Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Can Bad Writers Get Better?

Like so many fellow writers, I strive to become better at my trade all the time. I'm always reading things and surrounding myself with people that will teach me new tricks. At this stage of my career, this is easy. Almost anyone knows more than I do and that's why it is so much fun to read other's blogs, participate in critique groups, attend Creative Writing classes, and simply hang out with people. Of course reading is one the most important tools to teach us the do's and don't's of writing.

In our never-ending quest, thousands of writers around the world have read Stephen King's On Writing. It is an excellent book that isn't scholarly but above the Writing for Dummy kind of books. However, there is a section in it that truly disturbed me. Mr. King classifies writers in the following range:

Bad Writers
Competent Writers
Good Writers
Great Writers
Genius Freaks

The classification is pretty easy to understand. We all know we are no Shakespeare or Faulkner, and we'll never be. Geniuses are born, never made. However, he contents that Bad Writers can never grow to become Competent Writers, and Good writers will never achieve Great Writer status. It is only possible, with huge amounts of work, dedication, and timely help, to make a Good Writer out of a merely Competent one.

Well, then I guess we know now why most kids in the King household are writers. When they came home from school saying math was just too difficult, their father must've said "Oh, foggedabouit!"

I say bullshit.

I believe that with determination and hard work, we can always improve. No matter how bad a writer, mathematician, or coroner you are. If you bust your ass off, you'll improve. I get that bad will hardly ever turn into great, but why discourage people? No, I refuse.

To all my IWSG inky cohorts, I tell you that to become a Better Writer, first you have to acknowledge your flaws. Do not let nay sayers change your path (including your self doubts), and charge ahead to make the changes. Remember that everything worth it takes time and effort. So,

Go for it!


Mark Means said...

I think,especially with writing, that practice -does- make a difference.

Every one has a different writing "style", cultivating that style takes time...and practice.

I don't subscribe to the theory that a bad writer can never improve.

Great question, though :)

M.C.V. Egan said...

OK.... needed to open a second window, like I said on FB I absolutely agree with you, few things cannot be accomplished with hard work and determination. Only one that comes to mind is SINGING

Yolanda Renee said...

I do think a person can become a better writer - I know I did, and I have the first draft to prove it. LOL

But I'm thinking maybe King's speaking of folks not so open to learning, but the stubborn individuals who think they know it all and already have the answers. I read - or tried to read several books by an author who claimed to have a PHD. He wrote such thigs as bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum. Thump, Thump, Thump etc. He would go on and on and on for paragraph after paragraph and call it a drum beat. If he was, as he says a professor and PHD. This man will 'never' be a good writer. He sent me three books and they were the worst example of writing I'd ever seen. I actually had to tell him I couldn't interview him. I'm a nice person and hate to criticize anyone, but I could not call this person a writer, and I could not justify having him on my blog talk radio show. It was an eye opener and quite horrific.
Maybe that's what King meant. I've also met writers who refuse to have a professional edit done, because 'they want complete control' over their own work, and they know better than anyone else. These are the ones who give self-publishing a bad name.

Julie Luek said...

Absolutely we can train and get better. Like others have said, I've seen it happen with my own writing. But I truly do think there are some artistic souls who have a gift for writing. It's on a different level altogether.

Chris Fries said...

Absolutely bad writers can get better! I decided to shelve my WIP as I try to get back into writing, but I can still see a tremendous amount of improvement between my earliest rough drafts and my later ones.

My biggest thing is just making the time to write and staying motivated amid all the other things I want to do with my free time... If I can get 40 hours out of each day, I think I'd be happy. ;^)

Georgina Morales said...

Thanks to all for your comments. I'm glad to confirm that the writing community is one of support and believe in each other!

@Mark: Cultivating is the key word, here. Writing takes effort, time, and love. Just like a plant!

@Catalina: I totally concur with you. Singing is one of those things you will never be good if you weren't born with it. however, if you practice and practice, you might not vacate the entire building on karaoke night! ;-)

@Yolanda: You are right about those kind of authors. I do think King's referring to the high and mighty who think they were sent as a present to humanity and refuse to accept their imperfections. I'm just against him not saying it like that. But I do wish those freaks had their own imprint. that way I knew how to stay clear of buying their books...

@Julie: I think realizing how much our writing has improved should be our greatest inspiration to move forward. Imagine all that we will learn in the years to come!

@Chris: Are you kidding me? 40-hour days? Sign me up! =)

Lexa Cain said...

In all the arts (painting, dancing, music) people get better as time goes on. I'm pretty surprised at King's viewpoint. I agree with you -- keep trying and get better! :-)

Tonja said...

I think we can all be better writers. I also think people who see themselves as 'bad writers' probably would never be motivated to write a novel.

New follower.

Michael Pierce said...

I believe that if you put your mind to it, then you can accomplish almost anything. But it's that hard work and determination that keeps people from progressing to their full potential. They get better, but it's a step or so, not competent to great.I love On Writing. There is a lot to learn from it, but King is definitely opinionated and can be an elitist. But I won't let that get in the way of what good advice he does have. Anyone who wants to write should keep writing!

Georgina Morales said...

@Lexa: Well, to be fair I think that King has seen his share of writers proclaiming to be invested in the craft, only to watch them not put all the incredibly hard work. He might just have become a bit cynical. But for us who are serious about it, let's keep trying! =)

@Tonja: You hit a good point Tonja. If you do not believe in yourself, you'll never have the drive to start the things you want, much less to get better at it. So step #1 would be: Believe in yourself!

@Michael: You are right, Michael. King does provide excellent advice but he can sometimes be a bit too self absorbed. I guess it must be really hard to live under so much adoration and knowing that you have single-handely breath new life to a whole genre. Still, I'm open to everything he has to say! =)