27 February 2013

Why Your Writing Sucks

Yes, it does. It sucks. And mine probably sucks too. Actually, your writing has a lot of potential. Don't ask how I know. I do. And once you tap into that potential, your writing will be brilliant. It will be so riveting, so down-to-earth and astonishing that readers will not be able to look away. Everyone has that writing genius (unless they are truly idiots) and the level of your writing is determined mostly by how easily you can come to terms with your writing.

Stop trying to be grammatically correct all the time. I don't mean become lazy in your use of "your" and "you're" or "there" and "their". If you use the wrong word there, I will get one of my friends to eat you. What I mean is, stop limiting yourself to rules like: don't use fragments, don't begin a sentence with 'and' or 'but'. Those are terrible rules, and apart from English essays I want you to delete that from your brain. Think how dramatic fragments can be.

"Blood. It was everywhere, streaked on the walls, oozing from the furniture and splattered on the floor; a stark reminder of the tragedy that had just occurred."

See how effective and dramatic that was? The sentence started off with one word that was something like a slap to your cheek; it woke you up, made you blink and shudder a couple of times before you even knew what was going on.

Eliminate the details. Don't try to write like those 19th century poets. Instead of:

"Even broken in spirit as he is, no one can feel more deeply than he does the beauties of nature. The starry sky, the sea, and every sight afforded by these wonderful regions, seems still to have the power of elevating his soul from earth. Such a man has a double existence: he may suffer misery, and be overwhelmed by disappointments; yet, when he has retired into himself, he will be like a celestial spirit that has a halo around him, within whose circle no grief or folly ventures." -Mary Shelley, Frankenstein


"Though he was drowning in intense sadness and misery, he still had room in his broken heart to accept the beauties of nature. Every wondrous sight seemed to lift his soul from the earth. He was split in two: he suffered, yes, and faced disappointments, but in his own companionship he was an angel with no cares in the world." -me, my blog

Give your characters flaws. Don't turn your guys into Edward Cullen. Don't turn your girls into the epitome of perfection. Nobody is perfect, and nobody wants to read a boring book about perfect people. Give your characters interesting flaws, like serious identity issues, or a terrible family background, or a flaring temper, or excessive nervousness, or narcolepsy, or color-blindness. Mix it up. Make it interesting. Don't use cliches or stereotypes. Don't make all the popular girls blonde, like Barbie dolls. Don't turn them into typical, popular-girl, hair-flipping freaks. Haven't we all read about those before? Hmm? Don't be all like:

"The intensity of his gorgeous brown eyes made me want to melt into him."


"His skin was so flawless, his hair so artfully messed, his frame so athletic yet slim."

instead, write something like:
"He was on the skinny side, more like gangly, really, tall and thin with clumsy movements. Despite his awkward build and stance, he was quite popular; always making his friends burst into laughter, always smiling and cheerful. He did have a rather blunt way of saying things, however, and often unintentionally hurt people's feelings. Despite his flaws, though, he had a heart of gold." -me :P

Show, don't tell. You've heard this before, but I'm serious. Don't say: 

"He was extremely sad."


"Emotions ran through him like a wind of silvery knives, jabbing and twisting and slicing at his insides."

And finally, embrace your writing voice: it is your one and only original trait and you must enhance it. Don't try to write like someone you're not. Just write. And make sure, throughout all that prose and dialogue, that a hidden shadow of yourself is recognizable.

Goodbye, or as they would say in Hindi, alvida. Happy writing!

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