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Is Bad Writing Always Bad Writing?

One of the advantages about writing novels badly is that there’s the likelihood of improving over time. But what if one doesn’t want to improve? What is one’s writing is just so dreadful, that one finds oneself in a league of one’s own making?

Brenton Davidson-Guass, the eminent and pioneering chemist, once said, “a league of one’s own is a league regardless.” This, Thomas concurs with, having recently had a manuscript appraised by a notable and well-respected author. The feedback he received was nothing short of short. The turn-around for manuscript in this appraisal service is five to six weeks.

Thomas got his back in forty-five minutes.

And that included the time it took to print the thing.

The comment that accompanied its return was: “I simply don’t know where to begin.”

As this was less than constructive, Thomas phoned them and advised that losing the redundant adverb would be a pretty good start, before informing that not knowing where to begin a book left him questioning their credentials in appraising the things in the first place. They hung up on him, but not before he’d managed several expletives, some of which were radically out of context.

Books, from a mechanical point of view at least, are not complicated. They shouldn’t need instructions. So why labeling his ‘start’ and ‘finish’, and potentially ‘close when not in use’ for an appraiser, he doesn’t understand. Incensed, He wrote these instructions down and then faxed them to said appraiser, along with some schematics for a bookmark.

Thomas’ manuscript was not the sort that could be analyse in forty-five minutes, either. It was not a shopping list or a theater ticket, or the collected weekly works of a takeaway restaurant menu. It was a 355,000 word tome that he’d been working on since he was five. Some of which was in the original crayon.

His point is this: is it fair to discredit a work of fiction just because it is unreadable?

In his book ‘the long tail’, Chris Anderson presents the argument that the digital age has democratised distribution, theoretically permitting anyone, anywhere to find anything, anytime. The corollary is that there is a niche for everything. Including rubbish—if one knows where to look. And if one looks, it’s disturbing what one can find.

Recently, a team of geologists at the University of Jeht, Canada, proposed the existence of diamonds as big as houses in the deep tectonic recesses where plate faults plunge into mantle. They estimate as many as one hundred million of the things, their sheered-off fragments being the rare diamonds we find in our soil today. The total value of this haul would be worth more than fifty times the amount of money that exists upon this earth. Admittedly, were they retrieved the value of diamond would plummet to rival the value of badly made shale, and putting one on a woman’s finger would have her crushed to death, but the point is that such diamonds are there, and can be found for in the same way Chris suggests consumers can be. Except using bigger spades.

Consumers of rubbish exist. Just look at Big Brother. They just have to be found. And if the appropriate heuristic digital search algorithms can be formulated—and they will—then say hello to a market no one knew existed. Even those shopping in it.

This is the reason Thomas writes his novels in capitals. It’s the reason he omits punctuation. It’s the reason some of his books have more pages then sentences. Poor spelling isn’t careless, it’s creative. Bad grammar isn’t uneducated, it’s the Braxton-Hicks’ contractions of genius.

So, if you’re a bad writer, don’t beat yourself up or put yourself down. You’re bad for a reason. You’re bad because you can’t write, and you can’t write because you’re shit. But remember: even shit was once crayfish stuffed with caviar.

Is bad writing always bad writing?

Yes. But in a good way. 


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