… I’m finding that I can actually learn a few things. You probably know that most people recommend that writers consume high-quality literature, thus giving great examples of writing of which to draw upon. There’s a lot of unconscious work that is going on here, as many of us lead by example and pick up good habits this way. ( <– Yet another example of me saying vague things about improving writing that I talk about in this post)
But what about the other side of the story, the, ah, lower quality literature? I’ll admit that I get sucked in by the .99 cent deals (or even 2.99 cent deals) on Amazon (I am on a limited budget here), and often, the phrase “you get what you pay for” applies.
(Of course, this is not true universally. I’ve found some great writers through .99 cent books, traditional published and self-published alike.)
I do need to read more classical literature and fiction that will echo through the ages due to it’s great writing and content. But I’m starting to believe that crappy writers have a lot to teach us, too. I’ve come across a lot of what one of my favorite authors calls “glitter-poo”: novels that look great but end up being part of the problem that gives self-published authors the bad rep of poor writing and bad grammar. (Actually, I’m positive that a lot of these are traditionally published as well, so it’s not just self-published authors.) I have the problem that I have to know how the story ends, so I usually make myself finish the damn thing (especially since I’ve paid for it), even if it makes me cringe. I think I’ve only stopped reading one novel in my entire life. It was that boring.
Anyway, but what about this cringing is bad thing? Doesn’t this mean that I can identify what bad writing looks like? As someone who just “feels” or “knows it when she sees it” but can’t necessarily describe the exact things that are wrong with said novel, I think this is good practice for me. When I come across novels such as these, I’ve recently started studying what could be improved. The dialogue is unrealistic. Nobody would ever react that way in real life. There’s no description. There’s a lot of “telling” when there should be “showing.” Villians are only evil and heros are only good. Details are off. The pacing is choppy, or too fast or too slow.
Details such as these. And I think it’s helping me understand my own writing limitations. All of us have probably found ourselves rewriting a book we were reading in our heads, but now I’m noticing how quickly I’m seeing and pinpointing problems. Somewhere between honing an eye for editing and practice giving me an ability to pinpoint specific faults, it’s easier to see the pieces of my writing. To take feeling odd about something I’ve written and turning it into problems I can fix.
Perhaps I’m a little behind the curve and everyone else is already figuring this out. But hey, what’s your latest realization about your writing? Have you ever found yourself reading a book and rewriting it in your head to make it better? What’s the latest one you’ve learned something from (good writing or bad writing alike)?