We’ve all been bad writers at some point. Being a bad writer is all part of the ritual of becoming a good writer. Everyone starts out a bad writer and becomes a good writer over time. (Good writers will also know that good writing isn’t formed instantly – it takes years of practice).
But how can you tell a bad writer from a good one? How do you know if you are a bad writer?
The main difference with good writers and bad writers is that good writers are always learning, always developing and are always open to feedback. Good writers know their limitations and their skill levels, and they’re always striving to become better; the best they can be.
Bad writers, however, are a different beast altogether.
Bad writers have no real grasp of their limitations, they presume to know everything there is to know about writing, without the experience to back it up. But even if they have three self-published books on Amazon, it doesn’t make them an expert on fiction writing. It just means they have a long way to go, because being a good writer can take years, even decades to achieve.
Only bad writers assume they have a superior level of writing excellence. Good writers never assume it, they earn it.
Also, bad writers don’t understand the concept of constantly editing and rewriting and the need to polish to (almost) perfection, something that’s required before it enters the public domain. Most simply don’t have the patience for such things.
Good writers, on the other hand, will read through and edit their work several times to eliminate errors and plot flaws and they will have the patience to do so until the work is truly ready, until they have a quality piece of work.
Bad writers don’t need to go through all this, they’re already excellent.
This is turn leads to the arrogance factor. There is nothing more unbecoming in fiction writing that a writer who is arrogant and has an attitude to go with it. More often than not, those who are haughty and overconfident are simply not as good as they think. And more often than not, this notion is proven with what they actually write, simply because their ego has overshadowed any existing raw talent.
Good writers know that perfection is not attainable, but the next best thing is, so they always try to achieve this. At the same time they will acknowledge that no one is perfect. That’s why they are always learning, because writing is a constantly evolving process. They know that to be better writers, they have to learn and evolve. That’s how we all become not just good writers, but great writers.
A bad writer, however, will dismiss the need to learn. They already know all there is to know. They don’t realise that to be a better writer they have to learn.
Have you ever received negative feedback that made you get angry and defensive? The answer is that we all have.
What we write and how we write it won’t be liked by everyone. Good writers accept and understand this concept. But bad writers don’t understand this at all. Negative feedback is met with even more negativity and sometimes these writers will become involved in online arguments with other writers or engage in emails with those who may have offered the negative feedback. It’s extremely unprofessional.
This leads to that other big negative for writers – the dreaded rejection. Good writers accept that they are not perfect and that rejections are a part of the writing process. They will also take on board the feedback and comments in a constructive way and they will examine where they can improve their work and develop their writing skill accordingly.
Bad writers won’t. They won’t see rejection as an opportunity to improve. They won’t see the positive in it. They will think it’s a personal attack on them and a rejection of their genius. They will become angry and defensive, even petulant, and that arrogance will just grow.
If you cannot cope with rejection or criticism of your writing, then unfortunately that makes you a bad writer.
Another thing is that bad writers don’t understand the concept of professionalism.
And that brings me to the subject of submitting work to agents and publishers. The good writers amongst us will pay vital attention to the guidelines of the publishing house or the agent’s requirements, because guidelines are there for a reason.
A bad writer will ignore these guidelines. The “nobody can tell me what I should and shouldn’t do” attitude won’t wash with potential publishers. If you can’t be bothered to follow instructions, then don’t bother being a writer.
Lastly, the new phenomenon of shameless self-promotion has become a nuisance. The pester power of self-published writers isn’t endearing, it’s annoying. And the “look at me and my fantastic novel” constant promotion on every available medium won’t win readers.
Good writers promote, but they also engage with potential readers, they ask questions, they answer questions, they have open discussions about their writing, they use the likes of Twitter or Facebook, Goodreads or writing forums to network and socialise and generate interest in a productive way.
What they don’t do is selfishly spam the hell out of everyone. And that’s precisely what a bad writer will do. Bad writers are not bothered about networking or socialising or engaging in discussions about their writing or indeed any constructive feedback. They just want the sales.
Ultimately, a bad writer is one that doesn’t listen and therefore never learns. So, are you one of them?
Next week: How to make your readers care about your story.