What To Do When You Think Your Writing Is Terrible

Sometimes you might feel as if your writing is terrible! Don’t worry, it happens to everyone! In this video, I explain what to do when you feel this way.

If you want to read instead, I cover the following in the video:

If you think your writing is bad, you’re probably right and that’s ok! No one writes great stuff the first time, it takes  a lot of editing and rewriting. So here are some tips.

  • Write anyway, just get it on the page and ignore that little critical voice. I use the example of writing dialogue where he said/she said and there’s no action. Just get the words out, then later you can add in movement and action so the dialogue adds to the scene.
  • Some very cool ideas come when you just let it all out, so don’t censor that first round of writing. Also be kind to yourself and accepting of where you are in the process. You have to start with more than a blank page.
  • Writing is rewriting” – Michael Crichton. You have a lot of editing to do later, so don’t worry about that first draft. Just write!

What are your tips for when you think your writing is terrible?

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  1. says

    I wholly agree – just keep going. You can’t edit what you don’t have! The more writing you do, the more practice you get at expressing your ideas. Eventually, what you want to say will start coming out as you’re writing the first draft, which will require less editing…but this won’t happen if you don’t practice, practice, practice!

  2. says

    I go back and forth on this question on a daily basis. 😉 I agree with the comment above, though. I’ve figured out that while practice doesn’t make perfect (at least to a raging perfectionist), it does help a whole, whole lot.

  3. says

    Yes! This is exactly my problem and my “all-year-long” resolution. I rewrite every sentence in my head and generally go back and edit things before I am able to move on to the next paragraph. I don’t know if it’s a perfectionism quirk or me being nervous about the quality but I have a hard time leaving the editing to someone else.

  4. says

    I think, Joanna, you’ve drilled down to the nub of the issue. There’s two phases to writing – the creative phase and the editing phase, and you need to leave the judgement calls (i.e. it’s terrible!) to the latter phase. If you don’t let yourself be terrible, they you’ll never have an opportunity to be great. And sometimes a dreadful idea given time will grow or mutate into something fascinating. At the very least if you drain yourself of all the terrible writing, it can only get better, right?

    • says

      I think there is always the kernel of something in the terrible writing as well – an idea or a word that needs expressing in a different way but wouldn’t have even come out if the bad writing wasn’t there.

  5. says

    Hi Joanna,
    Great words of encouragement! Try pulling some work you’ve done a few years or months earlier and read it. It’s startling how the improvement will jump off the page at you. It always makes me feel better about my writing along with helping me to stay on the “authordom” track.
    Cynthia Briggs
    Pork Chops & Applesauce
    Sweet Apple Temptations

  6. Cathy says

    Great advice, Joanna. I’ve been writing quite a while now and still think my stuff stinks a lot of the time. I tend to start something, get discouraged and then abandon it. Instead I should try and plow through and then go back as you suggested. It takes faith that the idea is worth investing all the time though and sometimes I’m not sure it is.

  7. Veronica says

    This is my greatest flaw! I get into the mood to finally get down and write this story I’ve been planning for 2 years now, and after writing a couple of pages I look it over and hate it. I’ve never gotten past the first two chapters without deleting it out of rage and starting over from a different perspective. I think my deal is that this story is my baby, and I want it to be perfect. So when I see these little imperfect, cringe-worthy lines of writing I think I’m failing my story so I start over again. Augh!!!!

    • says

      Hi Veronica, it sounds like you’re letting your inner critic get the better of you. Writing is re-writing and you can’t edit a blank page – so let it all flow out and then edit. You can make it better if you don’t delete the raw material first!


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