East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Writing advice – quality control


There is something I think I never mentioned so far, and might come as a help for any writer or hack out there.
And you know I can’t resist the idea of sharing my spurious wisdom on my blog.
So, here goes.

We all know that if you want to write, you must read.
You must read as far and wide as possible, so that it is OK… no indeed, it is absolutely essential to read science fiction if you want to write historical romance, and hard boiled mysteries if your genre is actually sea stories, etcetera.
And essays, of course.Β Read non fiction, too.


But never, never forget to read cheap, poorly written, amateurish crap.
garden_rubbishNot every day, not regularly.
But once in a while, take a dive in the dumpster.
Go and enroll as a juror in some bottom-of-the-barrel award, volunteer as editor or ask a friend that runs a fanzine or a webzine for one of their suckiest submissions.
Possibly, seek out the drivel produced by proud owners of creative writing diplomas and writing school badges of honor, those that are so busy acting like writers on their social media, so desperate to show their literary quality on the page, that their stories suck like nothing ever sucked before, and they are too full of themselves to realize.

Because we learn from the best, obviously.
There’s no need for me to tell you to go and read Leiber, or Zelazny, or Chewrryh, or Tanith Lee.
Hemingway or Waugh, Dorothy Sayers or Ngaio Marsh.
Read Dumas or Bulgakov.
Read them, by all means, and study the way they do the things they do.

But never forget the rubbish.
First, because it is in rubbish that you see the errors you also make, there, in plain sight – and without the filter of your own ego.
Second, because the bad prose, the contrived plots, the lame, cardboard characters and the stilted dialogue, the utter absolute suckiness of it all bolsters your self-esteem.
You will never write this bad, you say to yourself.
And indeed, third, reading such embarrassing drivel puts a righteous fear of God into you – and you’ll strive, really, never to write such trash.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

7 thoughts on “Writing advice – quality control

  1. Nice. Good reminder! Better go crack out some drivel 😏


  2. Makes me wonder if you’ve been reading my blog…for the drivel.


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