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 3:56 pm
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    Hi Derek. I know what you mean. Writing is really about getting passion on the page. And then a lot of hard work of course. The easiest, best stories I’ve written were ones with themes I was passionate about. They’re the ones that almost write themselves. But we learn from the negative as well. Huggs. : )

  • 19/10/2011 at 3:58 pm
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    It’s sort’ve like getting three months into a new relationship and figuring out the fire simply isn’t there, huh? Been there myself. What really bugs me is when I have an idea but can’t beat it into anything I can run with.

    Like this killer opening sentence I woke up with sometime last year (no, I’m not telling what it is) that I have never been able to develop beyond the first page. I know there’s a story there but I simply can’t thrash it out. I’m keeping it to myself, though, in case the rest of it comes to me someday. Meanwhile I write other things. That’s what we do.

  • 19/10/2011 at 4:00 pm
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    Boy, do I get this! I have written sections of a novel where all along I didn’t jive with it. But I kept plugging away. Then, my husband read it and though he couldn’t say why, he told me it didn’t work. Naturally, I got all huffy about it, but finally admitted to myself that I too never thought it worked.

    Deleting our work and starting anew is probably one of the hardest lessons. But it can open up the mind to incredible, superior writing.

    Keep writing! And all best to you!

  • 19/10/2011 at 4:33 pm
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    Derek,
    Sometimes even the most talented people are not satisfied with their word. There are so many examples from the history. Maybe it’s better just leave it, not delete it, but leave it for the moment.
    And do the same as you would do just deleting it completely. Why? Because even that “crap” was part of your life and you wrote it for some reason. Who knows, maybe one day it could become a good book.. We have a proverb something like “measure seven times before cutting”. The meaning is simple – you should be really sure to delete something. It’s the simplest thing to do. But to accept and leave it is better..
    Good luck on your next ideas! I really enjoy your articles!

  • 19/10/2011 at 4:49 pm
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    Remember my disaster a few months back mate – “Seventh Age”? What a dog that was.

    With the anthology I’m currently working on, I eat, sleep and breath the characters. Don’t worry. Like me you will soon start writing that must read story again. :)

  • 19/10/2011 at 5:17 pm
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    Derek, As a writer, I’m sure you’ll understand when I say, “shit happens”. Carry on. :)

  • 19/10/2011 at 5:53 pm
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    Great post! It’s comforting to hear other writers saying they do this too, even though logically I know it must happen all the time, it’s still nice to hear it. And its important to remember it isnt wrong, it’s all part of the process, and deleting it doesnt mean the writing of it wasnt worthwhile.

    I’ve also learned recently how awful it is to put a piece out there that you just dont believe in. Even if someone wants to publish it, if your heart isnt in there somewhere, you’ll probably regret it. Funnily enough, it was also the first story I’ve been paid for, so…. how whorey do I feel now! -_-

    haha!

  • 19/10/2011 at 6:56 pm
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    One benefit is that you quickly recognized it wasn’t the quality writing you want to represent you as an author. You can bash yourself all day, but simply consider it an exercise in self-improvement – maybe an exhausting exercise – but one that pushes you to be better.

    All the best,
    Glenn

  • 19/10/2011 at 8:07 pm
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    I mostly write poetry, i.e., I jot down a string of thought as is and then see what I came up with. For a long time, I had notebooks full of poems, and I thought I could go back and edit each one. But one particular poem, one that was complete but not compelling, made me realize that…not everything *can* be edited. Some pieces just need to be scrapped because something inexorable about it isn’t good enough. So, essentially, I agree with your post.

  • 19/10/2011 at 8:14 pm
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    Thank you all for your comments. I have taken heart from a few of you and recovered the text in question. One great advantage of having an Apple and Time Machine! However, it will have to sit for some time in the pending file, with a number of other unfortunates, before I revisit it again.

    In the meantime, I await the arrival once again of that spark that ignites 100,000 words to flow like a river.

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