Bad writing for beginners

Toby Litt on bad writing:

Bad writing is mainly boring writing. It can be boring because it is too confused or too logical, or boring because it is hysterical or lethargic, or boring because nothing really happens. If I give you a 400 page manuscript of an unpublished novel – something that I consider to be badly written – you may read it to the end, but you will suffer as you do.

 

Often, the bad writer will feel that they have a particular story they want to tell. It may be a story passed on to them by their grandmother or it may be something that happened to them when they were younger. Until they’ve told this particular story, they feel they can’t move on. But because the material is so close to them they can’t mess around with it enough to learn how writing works. And, ultimately, they lack the will to betray the material sufficiently to make it true.

It’s worth reading that last — well written — sentence again …

Bad Writing Quote

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Five quotes on writing from Ian Rankin

IanRankin

  • I still think most writers are just kids who refuse to grow up. We’re still playing imaginary games, with our imaginary friends.
  • I don’t have many friends. It’s not because I’m a misanthrope. It’s because I’m reserved. I’m self-contained. I get all my adventures in my head when I’m writing my books.
  • I used to think that whenever I heard that someone had taken ten years to write a novel, I’d think it must be a big, serious book. Now I think, ‘No — it took you one year to write, and nine years to sit around eating Kit Kats.’
  • I am, of course, a frustrated rock star – I’d much rather be a rock star than a writer. Or own a record shop. Still, it’s not a bad life, is it? You just sit at a computer and make stuff up.
  • My first novel was turned down by half a dozen publishers. And even after having published five or six books, I wasn’t making enough money to live on, and was beginning to think I’d have to give up the dream of being a full-time writer.

Ian Rankin, author of 20 Inspector Rebus novels and around 20 others.

Photo by Tim Duncan – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3588034

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Prolific writers

Prolific writers

According to Guinness World Records, L. Ron Hubbard is credited with having the most published works by one author (1,084). But the man who once said, “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion,” and promptly did so, (Hubbard founded the loony Church of Scientology), doesn’t hold a candle to Philip M. Parker. Parker, who has developed a way of generating books from templates that are filled with data from internet searches and databases, reckons his programs have written over 200,000 books!

But if titles like “The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais”, (which won a prize for Oddest Title of the Year in 2008), don’t grab you, plenty of other authors have turned out an astonishing number of books.

Still with Guinness World Records, R. L. Stine is reckoned to be the “Most prolific author of children’s horror fiction novels“. Frankly, that sounds more like a title made to fit a writer. (Where’s the record for “Most prolific author of children’s horror non-fiction novels” for example, or “Most prolific author of children’s novels featuring cats”?). Still, Stine has written over 300 novels including the Fear Street, Goosebumps, Rotten School, Mostly Ghostly, and Nightmare Room series,

Still with living authors, Nora Roberts has written more than 200 novels under at least four psuedonyms since 1981.

The late Isaac Asimov wrote 506 books, many of them non-fiction. He published books in nine of the ten Dewey Decimal System categories.

Jacob M. Appel wrote more than 200 books and reportedly received around 21,000 rejection letters — which averages out at 105 rejection letters per novel.

Enid Blyton produced around 600 books.

Barbara Cartland wrote 722 books and also holds the record for the most novels produced in one year (23).

John Creasy wrote more than 600 books under his own and ten pseudonyms.

Terrance Dicks is credited with 666 books, including around 75 based on the Doctor Who TV series.

But they all pale against Charles Hamilton who is reckoned to have written more than 100 million words in his lifetime — the equivalent of more than 1,200 80,000-word novels. Hamilton specialised in writing long-running series for weekly magazines and is perhaps most famous for the Billy Bunter books and stories, written under the pen name “Frank Richards”.

Hamilton died in 1961 at the age of 85. His first story was published in 1895. when he was 19. Over the following 66 years, he turned out the equivalent of 4,151 words a day, every day.

So, how much have you written today …?

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JK Rowling on rejection slips (and more!)

A fascinating interview with JK Rowling (AKA Robert Galbraith) in The Guardian.

 

On rejection slips:

… the first publisher ever to turn down Harry [Potter] wrote Robert [Galbraith] his rudest rejection. So I think it’s safe to say I will never write for them. They clearly don’t like me, in whatever way I present myself. [Laughs]

 

On success:

Some people would assume that you’re sitting around feeling simply marvellous and shining your baubles. But I remember, a week after I got my American deal, JK Rowlingwhich got me a lot of press, one of my very best girlfriends rang me and said, “I thought you’d sound so elated.” From the outside, I’m sure everything looked amazing. But in my flat, where I was still a single mum and I didn’t know who to call to do my hair, everything felt phenomenally overwhelming. For the first time in my life I could buy a house, which meant security for my daughter and me, but I now felt: “The next book can’t possibly live up to this.” So I managed to turn this amazing triumph into tragedy, in the space of about five days.

 

On the birth of Harry Potter:

JK Rowling2

 

It was like an explosion of colour, and I could see lots of detail about the world. Of course the whole seven-book plot didn’t come at once, but the basic premises were there.

 

Lots more here.

