A Box of Bad Writing

Guest Blog Post by Pat Childers

I found a large box in my garage marked “bad writing.” I didn’t open it; I just threw it away.

I remember that bad writing. I had begun my self-education in becoming a writer and, with the help of a friend equally blessed with writing ignorance, had begun a novel involving women pirates off the coast of South Carolina in the 1700s. We estimated it would take us about three months to write a 100,000+ word book. We never made it past the first chapter.

What made it remarkable, in my memory, was the total lack of respect we had for the art of writing. We assumed we knew how to type, therefore it couldn’t be that difficult to string together a few words and pound out an historical romance novel. Without the benefit of research, story structure, character development or theme. I did look up the parts of the ship, though. This was 40 years ago, so please don’t judge me too harshly.

Just as an Olympic diver has spent years practicing dives, and a pianist has spent a lifetime honing her craft, a person who writes (not a writer yet) must understand it takes a couple of very large boxes of bad writing to master the rhythm of a well-written page.

It is humbling to arrange the words in such a way that they invoke a sigh from the reader. Or that a character has taken a seat in your mind, and even when you aren’t reading the story, you wonder what they’re doing and if they will make it out okay. The reader doesn’t notice that the sentences have become short and tight as the action builds. The verbs are intense, the adjectives sparse. The reader’s breath comes quicker. The end is near. The story is done.

And the reader sits for a moment, still, gazing out the window and wondering what will happen to Max or Diane now that the story is over. Sometimes, the reader can’t continue on as before, so they turn to page one, and begin again.

If this ever happens to you, it takes a lot of bad writing to become a really good writer.

Patricia Childers is an artist and writer, and the owner of My Blue Horse Publishing Co. She works with aspiring authors in editorial development, line editing, copy editing, and proofreading to independently publish their novels, or present their finished works to agents and publishers. Contact her at pat@MyBlueHorse.com.

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