What I write.

The first title of this post was: I write crap. I changed it though and the rest of this post is about why and why I would call my writing crap.

A little while ago (could be months or weeks) I read a blog somewhere about how writers will sometimes talk about their writing and confess that they are writing total crap. I do this. I know other writers do also (because I read their blogs and whine together with them). But what this other blog took up was the readers’ responses to reading such statements. Something I bizarrely never considered before. If I remember correctly, readers asked questions about why should they buy a book if a writer thinks she’s writing crap? And why do editors buy this drivel is it’s really so bad? And what does it make a reader if said reader likes the crap book in question?

This came up for me today because as I was looking for a bit of description in the WIP, I happened to read most of it. I’d been avoiding that, because I’ve been attempting to change my process. I’m normally a spiraling writer; I go back over previous material and then write forward, then spiral back the next day to read the older material and the new and revise it all and then go forward again. This time I was avoiding doing any of that. I was trying to write a faster draft–to get all the idea out on the page before I lost it, and also to see if I could keep more mentally stable during the process (which is to say, not reviling myself at the same time I’m trying to be creative, which creates a certain amount of freakiness of the mind).

But anyhow, I read the book. It’s drafty, of course. But I was happily surprised to find that it didn’t suck. I was really afraid it did. That’s because in writing this way, it’s sort of like starting a quilt project (not that I sew, but go with me) where you add bits and add bits, but never look at the whole pattern to see if it’s coming together. You just trust yourself to make the pattern and know you’ll go back and fix what’s wrong later. This particular book has been a challenge for me because I’ve never quite written anything like it before (in fact the same can be said about every Crosspointe book so far). There’s a lot that I’m doing here that I haven’t done before and I’ve been worried that it isn’t working (which is another reason for not going back and reading it and sabotaging myself before I even finish trying to lay down the story that’s been driving me).

Anyhow, today I discovered I actually am fairly pleased with it so far. It isn’t, in fact, crap. Now the thing is this. Most writers are completely neurotic and worry constantly whether they are writing well, telling a good story, or giving you readers your money’s worth. We live in constant fear that the next book will fail, or rather, that we as storytellers will fail it. So in some respects, calling the book crap is some sort of childish method for distracting the book gremlins and jinx-monsters from coming in and snarling up the story. But part of it is that we truly fear that it will not work. And if it doesn’t, then we don’t meet our deadlines or we don’t sell books. And that is damned scary. But the point is, the crap doesn’t make it to the shelves. We try very hard to make sure that what we send out to our editors is the good stuff, and if it isn’t, you can be damned certain the editor will bounce it back with a hefty editorial letter requiring revisions and will do so repeatedly until the book is good, or until she decides it’s unpublishable (welcome to my nightmare). So remember that when you overhear a writer bemoaning the current crappy WIP.

Because in the end it comes down to this: sometimes saying the book is crap in public is like calling out Marco! and hoping another writer is going to holler Polo! That way, you know you aren’t the only one struggling blindly. That somewhere out there someone else has faced the same obstacles and made it to the other side.

Filed under featured posts, For Novelists, learning to write. You can also use to trackback.

There are 5 comments. Get the RSS feed for comments on this entry.

  1. 1. Kate Elliott

    Omigod! This is EXACTLY what I was going to write about for my post tomorrow!

    Heh. Now I have to come up with something different.

    Anyway, yeah – what you said.

  2. 2. Misty Massey

    Polo, darling! Polo!


  3. 3. Karen Wester Newton

    It always seemed to me that it is much easier to judge someone else’s work than one’s own. I think that’s true of almost any medium, but especially writing.

    I have heard well known writers asked to pick their personal favorites name their most obscure works. Also consider those writers who got so rich and famous they could refuse to allow the editor to edit them. The general result was, their work suffered.

  4. 4. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    Kate: Muahahahahaha! I have stolen the march on you! Or perhaps it’s just the universal mind of all writers . . .

    Misty: Heh. I needed that.

    Karen: Isn’t just, though? The idea of not having someone actually edit my work is terrifying. Gah! Talk about a nightmare.

  5. 5. Jessica

    I feel like that’s true not only with my creative writing, but with my scholarship as well. Well said!

Author Information

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Diana Pharaoh Francis has written the fantasy novel trilogy that includes Path of Fate, Path of Honor and Path of Blood. Path of Fate was nominated for the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award. Recently released was The Turning Tide, third in her Crosspointe Chronicles series (look also for The Cipher and The Black Ship). In October 2009, look for Bitter Night, a contemporary fantasy. Diana teaches in the English Department at the University of Montana Western, and is an avid lover of all things chocolate. Visit site.



Browse our archives: