When I was younger, I thought I had to know how to write to produce a story worth reading. That’s why I attended a writing program – I wanted to learn so I could relate to others with my words. I felt vulnerable writing poorly because people would think I was stupid and wouldn’t read my work. Maybe it’s somewhat true, but that doesn’t take away from your story. If people think you’re stupid, it doesn’t mean you don’t have great stories, and just because people don’t read your work, it doesn’t make you any less of a writer. There’s much more to it, and I only realized that as I’ve gotten older.
I’ve become a Writing Snob
One of the negatives of attending a writing program is that I’ve become some sort of a snob. I’m not proud of it. I can’t stand lots mistakes in writing and loads of fluff. (I know someone could probably criticize the hell out of my posts, so I’m probably a hypocrite and a terrible person :( .) In all honesty, it’s my loss because I could be missing out on a beautiful story due to the fact I can’t see past the errors and wordiness.
A great story is a great story. A great story can carry awful writing, which is why people will always enjoy a great story even if it’s written poorly. The bad writing does affect the story to a certain degree, but the beauty in the story still shines through. I’m pretty sure that’s why Fifty Shades of Grey is successful. (In case you’re wondering, the answer is no, I haven’t read the book. But who knows, maybe one day! Haha.)
Bad Writing, Great Story: Fifty Shades of Grey
It seems that everyone either love the book, can’t get through it due to bad writing, or wouldn’t even read a book like that. For the two groups that dislike the book, their focus has nothing to do with the greatness of the story. Sure, bad writing may affect how the story is presented, but ultimately, the story is still the same. Those who won’t even read the book may dislike the subject matter, but that doesn’t make the story worse either. For the group that loves Fifty Shades of Grey, most admit that the writing isn’t the best, but the story is.
I’m not saying that it wouldn’t have been better if it was well written, but the point is that great stories do not have to be written well for people to enjoy them. There’s a reason Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the most popular books, despite how it’s written.
A great story can carry awful writing.
But great writing cannot carry an awful story. Great writing will make an awful story better, but behind all the technical skills, it’s still not a great story. That’s why there’s more to writing than the actual technical abilities.
Writing Advice: Forget Formalities
While I’m grateful I had the opportunity to attend a writing program to learn to write properly, I lost my ability to write with my heart. I traded emotions for technical skills, and if you haven’t guessed it yet, it wasn’t a good trade. I’ve become so caught up with getting things correct that I neglected writing about how I felt and what I wanted to write about. If we want to be writers, writing should be our number one priority, not whether the writing is grammatically correct, formatted properly, or used the best word. That’s what editors are for.
When I look back at some of my old writing, I see a paragraph that’s too long for its own good, full of grammatical errors, poor word choice, and incorrectly spelled words because I couldn’t tell the difference between Canadian and American spelling. I also see writing that has a story with beating pulse, bursting with emotions and heart.
When I look at some of my writing today, I see a dramatic difference. The writing is “correct” other than a few small errors that I may have overlooked, but there’s nothing more than the words on the page. It looks better than the one extremely-long paragraph, but it isn’t any better. I’m missing the most important thing in writing – heart.
That’s why great stories do not have to be written well; they have heart. That’s why we can forget formalities, because people will still read our writing if we have heart. That’s why writing is only one form of storytelling; there are other forms that don’t involve writing but are still effective because they have heart in their stories.
And that’s why the greatest story never told may be the one sitting in your diary (or Microsoft Word document), waiting for its opportunity to be told.
PLIGC, Society’s Used Condom
P.S. It’d be beautiful if everyone could write well and have great stories, but that’s often not the case. I do believe writing well has its value when you don’t lose too much of your heart in your writing, as I sometimes have. But I’m making my way back to the writer I used to be! Stay tuned.