If You Want to Write, Don’t Barf on Your Readers

If you want your written word to appeal to others, you need one thing.


But not just any readers.

You need a writing group.

If you’re unfamiliar, a writing group is friends or relatives, willing or locked in your basement, who critique your work on a regular basis. They will also hold you accountable for completing new work for them to appraise.

One of the hardest parts of writing for me and I think most people, is establishing a level of consistency.

It’s like working out. You need to do it enough that you establish a solid foundation. It’s why for so many people P90X turns into P12X.

And that’s what a writing group is perfect for. Imagine you knew Tony Horton was going to rip the covers off your bed and do squats on your chest until you went and worked out with him. I almost guarantee that if everyone received that kind of personal attention, there’d be a lot of slim guys and gals with confused muscles… or whatever he does to them.

Your writing group pushes you, doesn’t let you miss a week, doesn’t let you turn in a sorry excuse for a submission and demands you do better with every one.

Frankly, I sorely underestimated the power of a writing group. I have a pretty high opinion of myself and my writing and doubted the feedback would be useful. I have since recanted.

The problem is, the scenes you envision ONLY exist in your head. The backdrop is already set, characters are detailed and dressed appropriately (unless you are writing a nakie scene), their actions are effortlessly natural (unless you are writing a first time nakie scene).

Yet when you try to gather your thoughts on paper, you’ll miss things. Lots of things. And even when you re-read it, you’ll miss them again. Because you already know what is supposed to happen, the words you write supplement, rather than create, the scene.

Time for an extremely graphic and accurate analogy.

I just finished a delicious lunch consisting of a raspberry donut, a Rockstar, a burrito and a glass of raw milk. If Tony Horton burst through my kitchen wall and punched my stomach, I’d spew everywhere.

If a stranger then came and examined my sick, he’d have a lot of guesses at what I had just eaten. But they wouldn’t quite be right. To me, the bits and pieces of my rainbow yawn would paint a perfect picture of my diet, but only because I had the lunch menu to sort it all out.

A writing group is the compromise, the bystanders plugging their nose while pointing to the  milk carton, the empty Rockstar can and the jelly dripping from my fingers.

And that’s about enough of that analogy….

Basically, as I’ve mentioned before with character building, it’s your job to get things right for your reader and a writing group is the easiest way to accomplish that task.

Don’t make reader’s guess, don’t make them assume.

Don’t make them feel like they’re sifting through barf.

122 thoughts on “If You Want to Write, Don’t Barf on Your Readers

  1. asignoflife says:

    I’m just starting out with a concept for a book I’d like to write, and I definitely have run into this problem before.Thank you for putting my dilemma in such an amusing fashion!

  2. rastelly says:

    Every book seems like barf to me, I have trouble concentrating on things and find
    even bestsellers confusing – but I read anyway. I like how you compare this type of
    writeing to barf, I once read about a man who made artwork only to destroy it when
    it was finished – only a few of his works were rescued. He felt his visions just had to
    come out – he had to barf in other words.

    Most Modern artists I think – like to barf on canvas. Though unlike writers, people
    tend to let them do it.

  3. Matthew Wright says:

    Cool analogy. That dissonance between the perfection of concept, and the way it actually comes out when it’s written. And there are, alas, a lot of books which seem to get into print that consist of – well, barf.

  4. UtahMan&Wife says:

    In our case, it wouldn’t be too hard to sift through our barf since we eat so little, and only have one thing at a time in our stomachs. Ergo, I think a Writing Group would beg us to please spare them, and save ourselves, by NOT writing!

  5. sex2poetry4life says:

    I’ve worked extensively with upcoming writers at a number of major publish houses and I can tell you allt he advice you give here is rock solid. Successful writing is 10% talent, 90% good habits and I am being generous in my allowance of talent there 🙂

  6. Amit Srivatsa says:

    I am always telling my writer friends about the need for us to proofread each other’s writes. What my motivation speech lacked was a good metaphor. Thanks to you, I now have a great one!! 🙂

  7. dlaiden says:

    Curious analogy, but truer words have never been spoken. Now I need to go reconnect with my old writing group…

  8. acflory says:

    lmao – I love your analogies but I question your conclusion. I agree that getting feedback is critical but does it have to be during the creation of that first draft?

    Yes, having the expectations of others is an effective goad to keep you writing on a regular basis but their feedback is not necessarily going to be ‘good’ for your story. I’m not sure I’d have the confidence to ignore critiques that early on if I really believed they were wrong, or at least wrong for /my/ story.

    Then again this may tie in to the ‘plotter’ vs ‘pantster’ debate. I’m a pantster so I need to work things out for myself before I ask for help and feedback. A plotter may see things very differently. Either way though, beta readers are a necessity at some point because, as you said, writers need readers. 🙂

    1. Peter Monaco says:

      Yeah I don’t mean to imply that feedback is critical for your first draft. However, I know there have been instances in my story where a reader pointed out something that would have caused a lot of rewriting if I had finished before hearing it. But I am definitely a plotter so like you said, it could also be a difference in style.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s