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.

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

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

Real Writers Have Day Jobs

After the Geoffrey Owens thing last week, I thought it might be interesting to talk about how creative people support themselves. Creators don’t exist in a vacuum, after all. We have bills, mortgages, relationships, and checking accounts. What am I trying to say? I’m saying real writers have day jobs, just like you.

I got curious earlier this week and decided to ask other writers about this. I started with a very simple question – “How Do You Support Yourself While Writing?” What I got back were a number of interesting insights.

Yes, real writers have day jobs. But what kind of jobs? It turns out, authors more often than not work a corporate gig somewhere. Keep that mind the next time you talk to your favorite IT guy, cybersecurity expert, developer, corporate trainer, or hotel A/V guy. They might be using your conversation as material, or turning you into a character they can murder.

I met one writer who is also an EMT, and one who works in probate registry. One way or another, many authors support themselves by helping others. Some writers teach English, like Stephen King, did. Other writers are in communications, are ghost-writers and marketers, or even chainsaw artists.

All that sounds cool on the surface but real talk: does working in writing hamper your creativity? Asking for a friend.

Many authors work in ways that are less white collar or career-focused. Some work at Trader Joes, like Geoffrey Owens did. Others are baristas or cafe managers. Sometimes this can suck, but if you have ‘easy hours and a great boss,’ you’ll get ‘lots of time/mental space to pursue your artistic endeavors.’ Still other authors are retired and living lean.

Finally, the last category – there are many writers like me, living with a disability. ” Before I got too sick to work I was finishing my masters in neurological psych and forensic psych, already had degrees in Criminal investigations and forensics. I was fast tracking for the FBI ViCAP,” says TwistedMune. “A lot of my ghostwriting jobs are psychological analysis and true crime books.” Reading that made me feel a lot better. There are a tribe of writers out there who know the struggle.

So if you’re considering a career as an author or writer, you may want to remember that writing is often what you do after you get done with work every day. It’s not all book-signings and late nights with William Strunk. However, if you’re up for the life, it can be quite rewarding.

It’s the ‘sex and cash’ theory of creative professionals. Find joy in the art, do the gig so you can do the art. I live pretty lean on my disability check, but that’s ok. I’m in love with making a chapter or a scene come together (Like the chapter of Mesh I’m working on right now, for example). The fact that I’m cruising EatCheapandHealthy for recipies is just part of the trip.

So I hope you found this interesting and insightful. Addtionally, if you’re looking for a job to support your writing, you might check out the suggestions mentioned here and here.

Write on!

Do All of the Things Now

Excellent career advice when considering a creative job. Watch out for the f-bombs, though.

“So that’s your to-do list: Upgrade the day job and upgrade the dream and speed up the publication schedule. Do all of the things. Don’t just write a book right now. DO ALL OF THE THINGS RIGHT NOW. Enjoy them and celebrate them. Today is all you have. You don’t need a future. You don’t need a finish line. When you realize that, time slows down. You just need this day.”

All that in more in this amazing write-up on the creative career path:

‘Should I Quit My Day Job to Write a Book?’

The Star Wars Theory You Never Knew You Always Wanted

I promised myself that one of my goals with Inkican was to rise above being another Star Wars fan-boy. That said, sometimes these discussions can give us valuable insights on storycraft and writing, so I wanted to share with you the Star Wars theory you never knew you always wanted. Then I want to talk about what it teaches us about telling stories.

To begin with check out this fan theory. Not only is it an extremely plausible explanation of Darth Vader’s actions in Empire Strikes Back, but it taught me something about the stories I want to tell. Here’s the theory, quoted below: Continue reading

Am I a Toxic Fan? 10 Questions to Ask

More news about James Gunn’s departure from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 this week. No matter where you fall on that subject, there’s no escaping the news stories abouttoxic fans.’

Do toxic fans exist? Of course they do. In fact, I’ve been talking about them for a while now. Two questions are missing from all of these articles though:

  1. Would someone know if they were a toxic fan?
  2. What are you supposed to do about it, if you are?

Just like an alcoholic who may not know they have a drinking problem, some toxic fans may not realize the damage they are doing to themselves or other people. To help fans that may not know which side of the fence they fall on, I compiled several different lists together to come up with some common behaviors of toxic fans. See if you can answer ‘yes’ to any of these behaviors: Continue reading

The Rocket – Scifi Short Story Submitted to Asimov’s

Busy as a beaver. You’ll be happy to know that I submitted another short. The Rocket is a scifi short story I submitted to Asimov’s Magazine last night.

I’ve been working on this story for a while and my beta readers think it’s top-notch. ‘The Rocket’ captures some of the difficult emotions happening in the fractured society we live in now. Will we heal this breach? What happens if we don’t? I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and ‘The Rocket’ is the result of my cogitation.

Back to work on Mesh tomorrow. For now, taking a break and enjoying the fact that people like what I write.

Bo Burnham’s Answer to “Am I a Real Writer?”

Bo Burnham is doing an AMA over at Reddit, and one of his answers struck a chord with me. Often, I find myself wondering ‘Am I a real writer?’ Burnham answers that question beautifully, and I want to pass it on to all of you:

Some one asked him the question, “Was there ever a single point in your career that you thought “I’ve made it” as an actor/comedian?” Here’s his response:

“You know, that was a problem for me for a long time. Believing that I hadn’t MADE it yet or I wasn’t a REAL COMEDIAN. I think its especially prevalent for people that makes things online. That making youtube videos isn’t REAL. It took me a long time to realize that I’d been real the whole time, and the thing that I am pursuing was the thing I was pursuing doing theater in sixth grade. Do you write? You’re a writer. Do you act? You’re an actor. I’d say don’t wait to get some arbitrary version of success or attention for you to believe that you are doing the thing. You really can start enjoying it right away. You don’t have to wait to be good. The process of doing it is the process of becoming better not being good.”

I felt better as soon as I read that. I AM a real writer. So are you. So is everyone else who dares to jot their thoughts down to share with others. Stop asking whether you’re doing it for real, and just do it. That’s how you know it’s real.