How to Not Mess Up Your Writing

Have you ever been overwhelmed with writing the perfect story? Did you research and google, and seek out expert advise about what is defined as good writing? Have you ever become so overwhelmed that you messed up your story trying to fit every other writer's definition of good?

I have!

I google everything. Which means that my interests—such as writing, get a lot of entries from my devices. How to... What does... Why... all corresponding to my curiosity to improve the way I communicate my prose to anyone besides myself. I know what I'm trying to convey in my writing, because I'm the author. But that doesn't mean everyone else will! So I'm always looking for tips on how to improve.

But this week I learned something valuable about my quest to becoming a better writer. I questioned, and googled, and continually worked on improving my craft. But then I became overwhelmed by everyone else's opinion of what good writing was and messed up my story because of it.

On my quest of becoming a better writer I ended up confused about my own story. My writing may've been good to begin with, but because I listened to everyone else's opinion and changed my writing accordingly, I looked at what I'd written and realized I hated it. I'd strayed from the initial story I was trying to tell, because of all the changes I'd made to fit everyone else's tips on how to write. If the author of the story doesn't like what they've written, how is anyone else supposed to? That's when I decided I was finished listening to everyone else and focus instead, on writing something that I'd want to read.

You see, I've discovered that what someone else approves as good writing, may be what another sees as terrible. One writer may use basic sentences to construct their prose and another may choose to add a sense of poetry to their story. Both styles can be interpreted as good or bad, it just depends on who's reading it.

Am I saying that writing shouldn't be clean? That it shouldn't be well thought out and flow nicely? No. I'm saying that everyone has their own opinion, and opinions exist about good and bad writing. No two writers are the same—even when both are bestselling authors.

One writer may get rejected by twelve different publishing companies because of their writing style and get a book deal with another. Another writer may become a bestselling indie author because of their writing and another may sell less than ten copies.

Bottom line?

Good and bad writing is interpreted by its readers. I've read some books that I didn't particularly care to read again, and they were on the bestseller's list. I've read other titles that were indie and so fresh and so real—compared to some titles that were distributed by major publishers.

My advice on becoming a good writer is to focus on two things: telling the story you've dreamed up (not someone else) and appealing to a specific group of readers.

1) Outline your story really well. Know what the underlying message is. Have the scenes planned out really well. Know your character well: who they are, why they are the way they are, what their flaw and goal are and whether they will overcome it or not. Stay focused on the story you're trying to tell and on how you want to tell it—not how everyone else thinks it should be written.

2) Imagine yourself as a reader of your book. Some questions to ask yourself are: Who do I want this story to appeal to? Who am I writing this story for? Would I want to read my own work—not because I wrote it, but because it'd consume me until I finished the last page? What writing style do I want my readers to enjoy as they're consuming my story? And...stick with it. :)

Writing tips are great and I learn a lot from them. But at some point I need to throw out what the experts say and just write. I'll leave them to creating a story that they feel is perfect in their opinion and I'll write one that I'm in love with.

Just as we should dance like nobody is watching, we should write like no one else's opinions matter. Once we finish our first draft, then we can go back and apply those fabulous writing tips the experts gave us, in order to tighten up our prose. But until then, just write. :)

Have you ever messed up your writing? How so? Do tell us in the comments!



  1. Ah I've done this! It's so frustrating listening to someone else's opinions while writing, especially during the first draft. I learned to not even tell anyone I'm writing until it's almost finished. I feel like I have more sanity that way. There's a reason beta readers look over your manuscript after you've written and revised it. You're the author, not your reader. If they want to write a book with their perspective, they can do so. My writing is mine to make however I see fit!

  2. John, that is very true! Listen to the suggestions, but analyze them. Sometimes the tips/opinions may be helpful and may make your prose better. Other times (most of the time), especially while writing the first draft, things can get really frustrating really quickly when there are too many "backseat authors" trying to steer the wheel. Stephen King says, "Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open." I'm sure he learned that through experience like we did!