Your Writing Sucks – Here’s How to Fix It

“Your writing sucks.” I had to say this to myself today and to be honest, it kind of hurt. Sometimes I have to yell at myself before I’ll get better, and today was one of those days. Happily, that’s not the end of the story. Bad writing is a challenge we all have to overcome, so here’s how to fix it.

Like anything else you make, subjecting it to some simple quality control will shine a flashlight on what is not working. Just like a diamond must be polished, your writing must be stripped of everything that won’t make it sparkle. Where most people would hire an expensive editor, you can do the following four-step process for free. You don’t even need to work that hard, grab a cup of coffee, put on your favorite tunes and get cracking:

  1. Spell-check – Just a simple spell check in MSFT Word, Scrivener, Google Docs, Open Office … whatever tool you’re using. Don’t let a ‘teh’ get all the way to the book store. Fix the stupid little problems here.
  2. Grammarly.com – You can pay for a subscription, or Grammarly lets you copy and paste everything into a free online tool, even if it takes longer. Grammarly will examine your work for spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and other sins of the scribe.
  3. Hemingwayapp.com – Also another free tool that a best-selling author sent my way. Hemingway may not teach you to write like Hemingway, but dadgum if it doesn’t cut through lazy writing than Dawn cuts through grease.
  4. Finally, search your writing for words or phrases you use too often. In my case, my characters kept ‘shrugging’ and ‘rolling their eyes.’ I did a search within Windows and my characters were rolling their eyes every chapter. I fixed that. I have other writing hacks to share here, but that’s for another post.

So there you have it. Yes, your writing sucks. Acknowledging the problem is the first step. Bad writing will suck the energy out of your story, and it even makes it harder for you to write because in the back of your head, you know you’ve got this stinky diaper pile of words to clean up. De-clutter, clean up! It’ll actually give you the energy needed to tackle the next draft.

New Scifi Wallpaper – ‘November’

New Scifi Wallpaper - 'November'Finished this new scifi concept art over the weekend and am passing it along for your wallpaper collection. Part of the novel takes place in virtual reality, where kids use VR and AI to create something called Project November that will eventually threaten to take over the world. Their programming space that resembles an orbital data center. I hope you dig November, it’s a crazy, weird place that celebrates everything from ‘Real Genius’ to ‘Neuromancer.’ Enjoy!

Use a Word Cloud to Write Better

Use a Word Cloud to Write Better

As I’m writing, one of the things I’m afraid of is using the same words, phrases, or descriptors over and over again. As much as I love Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels, it became a running joke in the first trilogy how many times he could use the word ‘sardonically.’ It bugs me to think that I might do the same thing, so what to do? I hit on an idea that seems to help and I want to share it with you: Use a word cloud to write better.

Scrivener has some tools to identify over-used words, and so does Grammarly. But what other ways can you visualize the words that your readers will see most often in your stories?

As a test, I tried this Wordcloud app in Microsoft Word on my existing draft of Mesh. These are the words that appear most often. Is that right? Is that wrong? I’m not sure yet. I have to make an author decision to either leave the words as-is, or go back and re-shape my prose.

Not a big ‘eureka’ idea, but I found it helpful and you might find it helpful, too. Write on!

Amazing Author Advice – ‘Book Failure is Normal’

Whoa … just found something that broke my head. A thread on /r/yawriters came up with some AMAZING author advice, and let’s us all in on an important secret: Book failure is normal.

That’s important information for me. Is writing a good move for me, or is it a huge mistake? I wrestle with that every single day. Yet, something inside demands that I push forward, and the advice below made me feel a lot better about my journey. I’m including some scifi concept art I found that I like. I hope you enjoy the art, and the advice:

Some thoughts today about what it’s like to write a great book that never finds a wide audience. Did you know that the 4 books of the Shadow series have received a total of 7 starred reviews? That’s kind of a big deal. And yet… no one’s ever heard of it, really.

We thought Wake of Vultures would land with a splash back in 2015. I went to SIBA, I went to sales conference and spoke w Mario Batali. The book did ok, but not great, was never in Target or the airport, despite amazing reviews. Why? NO IDEA. No one knows! Because publishing.

When you’re a new writer, you think that if you just write a great book and do everything you’re told to, the book will find its wings and soar. You tick all the checkboxes and wait for the world to love your book. Sometimes, even w publisher support, it just doesn’t happen. Continue reading

Mesh Update #10 – 50K and rising!

Happy to say that I cracked 50,000 words on this draft of Mesh. I’m closing out Act three, where the Mesh comes to life. After that, we move onto Acts 4 and 5, where the Mesh and the kids of Miramar will come together to save the world. I’m so excited by how the story and characters are coming together.

I can’t wait to show you the weird, crazy world of Roman, Zeke and their friends, the Snow Foxes. I just got a Wacom tablet, so I’m going to start making use of it to draw a few concept pictures to give you a sense of what the Mesh, their virtual reality system, Miramar, and everything else looks like.

I’m also going to start posting some fun scifi stuff every Friday, so look for a few category called ‘Sci-Friday.’ It’s an experiment, so we’ll see how it goes.

Onward!

New Writer? Start Here

Just ran across this awesome list of advice for new writers from other authors. If you’re a new writer, this is a good ‘Start Here’ for your journey.

11 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Writers With Incredible Advice

After years of sifting through blogs about how to get started or how to succeed, I love the idea that the process is really simple when you get down to it. We are telling lies for a living. Don’t get crazy. Don’t get intimidated. Nobody’s going to die. It’s supposed to be fun, so enjoy it.

In the end, I think my favorite advice came from JK Rowling:

Starting is easy. Continuing is hard. Finishing is the reward. Go.

Next Gen is Anti-Hollywood Scifi

Next Gen is Anti-Hollywood Scifi

Hollywood should be scared of Next Gen, a throwaway animated project released by Netflix that looks like a rip-off of Big Hero 6. Before you can say ‘Are you satisfied with your care?’, Next Gen blows the doors off of every kid-movie trope over the past ten years. Strap in, sit back, and hold on. Slide to a stop two hours later, gasping to catch your breath with one unmistakeable conclusion: Next Gen is Anti-Hollywood scifi.

And oh man, does that feel good.

Why do we need anti-Hollywood scifi? Why is this movie important? The answers to those questions go to the heart of the conflict playing out in science fiction at this time. Where casual readers decry the lack of variety in mainstream sci-fi, where Hollywood bemoans a lack of interest in non-Superhero scifi, Next Gen plants a flag in the ground and says: “Here you go.” It’s important, then, that we talk about a movie that would otherwise slip through the cracks. There’s a lesson here that spreads out to the rest of the genre. Continue reading

New Microfiction – Nanobreak

Thanks for waiting for my next post – I think you’ll be pleased. I picked up a writing prompt on Monday: “You research pathogens for the CDC. You’ve been given a blood sample from a frozen corpse that is over 70,000 years old. As you start to resolve the image, you realize the sample is filled with nanomachines and they are coming to life.” I broke the story up into two sections and I’m calling it ‘Nanobreak.’

We always imagine outbreaks taking place in third world locations, but what if they begin as a pathogen our systems can’t protect because they don’t understand?

Click Here to Read Nanobreak