3.12.2007

Do you really really suck?

Miss Snark and Killer Yapp,

I've received quite a few rejection letters lately for various pieces of writing, and I'm beginning to suspect that my writing sucks. I know you've suggested that writers never stop writing, but I also know that many people, Stephen King included, believe a competent writer can become a good writer, but a bad writer has no hope.

Friends and writing groups will offer positive suggestions to improve your writing, but who will tell you that you just need to put the pen down?



The Crapometer has been known to call 'em as it sees 'em.
The Crapometer however is currently running a presidential campaign in Iowa and thus unavailable.

The Evil Editor has been known to be brutally frank.
And is Elektra still holding forth on the less Snarky Crapometer?

And you can always post it to your blog and invite comments.

23 comments:

sex scenes at starbucks said...

please come over to http://crapometer.blogspot.com. We'd love to have you. We're reasonably brutal.

McKoala said...

Yup, Elektra continues to provide her fine service at: http://www.crapometer.blogspot.com/. She's just asked for more contributions, actually, so your timing couldn't be better.

It's a kinder, gentler crapometer. Honest.

ORION said...

It's all so subjective. Who made S. King the boss of how the world of writing works? You work on getting better and if you love to write you write.
That's it.
The possibility of never being published never discouraged me from writing.
I write because I have to.
And you do what you have to...

Elektra said...

Killer Yapp, 2008!

Anonymous said...

You need to listen to ishouldbewriting.com and get into a critique group so there's other writers to get feedback from.

Niteowl said...

I'd just like to note that Stephen King made that comment trying to debunk an even harsher Generally Held Belief: That bad writers will always be bad, competent will always be competent, and good will always be good.

He was arguing that competent can become good. So really he was being pretty liberal.

Then again, you're right, no one made Stephen King the boss of the writing world.

Anonymous said...

You may well find someone willing to tell you your writing sucks, and you should put your pen down. But who hasn't?

I'll bet you anything that Stephen King has been told that the world would be a better place if he never wrote again.

Linda Adams said...

Give critiques of others' work. I learned more about why mine didn't work when I saw the same problems in someone else's.

Twill said...

Killer Yapp is too smart to want the job.

Of course, anyone who wants the job should never be allowed within 100 meters of the Oval Office.

Killer Yapp, 2008!

Oops - Does the constitution specify whether the 35 years can be dog years, and is KY 5 yet?

Jeanne said...

I agree, orion. King's not the boss of me either! If my writing sux, and I cannot imagine that, oh well! My son will have a good laugh after I'm gone going through all the mss I'll leave behind.

Christopher M. Park said...

Just because you have a stack of rejections doesn't mean you suck. It could mean you are merely "competent" or "good," to use your words. If you follow agents' blogs, you'll notice that most only take on stuff that really grabs them in some way.

That doesn't mean you have to be the world's best writer in order to get an agent, but one way or another you have an unusual, interesting hook and premise. All those rejections could just mean that your hook sucks, even though the rest of your writing is mostly okay.

You never know on that when its just a form letter, but I agree that it's time to seek some more objective feedback--not to determine whether it is quitting time or not, but to try to determine just what it is that you are doing that doesn't work.

But I'll give you an obvious hint--it's part of the query package you’re sending out, if you haven't had any requests for partial. You could have the best, smartest-ever middle and end of a book, but if that opening is dull or there isn't a hook early on in, no one is ever likely to know. Not to say that you should ignore the rest of your ms, but you should pay extra attention to those early pages and your hook and query letter. So far, at least, that's probably what is getting you rejected.

Chris

My blog on writing

archer said...

The trouble is that you can read early Mark Twain and he sucks. You can read E.B. White drafts and they suck. And I just read how GB Shaw read his draft of Widower's Houses to William Archer (no relation) and the man went to sleep and started to snore. This proves that if you suck you are actually a genius. Do not deprive the world.

Beth said...

If you post a chapter on your blog and leave a link here, I'm sure a fair number of us will drop by to have a look.

Kit Whitfield said...

In defence of Mr King: y'all do realise that a writer expressing an opinion on the subject of writing isn't tantamount to saying he's the boss of anyone, right? The man's just saying what he thinks, like the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

I've picked up a bunch of best-selling authors and thought, gee, this totally sucks, and is worse than anything in my crit group! How did this dreck get published? (and if you're one of those who thinks Grisham's writing sucks, then you wouldn't touch the author I'm thinking of with a 10-ft pole!).

But, this author obviously has a following. I can't read the stuff. Head hopping every other line, telling the story all through dialogue, basically everything we're told NOT to do as writers (and trust me, this stuff isn't literary, either, where brilliant writers can break the rules!)

