Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Thursday, October 28, 2010

On Being a Very Good Writer and a Very Bad One

There's a rhyme my grandmother used to say:

There was a little girl, with a little curl,
right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good, she was very very good,
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

Funny how we learn stuff from our grandmothers. This taught me an important truth-- that people can be both good and bad, that things aren't always black or white.

In writing, it's not so much a matter of talent or no talent, but perseverance and passion. Are you a good writer or a bad one? Answer: Yes. You are both. Me, too.

I can be very very good or when I am bad, I can be horrid. Brilliant writing mixed with awful. The secret is knowing which is which and fixing it. The delete key is a very helpful tool.

That's what editing is all about. It's taking out the bad so the good can shine. So don't think you're a bad writer. Or a good one. You are both. We all are. Delete, delete, delete.

38 comments:

  1. Yikes! I'd better stay out of your way before you delete me! ;o)

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  2. So true. I have my moments writing when I think something sounds good, but it sucks later. You're right, the key is to taking out the bad. Me and my delete button will be good friends come editing time. :)

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  3. You have to pound out really truly awful prose so that you can recognize your good stuff. The Delete key is my best friend.

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  4. Karen,
    My mother always told me that little Mother Goose bit was written just for me. It is also the one I can recite without even thinking. Probably because I heard it so much as a kid. I'm ok with the fact that I have not so sucky/sucky writing days. Makes me appreciate the really not suckky ones all the more.
    Patti

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  5. Patti, I always felt like it was written about my sister LOL.

    Liz, That's why I like the NaNoWriMo philosophy-- out of all that pounding out, we've GOT to have some good writing mixed it with the bad.

    Isabella, I'm glad you said "come editing time." That's when to use the delete button. Not while writing. Not yet.

    Jessica, LOL!

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  6. I do the delete and replenish method I love my words too much

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  7. Oh no! Not that one! My father and grandmother used to say that to me all the time because of my curly hair. I never saw myself as horrid.

    I like your writing philosophy. It's all about perseverance, and passion.

    I know you said you couldn't participate, but I'm hosting a Halloween Haunting at my blog "Substitute Teacher's Saga" if you want to join in. There are prizes! I was inspired by you and Nicola Morgan.

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  8. Oh dang it Theresa, now I just have to do it! Hopefully it won't take much time because I am deep into deletes, I mean edits.

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  9. That's a very upbeat, positive and empowering thought. thank you. Guess what that's exactly what I've been doing with a short story.
    Do pop over to my outside the box post if you have time, it's feeling bereft of comments at the moment. :)
    http://scribbleandedit.blogspot.com/2010/10/exploring-different-genres-outside-my.html

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  10. Ah, life would be so much simpler if we paid more attention to what Grandma said or lived our life according to children's rhymes - both contain all the truths you need!

    One of the things that's exciting me about taking part in NaNo for the first time this year is the post-NaNo mining for material or fragments I can use. I can't wait to see what comes or spews out of the experience!

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  11. How true. I was reading through the work I'd done on my latest novella this past week. There was one day I was just not in the right mindset or something and it was almost like a completely different person wrote that chapter. Lots of revisions in the future :) It's all about perseverance

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  12. That was my mother's mantra for me. She would always wind a strand of my hair around her finger as she chanted at me leaving a curl right in the middle of my forehead!

    And if I am honest...it does pertain to my writing as well. HeyHo!

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  13. So the secret is write and delete what sucks? You make it sound so simple.

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  14. We do have our different sides. Just have to keep in mind to delete the bad stuff!

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  15. Oh yeah, I heard that one as a kid, too. lol My problem is that I delete and delete, until there's nothing left, and end up starting over!

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  16. I still think my writing sucks. Every day is a day to learn and I do my best to improve. When I read published writers' books who published not one but really a huge range of books, their writing style from the first published book to the latest one has a huge difference!!! Thanks for sharing this...I hope you don't delete me...Hehehe :)

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  17. So true. It's hard to delete sometimes, but it's amazing how much better it makes the book. Fabulous post. (And sorry I've not been around in forever. I swear this year is slipping away too fast) :)

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  18. WOW!! Stirring words!! I love it!!!! Thank you KarenG - it's worth remembering too when tackling a big edit!! Take care
    x

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  19. We can be bad writers as long as we're great revisers.

    CD

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  20. I totally agree with you. I think the desire to be good writers often causes us to put too much pressure on ourselves. I think we each have our own (different) ideas of what constitutes good writing, which is interesting because several people could read the same book and have wildly different interpretations of it.

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  21. I, too, believe in taking out a lot during revision.

    This is a lovely blog, and yours is a lovely photo!

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  22. very good post. And well timed as I'm working on revisions... ! (and my g'mom used to say the same thing to me--Funny~ :o)

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  23. Loved this post. It's so true. I've been reading through my ms and can see all the places where I used words or phrases K suggested. She made my book so much better. I sure appreciate all she did for m. Wish it could have worked out better.

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  24. Oh, I love my delete key. I use it to grow my finger dexterity :D
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  25. I can only write short stories and they are not very well rounded. I probably should delete most of what I write.

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  26. Gail, I used to write short stories. Now I'm finding novels allow so much more freedom-- to write and to delete. I used to think short stories were easier, but they aren't. It's like writing poetry-- they take so much skill.

    Jules, I love mine too! Been using it a lot lately.

    Melissa, Oh honey you are making my heart ache. I'm making cookies. Want one? They're chocolate chip and we all know that chocolate cures all ills.

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  27. That I've said to my grands several times over the past few months. It's a phase. This too shall pass.
    Now as to saying it about my writing...Oh, dear, it fits that too.

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  28. That piece of advice can also relate to characters. Even antagonists are rarely just BAD. They're just, well, messed up people with strange motives and passions.

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  29. So Very True!


    Aloha from Honolulu

    Comfort Spiral

    ><}}(°>

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  30. I love the delete key!

    I write a ton. And then I get to trim trim trim. It's fun! Like losing weight! (Wish I had a delete button for that...)

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  31. So true! I tell that to my son who loves to say that he can't write. The fact is that he can write. He uses very vivid descriptions in his writing. What I try to make him understand is that what he hates is editing. Few of us sit down and write a masterpiece on the first draft.

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  32. I needed to hear this today. Great post. Thanks for stopping by my blog today. Happy Halloween.

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  33. I think the key is knowing when to edit and when to stop editing...

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  34. Sometimes I read things I wrote and I love it. I read it again later and I think it sucks...
    I have issues...

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  35. Funny, the version I always heard was "when she was bad, she was better." I know, WHAT kind of role models did I have? tsk tsk.

    Sometimes the only way for me to distinguish between good, bad, and UGLY is to let it hide away for awhile. When I open it back up the bad has turned into little eye-thorns that prick you as you try to read.

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  36. Yes yes YES! ahem.

    So, so true. I was reading over one of my drafts once and just paused and stared. I couldn't believe I'd written a cat called Delmonte into a scene - where previously (for the first three-quarters of the novel) the main character had no cat!

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