Horrid fiction?
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Horrid fiction?

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Posts: 7
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Topic starter

I'm looking for the worst short stories and novels of all time, specifically Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Mostly because I want to know what bad writing looks like.

I'm usually up for a critique and I encourage you to ask me in a PM.

Doug Dargel

Posted : June 30, 2020 4:42 am
Posts: 286
Silver Member

Bad writing in what sense? A bad story to someone is often a good story to someone else. Many top-selling authors are apparently bad writers, but are millions of people really wrong? This is a good little article: https://contently.com/2018/01/19/separa ... d-writing/

Bad writing to me would maybe be outdated and tired tropes or stereotypes, something sickening or against magazine guidelines in the first place e.g Fireside's: "Please don’t send us: Stories that promote fascism, racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, etc." So likely something I wouldn't read or would stop reading if I'd started.

You could sign up to read slush for a magazine to find out what/how you shouldn't write. You'll spot patterns, though like most things, there are always exceptions to the rules.

"The Eye of Argon" has been widely circulated (since 1970) as one of the worst stories published (even criticised in mainstream magazines such as the UK's SFX), with the author called the "Ed Wood of prose": http://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/susan/sf ... eargon.htm

It even has it's own 'reading rules': https://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/~susan/sf/argnrule.htm

I think the author (his only published story) probably came to terms with his story being circulated in this way long before his death in 2002, though I wouldn't call that fair, and he was only 15 or 16 when he wrote it. Not that age should be a barrier. Our very own Wulf Moon's first professional sale was a story written in his early teens. I know we have teenaged WotF Honourable Mentions, and most of us probably have early (and recent) attempts at stories we think are pretty bad now.

35: - R R R | 36: R HM R R | 37: HM HM HM SHM | 38: HM HM HM HM | 39: HM HM HM SHM | 40: HM R SHM SHM |
4 SHM / 12 HM / 7 R

Posted : June 30, 2020 10:24 am
Posts: 942
Platinum Member

While I’ve rarely read anything I’d qualify as horrid, I suspect the impetus for this question came from the desire to learn from poorly written fiction. I’d recommend critiquing as an approach. Much of what I’ve learned about writing has come from doing lots of critiques of other people’s stories. We’re blind to our own flaws but can see them in other people's creations. Critters.org was my initial training ground, there is /r/destructivereaders on Reddit, critiques for other forumites, etc. You can also browse wattpad or rainbow road for a wide variety of writing quality.

I actually just talked about this on my blog, but most stories are based on solid concepts or characters. It’s the prose that needs development usually, more than the concepts.

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Pro’d out Q4V39

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Posted : July 1, 2020 2:04 am
Disgruntled Peony
Posts: 1283
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Personally, I find reading good writing more helpful than reading bad writing, because I have an easier time learning what to do than what not to do. But to each their own.

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Posted : July 1, 2020 2:06 am
Posts: 95
Bronze Star Member

Some academic writing is horrid enough to make you think it might be fiction: http://www.denisdutton.com/bad_writing.htm

On a more serious note, I agree with Liz. If you read enough good writing and write/edit enough yourself, you figure out what bad writing is and then purge it from your own writing. This is what it means to develop your voice.

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Posted : July 3, 2020 10:12 am
Dustin Adams
Posts: 1290
Platinum Plus Moderator

Given that you can download samples of novels on Amazon for Kindle, I'd say you have an endless field of possibilities. Although I'd swap horrid with amateur. I think traditionally published and horrid would be more of a personal opinion and may not match your own. But self-published beginner is more universally detectable.


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11x HM
7x R

Posted : July 8, 2020 7:52 am