Tag Archives: bad books

The Lessons in Bad Writing


Writers of the Desert Rose Cafe author Karel Henneberger sent me an article that reinforced a valuable lesson: you can learn something from reading bad writing. The article’s author Daphne Gray-Grant tells of  learning that lesson from a former boss in a roundabout way. Gray-Grant is a professional editor, so she’s read an abundance of both good and bad work.

The basic points she drives home to writers are these:

  1. Good writers make just about every sentence meaningful. Bad ones waste effort on recording every cup of tea their characters swallow.
  2. Bad writing highlights the kinds of mistakes we don’t want to make. It’s one thing to know we shouldn’t overuse adjectives. It’s another to read a plethora of sentences like this one: “The wearily handsome, nervous, stubble-chinned man slowly and carefully got out of bed when he heard the soft, mysterious sound of footsteps
    in his apartment.”
  3. Bad writing is a reminder that good work always requires effort.

The moral of the story: finish that bad book you’re reading. Use it as a tool to spot the things not to do in your own stories.