Monday, December 14, 2009

In Defense of Bad Writing

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been writing. Badly.

Throughout elementary school, Young Authors was always my favorite part of the year. My stories were uniformly terrible. It didn’t matter. In third grade, I wrote a touching adventure about a young boy who goes on vacation to Scotland, meets a rather peculiar homeless man, and takes the man home to live with him. In sixth grade, I turned to drama and wrote about a group of friends transported to a mysterious underground kingdom where evil fish tie them to stakes and try to sacrifice them. As fish do not have hands, the knots are loose and the protagonists are able to escape.

Surprisingly, these never won awards.

In seventh grade, fate crossed my path with that of Erica, my fellow blogger. This was around the time that she was beginning to write and I, a follower by nature, decided that I would be an author also. As a gift to her, I wrote a romantic mystery about her family taking a trip to Hawaii, where she met a man who at first seemed interested in dating her, but ended up just wanting to kill her. This was titled “The Hero of Hawaii.” Erica, dear friend that she is, responded to my gift by reading through it, having a good laugh, and then reading aloud some of the more awful sections to our friends so that they could share in the merriment.

For some reason, I collaborated with her on two group story projects (which could be posts all their own about how not to write stories). For the time being, it is enough to say that they were about fairies, unicorns, wizards, centaurs, dragons, and magical amulets. And the eighth-grade interpretation of compelling writing.

In high school, I began work on a story of my own. It started out as poorly as all of its predecessors, but by the time I went to college, I had something workable. For the first time in my life, I knew what it was to be immersed in one’s writing. I worked on it every spare moment I had – in the margins of class notes, in the middle of class notes – it didn’t matter. I doodled my characters’ names on every scrap of paper, like a childish lover might. The day that I wrote down the ending for the first time was one of the most emotional of my life. I’ve never given birth, but I assume that this is what it feels like, except with less pain and less mess. For several months afterwards, I couldn’t write anything at all, exhausted by what I had created. But in time I was able to step back and look at it with a shade more objectivity. Then the crash came.

I realized, quite frankly, that it wasn’t very good. Even now, after several more complete drafts and infinite minor revisions, it’s still only decent. I can see this and yet I’m reluctant (at least for now) to make the changes that are necessary to make it more readable. I like excursions into characters’ thoughts. I like long, drawn out sentences and flowery prose that may or may not be necessary. I like melodrama and even, sometimes, cliché.

All of these revelations took a long time for me to accept, but I’ve finally come to the conclusion that there is no correct way to write. What matters is that writing brings you fulfillment, in which case it isn’t bad at all.

Next week I’ll be on vacation, but drop by December 26th for my continued thoughts on this subject.

-Melissa

2 comments:

drea moore said...

I strongly agree that there is "no correct way" to write :D Having gone through the cycle several times of "omg this is sooo bad and not ready yet" feeling like shredding everything and starting over or moving on .... I understand.

As a writer, the first person we need to please is ourself. After that ... well, if you're ready to think "after that," then you are ready to apply the changes you see need to be made. It's normal to shelve Book Number One even, sometimes, indefinitely.

But a writer writes. We each work on improving our work to become something closer to what we consider "good." Good, to a certain degree, is based on perception. The quest to make something which we can be proud of and enjoy is ongoing and not to defined by someone else.

That said, this is precisely what makes writers difficult for some publishers and agents to work with :D The artist mentality -- while necesary to a degree and definitely justified -- does not endear someone to those attempting to help them work on revisions. Likewise, it is esential for the author to continue to write and stick to their guns when it is important not to change something you feel essential to the plot.

:D Have a fun vacation!

Erica Procopio said...

Did I really? Sounds like me. Why are we friends again?

Also, you forgot the numbered Wizards.

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