Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Writing rubbish

Is it just me, or does anyone else do this. I spend some time writing something that I think is not too bad. I put it away for a while and when I get it out again, I find that I've been visited by the rubbish writing fairies and they've turned my okay piece into a no way piece overnight. I can hardly believe my eyes and rub them furiously, blink several times, re-read what I've written, but no, it's still there, the piece of particularly bad writing for all to see.

Now, I could put it down to the hot weather. My fevered brain was clearly addled and I was hallucinating when I wrote the piece. Or I could blame it on feeling off colour and tired. Or maybe I was just being lazy. Or was it the medication/stress/wrong frame of mind/boredom/lack of self confidence/lack of actual writing ability ....... I could go on!

But there really is no excuse for bad writing. We all write some humdingers in our writing careers and some days we write better than others (I'm not talking about first drafts here; I mean letting a peice of work get through many edits, that is not up to scratch, that you send out. ) And isn't what constitutes 'bad' writing subjective anyway? What might appear sloppy and poor form to me may not be so for someone else who reads it. So how do we really know how far along the scale of what's publishable and what 's not our work sits?

The obvious test would be to read the piece out at your local writers' group and see what they say. Or give it to a couple of writer friends to critique. But the only trouble with this approach is that: a) you might not get an honest critique if the group members don't want to upset you. B) The critique may be too brutal and send you crying to the hills. C) You are likely to be given several different opinions that will just confuse you.

Maybe you could ask your friends or family to read it for you. But depending on how good your relationship is with them they will either tell you they hate your work because they hate you or they love you and everything you do and they are so proud of their little writer!

You could pay hundreds of pounds on a critique offered by professional critiquing companies. At least with this option the person critiquing your work doesn't know you and they won't be concerned with your sensibilities so you are likely to get an honest and helpful critique of your work. But only if you choose your company well and you know they have a good reputation and you're not just paying them to tell you what you want to hear, and they are using flattery as a way to ease the cash from your wallet, not how your work stands.

Fancy posting your work on line in forums for critiquing? This can work very well and be advantageous in getting your work known and read by thousands of people. And it isn't unheard of for people who follow this route to get book deals. But on line critiquers can be brutal and you run the risk of someone running off with your idea and rewriting it a little, taking all the credit.

I prefer the suck it and see approach. I write a piece to the best of my ability (okay, until I'm sick of it) and then I send it off and wait and see. I've learned so much by doing it this way. I try to read as many magazines as I can so that I know which short story, poem or article to target where. It doesn't always pay off - but when it does, the feeling of elation is wonderful.

The important thing, I think, to remember is this: you have to put the work in to get anything out at the end, and you have to be prepared for failure along the way. If you don't work hard at this game and focus you are unlikely to succeed. If you think you're going to get published at a drop of a hat - think again! It can take months, years to get your work published. Just remember it's not an overnight success job for the majority of us. But if you put the work in and keep on learning about your craft and hone your skills you have a much better chance of success.

What does everyone else think? Which method(s) of critiquing have you used and how did they work or not work for you?

Oh and don't forget to have fun. If you're not having fun when your doing it then you're not doing it right!

Happy writing,

Julie xx


klahanie said...

Warm greetings Julie, (and with this weather, I'm bordering on literal)
This is an interesting insight into the many aspects you take into account as a writer.
So being someone who just writes for a bit of fun, my contribution to this comes from my amateur angle. Being my own worst critic, no matter what I write, I think it is rubbish.
However, the only situation that presents itself in so far as my writing and critical appraisal, is from the kind folks who comment on my blog.
So really, I cannot add much to what your have written. I just felt like commenting. What I can add that may be of interest to you and your fellow writers; is that I do not have a particular writing style, I like to experiment.
Like you have written, Julie, don't forget to have fun. If you can get the readers attention with an intriguing opening sentence; they will, more than likely, want to continue reading.
Happy writing to you and your fellow writers.

Diane Perry said...

Hi Julie
I think I am going to take the plunge and send my novel to a professioanl critique, I have got to the stage now that I need independent advice as my Mom and husband have been brilliant in giving feedback, but I do feel they may not want to upset me Trouble is I need to sell a short story before I can afford it!!
Best wishes

Julie P said...

Hi, Gary, and thank you for commenting. Why people write has always interested me. I know there are many reasons and all are as valid as each other. I don't always write with publication in mind. I started a personal journal at the beginning of the year, though, I must admit that I haven't written in it for a few weeks now. I have also written many poems that won't be published that I have written in response to things that have happened in my life. They are purely for me.

Your blog is wonderful and you're right, if you can hook your reader in from the first paragraph then you have a good chance that they'll make it to the end!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Hi, Di!

I know what you mean about family critiquing your work. They mean well but it's not what we need really. That's the trouble, though, isn't it - being able to afford a professional critique. I've sent a few short stories and articles out so I'm just playing the waiting game whilst trying to write more to send out.It's really frustrating sometimes isn't it!

Good luck with your book - I know how hard you've worked on it.

Julie xx

Fee said...

Dear Julie,

You are so right about worrying about work and if it is good enough. Sometimes the only way to do it is send it out and see what happens. One of my letters to a natinal newspaper was edited the other week due to lack of space but at least it got published.

As for enjoying your writing you are so right. When you attend the writers' bash take some work with you and get some feedback from that.

When you come to read work out make sure you take at least one deep breath before you start. This will help calm the nerves. I learnt from a recent experience on this one.

Many writers are willing to help new writers on the scene and I found plenty of encouragement.

So best wishes for Saturday. I will be thinking of you.


Olivia Ryan said...

Julie, you're so right! I've so often come badly unstuck by thinking something I've written was great, sending it off to an editor, only to have it rejected - and when I've looked at it again, I've been totally embarrassed by its awfulness and wondered why the editor didn't actually have me arrested for crimes against writing, rather than just rejecting me! I now try very hard to 'sit on' things before sending them off. With short stories, even a day or two of putting them aside can make all the difference and show them in their true light! However, I must confess I have never had any of my work critiqued, in fact I never show anything I've written to anyone before it hits the editor's desk. Not even my husband!

Julie P said...

Hi, Olivia. I think, as writers, we can get bogged down with 'getting it right,' and it can be quite debilitating if we constantly search for appraisal of our work.

I used to be a lot worse and would go over my work again and again again, taking bits out and putting them back in again. It can drive you crazy if you let it! So now I just do the best I can and send it out.

Julie xx