Writing Poorly on Purpose

Writing Wrong on PurposeMost writers I know spend a lot of time worrying about the quality of their work. Will it resonate with readers? Does it get across the proper emotions? Is it as good as other writing I’ve read?

However, a possible new character in my current urban fantasy series has reminded me of a writing exercise that takes the complete opposite stance and allows writers to relax about their craft and breathe a little.

See, I’m toying with the idea of having a character who is both a prolific writer and a terrible one. They would be the author of many emails, or whatever passes for emails in my world of the undead, and yet be quite awful at composing said emails.

And if I put these emails in front of my characters, actually write them out onto the pages of my book, that means that I would get the opportunity to write poorly on purpose.

This, I can assure you, is a writing exercise that will turn your brain inside out. As I’ve mentioned, so much energy and worry gets put into whether or not you are writing well. But taking the opposite approach and trying to write poorly can provide a healthy change of pace, because you have to write poorly, but do it well.

Get it?

I mean you can’t just slap away at the keyboard and be done with it because the result would be a completely unbelievable string of writing. Oh no, you have to think about what you know concerning the art of writing and, more to the point, what this character doesn’t know about writing. You have to figure out where he or she is lacking because a complete lack of readability would just be dismissed as uninteresting or unbelievable. This writing has to be bad but think its good. It has to be read but not be loved. It has to get processed but still make you cringe.

You have to figure out where this character goes wrongs. Do they use clunky phrasing? Awful metaphors? Too too too many adverbs? Do they sound dumb? If so, in what way? Trouble getting to the point? Bad sense of humor? Inflated view of themselves? Over-reliance on one writing trick?

The exercise at once allows you to relax, after all the goal is to write poorly, while also requiring you to focus in on your strengths as a writer and what good writing means to you so that you can effectively subvert all of that and produce bad writing.

In the end, as a matter of fact, writing poorly can turn out to be one of the most challenging things a writer can do.

I told you it would turn your brain inside out.