There is something I am ashamed to admit. There’s a book series I have read most of the way through, and when I tell people they ask, “Why would you do that to yourself?”
Why did I read this series? Perhaps out of morbid curiosity, or a secret self-loathing, or perhaps with the hope the books would get better. (They didn’t.)
I read them with this question in mind, “What do people see in this?” After the first book I was horrified that it was so popular.
But I kept reading even though it made me throw up a little in my mouth. Strangely this series – and not the books that most inspired me – is what I conjure when I work on my own book.
It motivates me more than anything else, because I think to myself, “That was awful. I can do it better.”
I realized you can’t just read great short stories or the best YA novels or the brilliant blogs. You also have to read the worst, most reprehensible drivel out there.
What series am I talking about? Keep reading and I’ll share this shameful secret. But first, let me tell you lessons I learned from reading bad writing.
1. How Not to Write
There are several books I would happily throw across the room, but they taught me some of the most important lessons in writing.
I learned how to avoid overly emotive language and unrealistic plot lines. I learned about flat love interests and what it feels like when an author beats their reader over the head. If you want to avoid mistakes like these, it’s helpful to read writers who make them.
2. Doing it Your Own Way
Several of the assigned books I read in high school had weak female characters. When I started my book, I did it with the intention of writing the kind of female character I couldn’t find in most popular texts. In this way I was able to set my own path.
If you’re unsatisfied by how other authors do it, then write it yourself. Write the story, blog post, or article on marathon training or cat hair sculpture that you can’t find anywhere else.
3. What’s the big deal?
Think about a work that you feel is overrated. Why did it attract so many readers?
“Crappy writing” and “good writing” are subjective terms. What I think is bad writing, someone else finds enjoyable. Investigating this broadens your perspective and teaches you different ways of writing. You learn about what other people like and might even discover what your audience likes as well.
4. “I can do it better.”
I know what you’re thinking. I felt the same way when I first saw Snooki’s book in the store. Really publishing industry? Really Barnes & Noble? If she can get published, then so can you.
You’re not doing yourself any favors by restricting your reading choices to the masters. There’s a lot to learn from the train wrecks also.
That book series I mentioned earlier? I stopped reading it halfway through the fourth and final book. By then I had gotten what I needed from the whiney co-dependent girl and her moody, sparkling, vampire boyfriend.
If you love this series I’m sorry to offend. I’m sure there are a few books I loved that make you throw up a little in your mouth too. That’s what’s great about reading and writing. Finding the voices that you love to hear, and maybe even finding your voice that make others willing to listen.