Writing Advice #1: A Million Bad Words

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog on MySpace devoted to writing advice for teens. Over time, it evolved into a general blog on writing advice for everyone. I blathered on and on, answered questions, etc. Since then, I’ve pointed people to that blog when they’ve sent me questions on writing, but I know that MySpace isn’t always the most, uh, reliable repository for such things. Plus, if you’re not on MySpace, you can read the blogs, but you can’t comment on them.

So once a week (probably on Wednesdays), I’ll be reprinting my writing advice blogs here on barrylyga.com. I’ll go through and edit them a little bit, too, and I might make some merges/changes, so they won’t be exactly like they were on MySpace, but they’ll hopefully still be helpful to people who are interested.

Here we go!


If you’re a teenager (or anyone else) and you want to be a writer, the most important thing to realize is this: You have to write! Yeah, I know that seems totally obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people I get who say to me, “Someday, I want to write a book.” Guess what? “Someday” is today. And tomorrow. And the day after.

It’s simple: The only way to learn how to write well is write crappy to begin with. No one starts off a great writer. Everyone starts off writing absolute garbage. It’s only with lots of practice that you get better. This means working on it as much as possible, which brings me to…

A Million Bad Words

There’s a saying that every writer has a million bad words in him or her, and that once those million bad words are gone, he or she can write something worth reading.

The question, then, is how to make those million bad words go away. The answer is easy and hard at the same time: You write them.

Yeah, that sounds easy, doesn’t it? But this goes hand-in-hand with what I said before — you get better with practice. You don’t sit on your ass and hope that the Muse drops in on you and inspires you. You sit on your ass at the keyboard and you write. And write. And write. Think of it as an extracurricular activity. If you were in a band or on a sports team or in the drama club, you’d practice every day, right? Same here.

So you write. And those million bad words start flowing out. And here’s the thing. At some point, you’re gonna read something you’ve written and think to yourself, “Hey, that’s good!”

Well, here’s the toughest thing I have to tell you: It probably isn’t. What you’ve written is probably crap.

Because we all start out writing crap. Sure, there are some folks out there who sit down at the keyboard the first time and pound out a masterpiece, but there aren’t a lot of them and we hate them and want to hunt them down anyway, right?

I wrote my first novel in high school. I thought it was terrific. I sent it out to a bunch of places, trying to get it published. They all rejected it. Why? Because it was total crap.

I had to write three and a half novels and a whole boat-load of short stories before I got those million bad words out of me. That’s when I started The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, and everything changed because now I was writing good stuff. I had practiced and practiced and spent a long time at it and now it was all paying off!

I wish there was a shortcut. I wish there was a way to say, “Do these two or three things and you’ll be a great writer,” but the truth of the matter is this: It’s all about hard work, patience, practice, and frustration.

Keep it up. You’ll get there.

Oh, and you’ll notice something. I didn’t say anything about schoolwork or college being important to writing, did I? Hmm. There’s a reason for that, and it’ll be the subject of another blog.

(Hey, speaking of other blogs — comment below and let me know what topics you’d like me to talk about in the future! I’ve got more blogs on writing and some other stuff lined up, but I want to know what you guys want to hear about!)

Comments

  1. Ahnai Deveraux says:

    So recently i decided i wanted to be a writer and i have all these ideas and i’ve started writing all of what is basically crap. So i was just wondering do you think its productive to write many stories? Am i contributing to those million words, or should i just focus on one story?

  2. Christine says:

    First thing fist is that i came across your work in the 6th grade at my school library and the book was Boy Toy, after that i just kept reading until i couldn’t find anymore of your work that they had to offer. After reading Fan Boy & Goth Girl i wanted to try to write something like that. I’m currently working on a story called The Misadventures Of Swag Mclovin’. i think it’s really god so far. I hope one day you an read it. You helped me with the idea, &btw i love i Hunt Killers, Game, & Hero Type.. they are all just my type.

Trackbacks

  1. […] via Writing Advice #1: A Million Bad Words — Barry Lyga Dot Com. […]

  2. […] heard the 10.000-hours-practice theory and the “write 1million words of crap before getting better“? Just out of curiosity I decided to try to calculate how many words I’ve written in […]

  3. […] – maybe Ray Bradbury, maybe some other scribe – once said that every writer has a million bad words in them, and that once those bad words are […]

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