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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Bad Writing

There's a documentary called "Bad Writing" that's coming out, and while I'm interested to see it, I don't think I want to see anyone slam some unpublished nobody for being a bad writer. If you're not getting paid, and only a handful of people will read what you wrote, the rule is that you're allowed to be a bad writer.

Write your crap poetry. Write your boring blog. Not all of it will be bad, and the bits that are good make the rest worth it.

What offends me, not just as a reader but as a writer myself, is when the bad writer is getting paid to do it.

I tried to read this book, title and author will go unnamed, twice now and I can't do it. The writing is just too bad. Check this paragraph:
Maggie Walking Hawk Taylor turned, hands propped on her hips. She stood five feet six inches tall. Her round face betrayed her Indian ancestry. The faint breeze teased unruly strands of her short black hair around her dark eyes, and broad cheekbones. She wore a Park Service uniform and tan boots on her feet. The belted brown pants hugged a trim waist. She cocked her head and smiled.
Dude...that's awful.

You may read that and think, what's so bad about that? Look at it again. It's not description writing. It's a list of sentences, no, a list of things dressed up as sentences.

She stood five feet six inches tall. You know why? Because I measured her. And then I wrote it down on this index card here, which I will now continue to read from...

Her round face betrayed her Indian ancestry. Maybe her ancestors betrayed her when they gave her a round face. Didn't think about that, did ya?

The faint breeze teased unruly strands of her short black hair around her dark eyes, and broad cheekbones. This is easily the most "writerly" sentence in the bunch, "faint breeze teased unruly strands" but again, it's just information from the index card. Hair: black. Eyes: Brown. Oh, and "broad cheekbones." No, seriously. Check the comma. That's how the sentence was published.

She wore a Park Service uniform and tan boots on her feet. If the editor couldn't get rid of the "on her feet" part (because where else will you wear tan boots?) maybe they could have used that comma in the last sentence. I seriously doubt that Maggie Walking Hawk Taylor wore her Park Service uniform on her feet...

The belted brown pants hugged a trim waist. The belted brown pants have little arms, and they're full of love. Oh, and Maggie Walking Hawk Taylor? Totally fuckable. (That's what they're trying to say, right?)

And you know, on some level I understand bad writing like this. If I said I've never put together a listicle of mundane phrases and dressed it up in paragraph form, I'd be lying.

But I think upon re-reading it, going back over it in that other writing process called revising, I would have cut it out.

Maybe we need to know Maggie Walking Hawk Taylor's boots are tan and that her pants are both brown and belted. But we probably don't. Readers can be pretty imaginative, ya know.

2 comments:

KickinAssTakingNames said...

"Maybe her ancestors betrayed her when they gave her a round face."

Now THAT is good writing. Pure win.

Anonymous said...

I am sooooo PISSED!!! Dude, how could they make a documentary about bad writing, call it "Bad Writing" and not feature YOU? Come on, people!