The Red Flags of Bad Writing

A writing tip from Robin Stratton

Not to brag, but many times I have been called “the best editor in the world.” Flattering, yes! But few of my fans know the reason I’m so good is because as an aspiring writer I made every single mistake there was to make: I rushed my writing, I cut corners with my research, and I sent out queries even though I knew my book wasn’t ready.

It was only after other writers began asking me for help that I noticed a funny thing: their manuscripts weren’t just bad; they were all bad in the same way. And suddenly I understood—all those polite rejections from publishers and agencies that said It’s not you, it’s us lied! It WAS me! I took another look at my novel, and was horrified and embarrassed. There were the sections that had been written too quickly and without direction, the sections that I hadn’t read out loud, the sections that served no purpose, the sections that weren’t even interesting to me, and worst of all, the sections I’d given up on, assuming that an editor at Random House would fix them for me.

Once I realized the universality of these mistakes, it became a matter of recognizing them—the way specific symptoms indicate a disease—and then eliminating them. My writing guide, The Revision Process, pinpoints the Red Flags of Bad Writing, and shows writers not only how to correct mistakes, but how to avoid repeating those mistakes in future projects.


Robin Stratton is a writing coach in the Boston area, director of The Newton Writers and Poets Center, editor of Boston Literary Magazine, and author of Dealing With Men, Interference from an Unwitting Species & Other Poems, Of Zen and Men, and The Revision Process - A Guide for Those Weeks, Months or Years Between Your First Draft and Your Last. Her fiction has appeared in Word Riot, Poor Richard's Almanac(k), Antithesis Common, and many others.

Claire Barrett should have known her marriage was in trouble but she ignored the signs for years, and it wasn’t until after her husband died that she discovered he’d squandered their savings on another woman. Facing foreclosure and the gloomy probability of moving back into her parents’ house, she seeks escape in the arms of a new man. But a stunning turn of events forces her to examine the role she played in her husband's infidelity as a spoiled wife who spent all her time tending to 26 bonsai trees. Finally she realizes that what she lost was something she never had, and what she found was something she always wanted.

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.


Anonymous said...

Robin, thank you so much for your kindness in sharing this, but also for your great transparency in your "confession" as to what I'm sure msut be a reality for us who are newer writers.
If you have any personal writings that you believe would help someone like me who is not a grammarian or an accomplished, established writer, please do tell.
Thank you so much as always,
Richard Nesta

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