5 Warning Signs of Being a Bad Writer

Everything happy in your lolly-jolly writersphere? Good for you! I like happiness.

Wait, come again? (Listens with intent). Oh dear. That’s why you’re happy? That puts you in the company of many a writer swimming in the blissful water of ignorance.

Close that pool.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Serious question, Mr. All Wrong:

I feel like “I’m where I want to be” with my writing. Engaged within the writing community. Full of inspiration. Multiple projects going. Money! 

Why am I bothering with Writing All Wrong if everything is going All Write?

—Benjamin Stump, New Holland, Pa.

“Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall.” – Jesus.

I agree with Jesus here. With that, I give you five warning signs of being a bad writer:

1. Getting the formula down.

If you can crank out one hundred novels a year, then that’s impressive. What’s not impressive is when you boil it down to a science, a predictable formula. Formulaic is not how you want to be described. You have become no good writer when you reduce it to a soulless recipe, you soulless fiend. Shame. Slow down and create something worth writing.

2. None who challenge.

If everyone loves what you’re doing, then you must be doing it right. Of course. That makes sense, but it’s wrong. When you have no opposition left, be afraid. Be very afraid. The honest among you have fled, and you may be surrounded by cowards who will only appease your ego. But what are they doing to spur on excellence in writing? Nothing. Find at least one person who will be honest, one who will challenge. He or she may be the only one you know who will tell you truth you don’t want to hear. Truth that will make your writing better.

3. Embracing community over creation.

If you value the “writing community” over “writing,” then you have issue. Deep down, I can’t find why you’d want to be a writer. Just be a “social media friend!”What makes you happier: perfecting a narrative (or a sentence!) or getting a ton of retweets and blog comments from all the “friends” you made on the World Wide Internet? We all want to be affirmed. It’s that blasted weakness of ego within us. Re-align it somehow and get the focus back on the writing. Or be everyone’s friend if you want. Crapsucking writers love each other more than anyone.

4. Being a player, bringing no game.

Yes, you. “Writers” in quotes only. You “aspiring” writers. You who toot your own horns without having one to speak of. I’m glad that you identify yourself with writing. You now have two options: show it, or get busy on showing it. There’s a measure of forgiveness to those who bring an amateur’s game to a pro’s court, sure, but there’s no forgiveness for those who “wear that jersey” and don’t come to play.

5. Writing wonderfully in your own mind.

Even the best writer knows he can make his writing better. If you’ve put yourself on top a nice little pedestal, and no one (lesser or greater) can take you down, then it’s a little pedestal indeed. That first draft should be your worst draft. As should the second, third, whatever. Crave improvement, refinement. When you don’t, you begin the journey to the Dark Side of Bad Writing.

What other warnings have you had to heed to keep from the sin of Bad Writing?

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

NaNoWriMo 301 — Misconception Objections

November 7th. Do a word count. If you’re hitting 12,000 words today, you may join the Success Society. If not, then why not?

“That wild boar stampede set me back, and I’m still picking up the pieces.” — Boars are nasty violent and illiterate. Acceptable.

“Too much snow! It never snows here on the East Coast this late in October/early in November.” — My apologies. I forgot that everyone of importance lives on the Northeast Coast of the US and A. Sincerest and humblest apologies. All is forgiven. Mittens shall be mailed to you and your needy family.

“I need to write this right, because I’m not one to go about writing all wrong.”

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

This is my first time actually doing NaNoWriMo. I’m still really excited about the idea of finishing and hitting 50,000 words on my first attempt. But I’m only about 6,000 words in after a week! At that rate, I’m not going to get there, and I’m a bit worried. I think my problem is that I have to make everything “perfect.” I find myself going back and making changes which help things run smoother, but it’s obviously not working. What do you suggest? (And thanks in advance!)

—Kirsten Jennings, Olympia, Wash. 

(Note: NaNoWriMo is short for Narcissistic Nonsense Writing Motivation or something like that. Simple premise: write a “novel” of fifty-thousand words within the month of November. The prize? Fifty-thousand dollars. In the competition’s 196-year history, only three have claimed the prize.)

/does math, divides 6,000 over 7, carrying the nine.

Yeah, you’re in trouble, but you’re not “done for.” I think I may pull out the extended metaphors for this one. A NaNoWriMo novel is special. There are rules it bends and breaks, and one of the halves of this battle is knowing what a NaNoWriMo novel is not. Here are some misconception objections.

1. A NaNoWriMo novel is not a building.

To borrow a “joke” from the watermelon-smashing comedian Noel Gallagher: “Why do they call buildings ‘buildings’ after they’ve finished them? Why not call them ‘builts?’” Point being: you’re building, but you’re not building a building here. You’re building a 50,000 word ‘something.’ Don’t fret because you put the bathroom on the rooftop, or that you didn’t quite figure out the concept of load-bearing walls. If you feel you’ve created an occupational hazard, well, you likely did, but your illegally-hired illegal workforce isn’t going to be crushed by putting the first floor on the third floor. Who cares if it’s not “up to code?” Keep building for now, worry about OSHA later.

2. A NaNoWriMo novel is not a jigsaw puzzle.

Whether you think about it or not, you may be writing to “make the pieces fit.” “Oh, I need to use 50,000 pieces, put them together, done!” No. The more time you spend putting pieces together, the more time you lose creating. You should have the story in mind, the completed image. But it shouldn’t be the image on an M.C. Escher® Impossipuzzle™ box containing 50,000 pieces. You’re making pieces from scratch with this. You’re putting an image on cardboard. You’re cutting that sheet. The goal is making those 50,000 pieces. Even better if they happen to fit together here and there.

3. A NaNoWriMo novel is not an “un-kangaroo.”

Well, now that I’ve painted myself into a corner here: a few kangaroo facts—they’re the world’s largest marsupial, got their name from the Aboriginal phrase for “dude’s got hops,” smell like curry, taste like tarragon, sprout miniature kangaroos from pouches containing spatial portals, and don’t move backwards. Yes, for a kangaroo, it’s “one way or the highway,” and that way is either forward or onward. Your NaNoWriMo novel should be the same, moving ever forward, hopping along, meter by meter, eating eucalyptus and doing all that fun marsupial fun. Forward only. None of the backwardness. It is not the “un-kangaroo,” an animal that’s moving backward and being un-marsupial.


So what NaNoWriMo misconceptions did you have to destroy to break down that dam and get the 50,000 gallons of water rushing upon the plain?

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com), followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong), and probed for more NaNoWriMo nectar during the month.