Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Bitter Truth #6

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Oct• 18•12

If you’re going to make it as a writer, you probably won’t be able to read mediocre or lousy writing. Now, reading is a subjective experience. Thus, what one reader finds mediocre another finds dazzling. If you’re serious about writing and publishing, you’re aware that a lot of mediocre gets published, and a lot of mediocre writers hit the jackpot with best-sellers, movie adaptations, and homes in Provence. It just plain sucks. (And please stop me before I write again about the oh-so awful Shades of Grey series. Call me jaded but I just don’t think there are that many beautiful virgins meeting creepy billionaires with a penchant for abuse. Call me jaded but I prefer my books to contain gorgeous sentences not strings of clunk.)

Now I realize that some advise writers to read the bad stuff too, that’s there plenty to learn from bad writing. I just don’t agree. I’m more in the Stephen King school of thought In Stephen King’s book of writing advice, On Writing, he compares the tools a writer needs to those a carpenter uses. He differentiates among the tools stored on the top shelf of your toolbox with fundamentals such as vocabulary, grammar and solid nouns and verbs with those on the lower shelves as instruments like description, dialogue, and theme. Before King elaborates on these instruments, he proclaims: “Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.” And so while we read because we love getting lost in a story and because it’s as if we’re living two lives while we’re reading a novel or memoir, we also read with our critic’s sensibilities fully engaged.

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