Thursday, April 14, 2016

What Is BAD Writing?

Let's first decide what is good writing.

Basically, anything that transports you as a reader is good. 

In a sense, it doesn't matter if the writing has lots of faults. 

Good writing is that which works for you - even though others might not agree. 

It's a personal thing.

Bad writing can work for your mother, your spouse or your best friends. 

They will not see the faults - and sometimes, neither will you.

But good writing is what moves many people - and for all the right reasons. 

This is why best selling authors are by definition good writers, even though the purists might criticize their style.

I've seen many arguments on writers' groups over the years about J K Rowling. 

It's fairly widely acknowledged (among writers) that her writing style leaves a lot to be desired. 

She breaks a lot of the rules of good writing but, her fans say, that's not important. 

Her mission is to tell great stories - which she's clearly very good at - and so who's to say she's a bad writer?

How can millions of readers be wrong?

Does her constant head-hopping really matter - even when it grates so much?

I used to have this same argument with musicians. 

It's easy for purists and cynics to say 'Taylor Swift is crap' but I would say that she must be talented and wonderful simply because she's so incredibly popular. 

To me, success is the benchmark.

If someone can inspire adoration, sales and loyal followers then surely you have to say they must be talented.

And writers who can inspire millions with their words must be good at what they do.

You might not like Dan Brown's writing style. 

I've heard many writers criticize him - but you can't ignore the profound effect his writing has had on the public. 

I've read all of his books - and I can't believe he makes us wait so long in between each one!

And sure, there are many tell tale signs of ineffective writing. 

Bad grammar, a clunky self consciousness, almost absurd verbosity…  

But don't let the mechanics - or rules - get you down.

Many would be great storytellers get so worried about their writing style, with all its faults, that they stop themselves from writing - for fear of embarrassing themselves.

But this is not productive.

Only writing is productive.

Sure. Pick up the rules as you go along - but don't stop yourself from writing. 

Listen to what others say and make adjustments but never believe you're not as good as anyone else.

Having read a million or so manuscripts in the last 30 years I would say there is only one really bad way to write.

And that is when an author deliberately sets out to write to IMPRESS.

You can tell they're saying, "Look at me, look at my writing! Aren't I great, isn't my writing superb!" 

Because, ironically, this has precisely the opposite effect on the reader.

They might not quite understand why they don't like it - but that niggling feeling that the author wants you to be impressed with them can be very irritating to read.

In a perfect world, the author must disappear from view. 

The only important thing is the story - or in non fiction, the information.

The interesting thing to me is that once authors grasp this fact, their writing seems to get better on its own.

Because the rules of writing are simply there to help clarify your meaning to readers. 

And good writing is clear writing.

Bad writing is that which is confusing, deliberately obscure or simply hard to read. 

It may be perfectly grammatical and error free but, let's face it, if it's dull and uninspiring, it's bad writing.

Till next time,

Keep Writing!

Any comments, suggestions, writers tips, let me know

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Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!