How To Be A Better Writer

I found a piece of writing today that I haven’t seen in about seven years.

A very old piece of writing.

A very terrible piece of writing.

One of my first attempts at something novel-like and my goodness did it set my teeth on edge.

I have a feeling quite a few authors feel the same. I remember reading an article where Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame said that she relished the opportunity to rework the first novel (she gender-bent it) because she managed to fix all the things that bugged her the first time around.

I can see where the foundations were in my writing, what I’ve spent the years building upon – reworking and refining so that (hopefully) what I write now doesn’t sound anywhere near as stilted.

However, in this first piece of writing, I also:

  • Made it sound like a brother sister duo were flirting (never use the word ‘blushed’ when you’re talking about siblings, unless you’re aiming for a Cersei/Jamie love story)
  • Paused what was happening so the main character could have a long, pointless inner monologue that info-dumped information we didn’t even need
  • Called someone a mute and then two chapters later gave them a paragraph of dialogue
  • Claimed the education system had given up on one particular character at the age of 8 because he’d killed the school hamster (bit extreme, Sophie. Pretty sure it’s not a one-strike-and-you’re-out system we’re running over here.)

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 22.01.05

  • Changed the scene’s location from a house to a cottage to a temple and back again with no explanation whatsoever. For clarity, the characters hadn’t moved.
  • Had someone hide behind a statue’s whiskers. Which I can’t imagine provided much cover.
  • Included awkward, non-character driven swearing. Almost like I’d decided that this one character would swear, without considering whether they should.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 22.02.24

  • Had wildly inappropriate character names. You can’t call one character Rivers and then next one Tommo unless you’ve got an explanation about why Rivers parents were hippies and Tommo’s are from South East London.
  • Paused an otherwise tense chase so that the main character could have another long and pointless monologue about whether or not she thought the people chasing her were good people. SHUT UP AND RUN YOU SILLY GIRL.
  • Wrote a fight scene where everyone had six arms and six legs. One minute their arms were locked together, next minute they were crushed underneath them whilst also being held over their heads. It was like reading about a terrible game of Twister.
  • Gave the characters private jokes without explaining them to the reader
  • Did a lot of things without explaining them to the reader. Like, spoiler alert, having the main character’s mum try and kill her less than a chapter after she’d made her a lovely soup and told her she loved her. Because of course.
  • Using the phrase “eyeing with her sharp, birdlike eyes.” NO.

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It was awful. A car crash of writing. I’d assimilated every young adult novel I’d ever read and then regurgitated this mass of semi-medieval semi-modern semi-fantasy semi-realistic garbage.

But you know what?

If I hadn’t written this then, I might be writing it now.

Practice makes perfect if you want to be a better writer.

And I know for a fact that my writing has significantly improved, because Gives-Mute-Characters-Lines over here probably wouldn’t have gotten onto a creative writing masters if the quality of her writing was like this.

So keep at it, fellow writers. Embrace the cringe. It makes you who you are today.

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