Post by Kerrie
Why does bad writing get published? Because what makes writing good or bad is completely subjective. It all someone’s opinion and that is where the challenge lies in getting published. Stephanie Meyer is not the best writer in the world, and many critiques were quick to point that out. But, whether or not her writing was good or bad is pointless to argue. The Twilight series clearly resonated with teenage girls across the country and they loved the story.
But, not all is lost if we find ourselves reading something we feel a 5th grader could have done a better job writing. We can use these “bad” writing examples as tools to help us grow as writers. Instead of just throwing the piece aside, study it. Why did you think it was bad? What would you have done differently? Then you can even take it a step further and rewrite parts of it.
One of my favorite “bad” books is the bestselling novel, “The Bridges of Madison County.” How it got to be a bestseller is beyond me, but that is just my opinion. Many others obviously felt different about it.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
Kincaid wore faded Levi’s, well-used Red Wing field boots, a khaki shirt, and orange suspenders. On his wide leather belt was fastened a Swiss Army knife in its own case. He looked at his watch: eight-seventeen. The truck started on the second try, and he backed out, shifted gears, and moved slowly down the alley under hazy sun. Through the streets of Bellingham he went, heading south on Washington 11, running along the coast of Puget Sound for a few miles, then following the highway as it swung east a little before meeting U.S. Route 20.
Turning into the sun, he began the long, winding drive through the Cascades. He liked this country and felt unpressed, stopping now and then to make notes about interesting possibilities for future expeditions or to shoot what he called “memory snapshots.” …
This description and telling goes on for pages and pages. In fact, it goes on throughout the whole book, which is the main reason I don’t like it. I am not one for drawn out descriptions. I don’t really care that his Swiss Army knife had its own case and I really don’t care that he went south on Washington 11 or any of the other roads.
If I was to rewrite it, I would cut a bunch out. Here is what I would say:
Kincaid tossed his knapsack on the seat next to him of his Chevy pickup. A quick scan of the cab reassured him he had everything he needed for his trip from Bellingham to Duluth. The truck started on the second try and he headed down the alley under the hazy morning sun.
Bam! Right to the point and we get him on the road in a few sentences. (Some of the details I included were from some previous paragraphs in the book) My rewritten version isn’t amazing, but at least it isn’t laden with description. But by looking at what I didn’t like, I was able to discern what I felt was the important information, disregard the rest and really think about what goes into good writing.
So how about you, have you ever studied bad writing?