Why do you write?

To publish, hopefully professionally?  To publish online for free consumption?  For yourself?

Different purposes demand different things from us in our writing.  If you write to be published, and get paid for it, then what you write must be something others want to read.  It must be written well enough for them to bother paying to read it.  While a typo here and there will sometimes happen, readers aren’t going to tolerate a story full of them.  They will give up in the first chapter.  Bad grammar, poor sentence structure, ambiguity – these and more all play in to how successful your finished product will be.

In the fan fiction world, too often I see writers who say “sorry, can’t spell”, “I know there are mistakes but it’s a good story” and my favorite: “summary sucks but read the story, it is really good”.  If you can’t spell, then use spell check.  Look up words you are uncertain how to spell.  Don’t just shrug it off and expect others to do the same.  If you have trouble with the physical structure (punctuation, construction, content, etc.), find someone that is better than you to read it and offer helpful suggestions.  And ABSOLUTELY never expect anyone to read your story if you can’t write a coherent summary!  Why would they believe you can write worth beans if you can’t even write that much half-way decently?

Sadly, more and more we are seeing this sort of carelessness bleed over into self-publishing.  It has become so easy to publish your own work, and put it up for sale on Amazon or such, that many dive right in.  They don’t fix the errors, they don’t run it past others to see if they missed anything, they just stick it out there and expect people to hand them money to read it.  I can’t even remember the number of reviews I’ve read that have commented on this problem.  Usually the story will have been offered for free or at a deep discount to lure in readers, but the resulting backlash of bad reviews greatly undermines that.  If you want to sell it, you’d better make sure you make it worth someone spending the money.

These problems don’t simply go away because you are publishing for free, either.  Presumably you are posting it publicly because you want readers.  They might read something initially, but you’d better be offering something worthwhile if you want them to finish it and come back for more.  All of us have a limited amount of time and money, and we don’t want to squander it.  If you want either of those from me, I have to believe there is value coming in return.

Writing for yourself?  That’s not a bad thing.  In fact, some of my fan fiction stories were written simply to amuse myself.  I couldn’t find anything new to read (of interest to me), so I sat down and wrote my own story.  But why should that be an excuse for sloppiness?  I can still check spelling for accuracy.  I can still do my best regarding story/sentence/paragraph structure, even if I don’t have anyone else read it through and offer suggestions.  And I can still learn from past mistakes and try to improve in my later writings.

What was I trying to express through what I wrote?

Did I manage to do it?

Did I do it but not entirely to my satisfaction?

How could it have been better?

This goes back to a previous post of mine regarding improving in your writing.  After you’ve written something, set it aside and go back and read it a year or more later.  How does it strike you?  Does it vividly bring back that moment that you were trying to memorialize in writing, or does it fall flat and you aren’t even sure what you were trying to say?  If the memory is strong enough, rewrite it now and then set both aside and read them both in a year.  Did the second version improve it, or was it just as lame as the first?  Taking that step back away from what you wrote, and going about doing other things, can help you bring fresh perspective to your writing.

Whatever your reason for writing, make it the best that you can in the moment that you write it.  And then reread your work later, and make your next writings even better.


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