At events and appearances, authors often get questions about how to write well. Where do they get their ideas? What’s their writing process? How do they go about selling their manuscripts? Though the answers to these questions often vary, there’s one prevailing theme: writing is, and should be, hard work. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
However, not every “writer” wants to put forth the work it takes to write well. They fall into habits and attitudes that ultimately sabotage their efforts. Want to be like them? Here are some things you can do to ensure you’ll be the worst possible type of writer out there:
- Assume your rough draft is perfect. You’re a natural talent, and every word you poop onto the page is pure gold, right?
- Don’t solicit feedback, and if you happen to get it by accident, ignore any advice. You know better, and everyone else is wrong.
- Don’t bother editing. Whoever buys the story will do that cleanup for you, right?
- Assume you know everything already. Those authors who talk about how there’s always more to learn about the craft of writing are probably drunk or high.
- Blame others. When your hastily written, unrevised rough draft is rejected time and time again, put the blame squarely on the submissions editors who are too stupid to recognize your brilliance. It couldn’t possibly be you.
- Steal ideas and proclaim that you’ve done it better. That story about 1984 was totally off base, and Orwell was an overrated hack. Your version will have mutant zombie robots and a dog. Dogs=better.
- Be arrogant and petty. Criticize bestselling authors and assume an attitude of superiority. You had an idea for a wizarding school way before Rowling. She was just more privileged, what with all the writing time she had collecting welfare.
- Don’t read. You already know what’s good. You don’t have to bother with all that “expanding your horizons” and “read what others are doing” nonsense.
- Don’t listen. Who cares about others’ experiences, life stories, or points of view? It’s more important that they listen to you brag about how incredible you are.
- Quit. Nobody’s buying your magical words. When you self-publish, the reviews are crucifying. Instead of taking a step back and trying to figure out how to do it better, decide everyone’s an idiot and nobody deserves to read your brilliance. Give up being a writer immediately and find a new career where you can dazzle people with your genius.
Though much of this sounds tongue-in-cheek, believe me, there are many writers out there who hold to these tenets, and will read the list above thinking it sounds perfectly reasonable.
Those are the bad writers. I advise you to beware.
Stacey Longo is the author of Ordinary Boy (nominated for a Pushcart Prize) and Secret Things: Twelve Tales to Terrify. Most recently, her novella “Brando and Bad Choices” appeared in Triplicity: The Terror Project, Volume 1. Her stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, including Shroud, Shock Totem, and the Litchfield Literary Review.
She is a past Hiram Award winner, and was a featured author on the 2014 Connecticut Authors Trail. A former humor columnist for the Block Island Times, she maintains a weekly humor blog at www.staceylongo.com.