How Not to Do Something


Learning how to write is a long, slow process. There’s the technical bits, there’s the craft part, and there’s the intangibles that come from learning how to communicate not just effectively, but artfully. There is also learning how not to write.

It’s as important as anything else to learn what not to do in your writing. A good way to make sure you’re not going to end up writing crap is to read crap, and understand why it is, well, crap. Here’s a couple resources that will give you a quick and dirty lesson in things not to do.

Awful Fantasy

I don’t know who manages this Twitter account, and I don’t care. All I want is for them to keep doing what they are doing. Every tweet is a microcosm of terrible genre sins. Heres a few highlights:

Worst Muse

Another great Twitter account, all about encouraging the worst desires in every writer. Please, do not follow this muse.

Red Pen of Doom

One of my favorite blogs to visit is this one, devoted to how to edit well and not write bad. This post in particular is excellent, but the whole blog is worth reading and subscribing.

Cringe Writing*

For a laugh (and some lessons), check out the subreddit Cringe Writing, where redditors share stories and examples of particularly cringe-worthy writing. Hopefully, nothing of mine has been passed around there before. . .

Read Bad Books

Finally, maybe the best of all, is to read bad books. It can be tricky to find them, not because there aren’t a lot of bad books, but because you want to find just the right kind of bad. Books that are written and self-published by people who do not have a literary bone in them won’t teach you much. Instead, seek out the popular books, read them with a critical eye, and see what you find. I read Twilight for this reason. It taught me a lesson in writing and characterization, and also that even weak writing can sell (a lot!).

In the end, it may not matter if your book is a masterpiece. One could write like a marketer, targeting audiences ruthlessly and writing exactly what you think could sell. I don’t do it that way, because I have this illusion that someday I’ll be a great writer. And that means never forgetting how not to write.

*Redditor readbeam pointed out something very important with regard to this subreddit. It contains some examples of writing taken without peoples permission and criticized. I don’t condone that sort of thing. Writers should have the freedom to write whatever they want in private, without the threat of being judged. Critique can serve a constructive purpose (or should), mockery is only for amusement at someone else’s expense. Deconstructing published works is one thing, lambasting someone’s private writing is something else. If you are a writer, you know what it would be like having your material viciously mocked. Cringewriting does not distinguish much between the two. I’m not going to remove it from the list, because that’d be too revisionist for me, but I will note that I discourage people from the practice of mocking writing. This list is about personal growth through analyzing the missteps in other authors’ writing, not amusement.


cover3I’ve been writing since I was a kid, so I’ve learned over the years some things not to do, and hopefully someday I’ll learn all of the things not to do. I’m also have a book out now, Absent Hero, the first part of the Gone To Wonder series. It’s about a steampunk theme park, a bunch of teens who know way more than your average teen about story archetypes, and it’s nerdy as hell. Get it now for Kindle.