No one is perfect. Certainly writers aren’t, and that’s part of what makes what we do special. We aren’t always trying to write the next great American novel or the next best-selling series. Sometimes we just want to write whatever story is in our heads, good or not. Sometimes we just have to get it out before it eats us alive. This leads me to today’s topic of bad writing.
Everyone has written something bad. You may not have thought so at the time, but after a few years, you come back to it and think, “Oh God, this is terrible.” But why is it so terrible, and can it be salvaged? Here are five reasons your writing will suck and how you can change that.
1. The Characters
So you’ve come up with characters that you think are great and then you start writing and all of a sudden, they’re as dull as doorknobs and you can’t figure out how to inject a little energy into them. It happens to all of us. Sometimes there is a simple solution: cut the character. What if this character is the main character? What if they’re so boring you can’t stand to write another sentence. That might be a sign that your main character shouldn’t be your main character. Maybe it’s that side character who is stealing the show. Maybe you need someone completely different. You can also combine two characters to make one more interesting!
2. The Plot
I’ll admit that this is generally my weak spot. Your plot is dragging along, in desperate need of some caffeine and you don’t know what to do. Put in a plot twist! Surprise your characters (and yourself) with some unexpected that forces the characters to do something new. Add in a car crash, a thunderstorm, and tornado – anything that will change the stakes of the game. You might be surprised what kinds of turns can come along.
3. The Style
Writing style is a particularly difficult one because it’s different for everyone, and figuring out your own style can take a lot of time and practice – both reading and writing. Style is often a personal choice, but sometimes, especially with new writers, it can need some work. Ask others to critique your style and give suggestions for improvement. The improvement will come naturally over time, but you can speed it up by asking for tips from other writers.
4. The Length
Some stories cut off too soon and others drag on far too long. Finding the happy balance between too short and too long all depends on the story. You’ll probably need test readers for this – people to tell you what they think of the length. Whenever you give your story to test readers, always try to be specific about the things you want them to pay attention to such as length, pacing, or style. If you don’t, they may not even pay attention to those things and their critiques might be useless.
Grammar is a big reason your story could suck. You could have a fantastic plot, great, engaging characters, and awesome style, but if your manuscript is riddled with typos and bad usage of punctuation, it could ruin the whole thing. Grammar is easily learned through books and other people who can help you understand nuances of language. Some people are more inclined towards it than others, but good grammar can make all the difference in a good novel. A few typos isn’t usually a big deal, but when they happen constantly, it can get in the way of reading. Don’t trust yourself to find every error – even if you do proofread, you might miss things because you don’t KNOW they’re wrong. That is why it is important to have someone (or two or three) proofread your novel before sending it anywhere.
You don’t want your story to suck, no writer does, and you want people to be able to read it and enjoy it. So take the time to look objectively at the things you write and try to see where you can find improvement. There’s always room for it!