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Indie or traditional? An author’s dilemma

tradVsIndie

Should you opt for indie publishing or go the traditional route? There’s no easy answer. Every author has to make his/her own decision. I’ve made mine, so consider me biased. But also consider the following words from Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

(If you’ve not come across her before, Rusch is a best-selling author of science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, mainstream fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional romance. She writes under her own name and several pseudonyms. (Here’s a list of her books.) She’s also an editor, publisher and inveterate blogger.)

quote_open-light


… if you want a
career as a writer, if you don’t want to have a day job, if you only want to write, then it seems to me the safest path to take is the indie path. You’ll have more opportunity. You can work hard and publish a lot and make money doing so.

Will every indie writer make six-figures per year? Hell, no. Nor will every traditionally published writer. But what this particular Author Earnings report shows is that if you want the chance of making six-figures or more per year with your writing, the best publishing path is indie.

(Provided you continue to learn your craft, are a damn fine storyteller, have excellent covers, do the right amount of marketing … and on and on and on.)

Is it guaranteed that you’ll even make a living? Not on either road. But that hypothetical writer that Hugh and Data Guy mention in the front of their report, the one standing with a manuscript in hand, trying to decide which road to take? That writer should ask himself: Do I want to keep my day job for the rest of my life? Or do I want the chance to be a full-time writer?

If he wants a chance at being a full-time writer, he needs to learn how to be an indie writer.

I think it’s that simple.

And that hard.quote_close-light

 

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Seven things writers should remember

konrathA gentle reminder from Joe Konrath

This post goes out to no one in particular for no particular reason. Maybe it will motivate some. Maybe it will make others think a little bit. Maybe it will irritate you. But it’s good, tested advice, and worth repeating.
 
1. Nobody owes you a living. I’m old school, and I busted my ass to get where I am. But I don’t feel any sense of entitlement. Yeah, I worked hard. Maybe I’ve got talent. But I don’t deserve readers, and neither do you.
 
2. Success is mostly due to luck. You can do everything right, and still not be satisfied with the state of your career. That’s life. No one ever said this would be fair, fun, or easy.
 
3. Stop whining. The internet is forever. No one likes a person who constantly complains. Even if you feel that bemoaning (insert whatever here) is justified, it will always be linked to you if someone Googles your name.
 
4. Don’t Google your name. What people think of you is their business, not yours. Remember, one of life’s greatest journeys is overcoming insecurity and learning to truly not give a shit.
 
5. Never respond to criticism. It will make things worse. And if you apologize, it will get even more worser. Keep out of any discussion about you and your work. You may think you know better, but you don’t.
 
6. Remember your Serenity Prayer. Fix what you can change, accept what you can’t fix, and learn to know the difference between the two. If it is beyond your control, drink a beer, do yoga, go for a run, or bitch to a close friend where it can’t be seen online. And if you can’t stop dwelling on your bad fortune;
 
7. Quit. The world will keep turning without your work. If writing and publishing is so traumatic, go use your time doing something else you can derive some pleasure from. Life is too short.

Read Joe’s original post.

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Test your text for flabby writing

WD-3

WritersDiet is a readability tool with a difference. Enter a text sample — from 100 to 1,000 words — and it will tell you whether your writing is flabby or fit. It bases this assessment on the number of verbs, nouns, prepositions, adjectives/adverbs and “is”, “this”, “that” and “there” words used, then graphs your result, rating it from Lean, Fit & Trim, through to Heart Attack.

Let’s try it out. Here’s the opening six paragraphs of one of my favourite books, Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, courtesy of the awesome Project Gutenberg:

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The Myth of The Lazy Writer

Hugh Howey, writing in Publishers Weekly;

hugh_howeyThe hardest part of getting a book published is the actual writing. All it takes to see this is the number of people who dream of publishing a book but never manage to hammer out a rough draft. I spent 20 years trying to write my first novel before I finally pulled it off. It’s not unusual for an aspiring writer to struggle for years and never produce a finished product to submit to agents or editors.

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Cheer up!

cheerup250Some humourous quotes about writing …

 

I wrote a few children’s books. Not on purpose.
Steven Wright

If Moses were alive today he’d come down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments and spend the next five years trying to get them published.
Anonymous

Having been unpopular in high school is not just cause for book publications.
Fran Lebowitz

I get a lot of letters from people. They say: “I want to be a writer. What should I do?” I tell them to stop writing to me and get on with it.
Ruth Rendell

If writers were good businessmen, they’d have too much sense to be writers.
Irvin S. Cobb

The road to hell is paved with adverbs.
Stephen King

If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers.
Doug Larson

Writers don’t have lifestyles. They sit in little rooms and write.
Norman Mailer

The dubious privilege of a freelance writer is he’s given the freedom to starve anywhere.
S.J. Perelman

I was sorry to hear my name mentioned as one of the great authors, because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead, so is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I am not feeling very well myself.
Mark Twain

Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore the bastard.
John Steinbeck

Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.
Christopher Hampton

The only time I’ll get good reviews is if I kill myself.
Edward Albee

About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgement.
Josh Billings

An autobiography is an obituary in serial form with the last instalment missing.
Quentin Crisp

From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.
Winston Churchill

Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them.
Flannery O’Connor

Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
Dr. Samuel Johnson (to an aspiring writer)

Write a wise saying and your name will live forever.
Anonymous

From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend on reading it.
Groucho Marx

 

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