Saturday, September 24, 2005

In Praise of Truly Awful Writing

Really, you have to do an awful lot of bad writing before you can turn out good. A valid argument for writing your quota of rubbish for the NaNoWriMo.

Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is interviewed in the Guardian:
"I wrote such bad stuff for such a long time." He owns up to five unpublished novels and says his first, called "The Blue Guitar Murders", might be "the worst unpublished novel ever. But looking back I'm really glad I wrote so badly for such a long time. It is very difficult to be successful as a young novelist because of the pressure to then reproduce it when you often don't know why you'd written a good book in the first place. I've spent half my life under the bonnet trying to find out why things don't work. When Curious Incident worked I knew why because I'd been fiddling with those spark plugs for so long."

Now, I know for a fact that he does not have the worst unpublished novel ever ... because it's surely the one sitting in my drawer!

Curiously incidentally, I asked an Asperger's friend of mine what he thought of Haddon's first book and says he was impressed with it and thought Haddon had got things right.

8 comments:

3rd Chimp said...

Thank you for sharing this, Sharon! Inspiration for all of us! It reminded me of a quote I read recently from Richard Bach: "A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." (I think Bach wrote Jonathon Livingston Seagull, so there may be people who wish he HAD quit!)

It also reminded me of the Q&A session with Oscar Hijuelos at the KL Lit Fest. I asked him if he had written his first published novel, Our House in the Last World, just like that, with no previous attempts at novel writing. He said, emphatically, no; he had boxes of bad writing he could show to prove it.

So...let's NANOWRIMO! Let's tinker under the bonnet until we get it right!

Namra said...

i love reading that book. i'm still in wondering of how exactly did he managed to illustrate how the boy think.

me i wrote many bad stories on my blog. man i need to get my grammar to workshop. take my newest posted story in my blog (aka *hint hint*, lol) - excuse me sir? for instance. the whole thing is just confused. i dont even know whats wrong

The Great Swifty said...

I was rather underwhelmed by the book after all the raving reviews it had gotten. Perhaps it was the portrayal of the hero, who was supposed to be emotionally detached and such, which would be considered a success, but ultimately, the one factor that turned me off from the book. But look at the bright side, I DID manage to finish it in one sitting.

Kak Teh said...

Sharon, thanks - there's hope for thelikes of me, then!

Anonymous said...

I don't know why some books work and some books don't. I'm seriously wondering whether it's just hype that sells a book. I've read many so-called bestsellers and come away seriously underwhelmed. In fact, I think most modern literature does not have the quality it used to have way back then. George Orwell is still being read after so many decades. Mark Twain, Lewis Caroll, J. M. Barrie -- still being read after all these years. If you really want to write a novel these days, it seems all you need is good publicity, a good command of the language, and a penchant for BS. It's gone commercial.. I mean ask yourself, _what_ is so good about "Curious Dog" ? you just need to have good PR people and the ability to use the write.. er... right words at the right times. It's not so difficult.

As for "A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit" all I have to say is - Baron Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton.

I'm not going to say anyone is lying here, but I think if I ever became famous, I'd say the same thing, that I had boxes and boxes of stuff etc. I sure wouldn't say.. well my publisher said I should write about this because he's sure it would sell, and so I did and it sold.

It's good PR to say things "I had boxes and boxes of..." because it's what people want to hear.

Anonymous said...

Hey is that "Asperger's" as in "Asperger's Syndrome" ?

bibliobibuli said...

3rd chimp - love the Richard Bach quote. So true. (I read JLS when I was about 15 and thought it brilliant. Makes me really want to laugh at my stupid self!!)

Yes ... dearest Oscar had boxes ... cheers me up no end.

namra - I think he could write about the boy because he had worked with kids with Aspergers .. but even so .. yes is soms feat of imagination

must read your story or must rope you in for our critiquing group ...

eliar - yes, it is hard to have a character who is so emotionally detached and keep the reader interested in him ...

kak teh - hope for me too ;-D

porty - there is some v. good stuff published these days and i'm sorry for you if you don't see that ... I think The Curious Incident was the very first time that someone had tried to get an Aspergers sufferer down to the page ... it wasn't just a case of hype ... remember too that it was intended to be a kid's book ...

"Baron Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton." Kindly explain ...

Dear Porty, I'm sure all good writers create a ton of bad writing on the path to good ... if you don't maybe that's why you ain't getting your stuff published yet ...

Yes, Aspergers as in the syndrome ...

Anonymous said...

"Dear Porty, I'm sure all good writers create a ton of bad writing on the path to good"

I suppose there are bad writers who do the same thing. Is there really a path to good ? I'm sure you're not wrong, but how do you know I'm not right ?

"if you don't maybe that's why you ain't getting your stuff published yet ..."

Maybe you're assuming too much :)