A writer writes, period. My dreck may never see the light of day, it doesn't totally suck, and I had fun doing it.

Marsupialis said...

Why are you writing?

Answer that question and you'll know whether you should go on regardless of what response you're getting.

writtenwyrdd said...

Hey, some really bad books get published. Why shouldn't yours?

Seriously, don't give up because of anyone's opinion. Give up because you don't like writing any more.

I mean, you didn't start to get rich, did you?

Peni Griffin said...

If you can quit, do so. The pay sucks, the competition is stiff, and it's not a job for anybody who doesn't want it more than anything.

If you can't quit, you're a writer. You could still be a bad writer in some sense or other, but that's not necessarily a bar to a good and useful career. Critique groups are all very well, but the person you're really concerned about pleasing is yourself. And we all hate our own work after awhile. So, put the MS away for a year, or two, or six, and go on to other things. If you're a real writer, these other things will be written, but if you've been trying to be a novelist and aren't one, maybe it's time to try poetry, or short stories, or screenplays, or RPG modules. Some people can't sell because they don't know where their own genius lies.

When you feel able to face the original MS again, or can't remember what it was about, pull it out and read it over.

Then, I promise, you'll know what to do - groan and recycle it, or perk up with delight because this and this and this bit are WONDERFUL and you've since learned how to fix that other thing which isn't working.

metasailor said...

To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, the way writing works, you can put something on paper, and then come back and say it again better, and put more in and come back again - and sooner or later you can't help but say something halfway intelligent.

And to paraphrase my paw, a Marine and a target shooting champion, "Everyone has about 1000 bad shots in them. Once you've gotten them out of your system, you can start making good shoots." I think the same truth may apply to pages, in varying numbers.

So, in short, I say - it is never a good time to put the pen down. Just keep working and looking at it honestly, and make it better.

And also, make sure you're separating your writing from your editing. Your writing has to feel free to grow, and it's hard to do that if your editing mind is watching every word as it comes out and yelling at the writer that it sucks.

Conduit said...

Another vote for Elektra's Crapometer right here. The folks there critique fairly and constructively and they've helped me a lot. Plus, as another poster said, reading and commenting on the works of others is often enlightening.

Killer Yapp 2008? In my part of the world, Northern Ireland, we just had an election last week. Given the bigots, reactionaries, thugs and criminals the majority here voted for a poodle would be a major step up. :(

Wiley said...

I agree, opinions vary. Just read the reviews at Amazon for evidence of that.

But then again, it's still fun to get opinions, good and bad. And so, I'll test Beth's assertion that they will flow following a posted link.

Here are bits of my novel... opinionate away:
http://wileydavis.wordpress.com/2007/03/13/finding-fordlandia-prologue/

Anonymous said...

I find it amusing that the only reaction to this is, keep writing and submitting!

Clearly, the people on here are either successful (some) or have not yet submitted (some) or have not yet been beaten down by the inarguably horrific odds of getting an agent/getting published.

Speaking as someone who spent 10 years trying with five separate projects (and got a lot of requests for partials and fulls, and worked with a genuine, if new, agent on two of the novels), the only people I'll listen to on this is others in my own shoes. I have a friend who keeps at it, even though she's been trying as long as I have and written as many books (and gotten as much positive feedback) as I did.

New writers are dreamy and sparkle-eyed, and that's fine for them, but sometimes it's OK to stop. Either for a while or for good.

If the submitting process becomes so unpleasant (or you do, because of it), it's OK to take a break to decide if you want to keep trying. If you read "what it takes" in this and other blogs, and you don't want to market, market, market, or sign books in tiny stores, or go on radio stations and write to your alumni magazine... then it's OK to stop.

You can make your own decision and not be devastated by it. Unless ALL you are is a writer, it's bullshit that you HAVE to keep writing and submitting. Writing, maybe. But don't feel like a failure or a loser because you stop participating in the Great Agent Hunt.

You're not. I'm not. I'm impressed by my friend who keeps trying, and I hope she succeeds. I'm just focusing on other things right now, and it makes me happier not to be playing the waiting game.

Anonymous said...

"Clearly, the people on here are either successful (some) or have not yet submitted (some) or have not yet been beaten down by the inarguably horrific odds of getting an agent/getting published."

Why do you say that? Optimism is a rather common commodity, obviously people will not wish to discourage this person. None of us know them, they could write like an angel and just not know it. We don't want to shatter dreams, thats not why we are here.

Anyway. I would say that you can always improve. I have decided that (being only 18) I will not expect myself to be even moderatly capable for at least ten years. Maybe you just need to sit in the shadows and work on your craft for a while longer before you are ready to face the spotlight.