If there’s one mantra that can simultaneously cast hope and despair into the heart of a writer, it’s surely this one:
Just because it’s published doesn’t mean it’s good.
Because, really, how else are you meant to take hope from the existence of something like Twilight?
That aforementioned mantra keeps popping up in the short course I’m currently doing, helpfully accompanied by proof in the form of less than spectacular articles that have been published and paid for. It’s inspiring and educational and gives us a chance to learn how to do it better. This morning, however, I found one of those articles for myself – the sort of article that makes you want to shout things at the writer despite the fact that, a) they in all likelihood are unable to hear you, and, b) it’s 7am and other people are trying to sleep.
But it was so annoying. Let me list the ways.
- It didn’t actually start until the fourth long paragraph. I had to sit through three boring paragraphs that should have been kicked out of the first draft for being dead-weights.
- The writer seemed to think we cared about their opinion. This goes against the rules we’re being taught in the course, viz. no-one is interested the writer’s opinion when they’re reading a factual article. It’s the writer’s job to convey information in an engaging manner, nothing more.
- This quote: …I decide not to consult the information cards … there’s a limit to what I need to know to appreciate this house. Yes, that’s right: in an article about a museum, the writer decided not to read any information about the exhibits.
It was at this point that I gave up on the article and went and ranted about it at the Chef. Seriously, this article was bought and published and yet, the writer has practically told the editor, Oh, hey, I decided that research is for losers and you’d much rather hear about my opinions than the actual subject of the article.
There’s still half of the article to go, which I’ll probably read out of a sense of morbid curiosity; I’d rather like to know if there are any other ways in which it can induce ranting. The worst thing is that all the elements of a great article are in place but the writer either hasn’t noticed them or didn’t have time to put them in the right order.
I’m seriously tempted to try to re-write the article as practice. We have a similar exercise to do this week, using an article set by the school, so it couldn’t hurt to do it again on another article, could it? Plus, the subject of the article is actually quite interesting and I think it would make for fascinating reading with a tweak or two.
And by “a tweak or two”, I’m pretty sure I mean “a complete re-write”.
In the meantime, I think I’ll continue to console myself with the knowledge that mediocre writing can be published, and that I plan to be anything but mediocre.