a time to admit that what you have written is crap.

This is the third time it has happened to me, and it prompted me to think about the reasons why it happens. Lack of motivation, a poor idea, weak characters or simply a lousy plot are probably common elements, but these can usually be fixed in one way or another. What I believe happened is that I just didn’t attach myself to the main characters and failed to have an underlying message I wanted to get across. With this most recent admission of failure, I have to say that I completely lost my way, and although thinking I was following my plot outline, I was in actual fact wandering off in all directions.

The other probability is that the story was a continuation from one of my previous books and I fell into the trap of trying to milk an already exploited idea. I found myself writing for the sake of writing and although producing words, I wasn’t producing a story. Nor was I enjoying myself. Whatever the reason, I just knew it was time to stop.

While all writers need the reassurance of an independent eye, there are times when in your own heart you know you have failed. So back to the drawing board or me. Now, where’s that delete button?

When Your Writing Is Crap

17 thoughts on “When Your Writing Is Crap

  • 19/10/2011 at 9:37 pm

    Don’t despair. I just trashed 22 months of work, over 185,000 words in script and 70,000 words cut during the process. Good news is I salvaged one tidbit for a long short story (13,500 words so far) and think I can salvage maybe 50,000 of the 185,000 and reboot the core concept in a more focuses fashion.

    I write from an idea and let the plot take care of itself, so dead ends are a constant hazard. Self-induced even. But navigating that “mind field” has led to some unique stories. Maybe a tad too unique for editorial tastes. Whatever. I do what I do, and I’m happy with that.

    • 20/10/2011 at 11:29 am

      22 months down the drain RA! Wow, I feel like I was lucky now. But at least you did a good salvage job with some of it.

  • 20/10/2011 at 9:56 am

    Oh, thank goodness you managed to retrieve it, Derek. I think you are a wonderful writer so please don’t throw any of your work away. You might pick it up in six months time and turn it into a masterpiece. :)

  • 20/10/2011 at 10:28 am

    When you’re chewing on life’s gristle, don’t worry. Just whistle.

    My thought is that I wonder why you had this epiphany at this point? What threshold did you cross that made you think it was no longer a viable project? Or was it a cumulative dissatisfaction or was it just a really bad day? Good that you have kept the WIP, things might be clearer in time.



    • 20/10/2011 at 11:27 am

      Love your Life of Brian quote Ruby!

      But the nail in the coffin for my project was that it was confused and lacking direction. There was no message I was trying to get across so consequently it lacked any depth.

  • 20/10/2011 at 3:48 pm

    For me, the opposite of inspiration is improvisation! I have a tendency to come up with a good idea that has a good beginning and a clear end — but no middle. These stories tend to go on and on interminably as I flounder around trying to improvise something that will get the plot to its conclusion. I end up going off on tangents and inventing a lot of great but irrelevant characters and episodes. Finally, I throw in the towel and go on to something else. The story needs to be fully formed in its creator’s head and then it simply writes itself. Improvisation just doesn’t work for me! (I never delete these efforts, though, because parts of them are always worth consideration.)

  • 20/11/2011 at 9:16 pm

    So refreshing! A writer willing to admit he or she has written crap, is a real writer. Failure? Of course. All effort that achieves excellence ruthlessly carves away the failed and mediocre. When the foundation is crap, the whole house has to go. This is the hard truth of true craft. Early discovery is the best you can do sometimes.

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