If you are a writer, you’re always questioning the quality of your storytelling. Lord knows I do. You wonder if this character is annoying or not, which plot device you should use here or there, how to make characters more interesting, and how to end the story. Most of all, you worry about the quality of your writing.
Normally, I would encourage you to worry. To be a little more nuanced, though, I would tell you to use your worry to motivate your fervor, and your fervor to action. Let worry guide you to fixing problems that you have with your work and motivate you to get better.
But there is one thing, except in rare cases, that I forbid you from worrying about. It’s unnecessary and will only serve to cause you sleepless nights. It’s the one thing you can’t really improve unless it truly sucks. And this thing is (if you couldn’t tell from the name of the article) the actual quality of your wrtiting.
Now, half of ya’ll out there will immediately fire back: “Hey, but isn’t that what writing is all about?” No, my friends, it’s not. It’s actually relatively minor. I’d be willing to venture that your writing is no more keeping you back from becoming a bestseller than a $1.99 International Transaction fee is keeping Jeff Bezos from buying a Lamborghini.
Now, I’m not talking about typos. Typos are unavoidable. But typos are not your writing style: I’m talking about the tendency to use this word over another, what your writing voice sounds like, whether or not to use “can’t” or “cannot”, and the rest of the million and one other things that make up your own unique writing style.
You’ve heard me say before that your style is inescapable. This is true. Odds are, I choose the same words that I did a few years ago. Your writing style does not change, and if it doesn’t it’s very slight. But some people have the loony idea that your style is a plague or a detriment.
This is only true in very rare cases. Some people just can’t write for the life of them. They have a grasping of writing equal to someone who’s just learning a language. This kind of people need a boatload a training before they can improve, or they’ll never be a writer. But for the 99.99997623345% of writers out there, I have to tell you: your style isn’t bad.
For example, I recently decided to get in to some new literature. I wanted to get a feel for the uber-successful author Brandon Sanderson’s work, so I started at the beginning of his career: Elantris. All the while, I was studying his foreshadowing, his word choice, cast of characters, pace, plot, characters, everything. For me, I was educating myself: reverse-engineering a great story to help my own.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that Brandon Sanderson’s writing style wasn’t anything incredibly magnanimous or witty: it was…normal. It made me realize that as long as style isn’t an impediment to understanding, it’s not a problem. A lot of people worry more than they should about this.
So unless literally everyone is telling you that your writing style/quality sucks to high heaven, stop worrying about it. You’ll be fine.
Good luck, and happy writing!
Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!