How Others Write


Here’s something about how OTHER people write: I don’t get it.

I’ve read stories by, and studied writing advice from, Mister Ray Bradbury. He’s a fascinating character himself if you ever want to study the life of a writer. Ray Bradbury said he would take a word—a single word—and make a story out of it. That technic might work for him, but I sure can’t do it. I gotta have at least a sentence. I can’t grow trees with only dirt. I need seeds and water too. You know what I mean? Trees are the story and Ray could make trees out of dirt alone. That’s an amazing talent. Then again….I’ve read the majority of his stories—short stories and novels—and they aren’t all quality. Some of Ray’s trees made from dirt alone, well, regretfully, the dirt is visible. Still, you have to admit he is prolific.

Recently I’ve heard more than one writer say, “I write YA.” It’s short for Young Adult. So it sounds like they’re saying they only write in that particular market. This is a weird, foreign concept to me. How do they filter their writing like that? If they came up with a story idea, but it played out in their head like a murder mystery, would they dismiss it immediately? What if they got an idea for an Early Reader book? Would they trash it? I couldn’t do that either. I would at least save the idea until I was done with whatever I was working on, or I would bully through it whether my “current style” or “current category” allowed it or not. And no way would I ever start with the market first. I don’t believe anyone can write well if they’re writing categorically for the sake of the category. If we went back to the tree metaphor from before, it would be like shoving a dried-up, old stick in the sand and saying, “See, I planted a tree.” Categorically accurate, but not quite realistic. And not at all entertaining. Watching that tree grow would be the most mindless pastime.

Then there are those whose art is so riddled with spelling, grammar, and typo errors it’s painful to read. My heart goes out to these folks. Sometimes when you’re reading this type of art, you really must look past the errors and give them the advice of hiring an editor. Often, when reading the stories from someone who struggles with the art of the printed word, I try to read quickly to get the main idea of the story, then re-read to see if the problem is only with the reader. Story ideas are no less entertaining and fascinating when they have lots of errors, they’re only more deeply hidden. A story may stumble along with an inadequate vocabulary. A story can even fall on its own face with terminally ill grammar. The obstacles to the reader may be invisible to the writer. Or the obstacles to the reader may be as painfully obvious to the writer (this is where compassion should enter). Regardless of the obstacles to the reader, or the writer, a writer with great ideas deserves to be heard. There isn’t a good market for bad art, so the need for editing is absolutely necessary. The only reason I don’t understand this type of writing is when they deny the need for an editor.

Most writers need one or more of the following: beta readers, proofreaders, editors, and critics…and at least one friend who reads your stuff and says, “Wow, that was really good,” and never reads anything from you again.

Published by Kurt Gailey

This is where I'm supposed to brag about how I've written seven novels, twelve screenplays, thousands of short stories, four self-help books, and one children's early-reader, but I'd rather stay humble. You can find out about things I've written or follow my barchive (web archive, aka 'blog) at or follow me on twitter @kurt_gailey. I love sports and music and books, so if you're an athlete or in a band or you're a writer, give me a follow and I'll most likely follow you back. I've even been known to promote other people's projects.

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