What to Do When You’re a Bad Writer with a Good Story


These days it seems like writing a book is on everybody’s bucket list. And if you’ve got a great story, then it deserves to be told. But what if you’re a bad writer? Just because everybody wants to write a book doesn’t mean everybody is capable of doing it.

If you can recognise that you’re a bad writer, congratulations. It puts you one step ahead of all those people who can’t see it and persist in trying to write and circulate a book that is never going to get published, at least not in its current terrible form. And if you’re committed to getting your story out there regardless, here are a few options to help make it happen.

Learn to be a Better Writer
Oh, if only it were this simple! But if you’re determined that you, and you alone, must be the one to tell this story, then you need to become a better writer. Of course, learning to be a better writer can be either a long-term prospect or, for some people, an impossibility. But you’ll never know if you don’t try.

Whether it’s by undertaking a short course or a degree in writing or editing, by attending seminars and lectures, by reading widely, by joining a writing group, by practising a lot or by doing a combination of all these things (which would be my suggestion), there are no quick fixes, no fast tracks, no ‘Collect $200 as you pass Go’ options. You must accept that learning to be a better writer will likely take a while.

The benefit of this option is that once you learn to be a better writer, you will always be a better writer and it will improve all the writing you do in the future, whether you have one book or seven in you.

Find a Good Writer with No Stories
It sounds strange but there are plenty of people out there with great writing skills who couldn’t come up with a good idea if someone sneezed it all over them. For those people, collaborating with a bad writer who brings great stories with them might be just the thing.

You do need to be a very special kind of person to be able to collaborate – the right temperament, patience and the ability to compromise are essential. If you’re a control freak, I wouldn’t recommend it. But if you’re looking for a no upfront cost, split the profits later option, then this might be the way to go.

Hire a Good Writer
It shouldn’t come as any great surprise that if you’re prepared to pay for it, you can find exactly what you’re looking for. You can hire a writer just like you hire a babysitter, although they tend to be a lot more expensive and required for a lot longer. The writer for hire will listen to your pitch, estimate how long they think it will take to write your book and provide a quote based on their hourly rate. Be prepared – the quote will likely be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Hiring a writer isn’t an option for everybody. The significant cost puts it out of the reach of many. But for those who are able to afford an upfront cost, there is no splitting of the profits later. With a very successful book, this could simply be a very good investment.

When hiring a writer, you also have the option of still claiming the book as your own work. Football players do this all the time, hiring ghostwriters who are paid quite handsomely for their time and work but never mentioned once it’s time to publish. But you also have the option of crediting the ghostwriter, even though you retain all the publishing and profit rights. It entirely depends on the contract you negotiate with the writer you hire.

Hire a Good Editor
If you’ve already had a go at putting your story onto paper but are able to recognise that it is nowhere near publishable standard, you might be able to get away with hiring a good editor who is prepared to do restructuring and rewrites for you. There are still significant costs associated with this option but it’s nowhere near the cost of hiring a writer to write the book from scratch.

Some editors don’t offer this kind of service but some do (like me). Because I trained as both a writer and editor, I can provide a hybrid type of help, improving the writing as well as correcting all the standard editing issues (grammar, spelling, punctuation, formatting, etc).

It’s very important to find an editor who is a good fit for you. Sometimes the writer/editor relationship just doesn’t work. It’s not always a reflection on the editor, just on how that particular writer and editor worked (or didn’t work) together. So contact a few different editors and see who you feel most comfortable with. And ask for a sample edit on your first chapter or first thousand words so you can see exactly what you’ll be getting. When you’re spending thousands of dollars, that’s not too much to ask for.

Pitch the Story to a Television or Film Company
Writing a book isn’t the only way to get a good story out there. Television and film companies are always looking for good stories and they often recognise that the people with the great ideas sometimes aren’t the ones who will be able to bring them to fruition. It’s quite common to see television and film credits showing the story was developed by one person and the screenplay was written by another. And because they are so familiar with this scenario, they have plenty of writers on their books who specialise in working with people with great ideas.


As with many things, in the case of being a bad writer with a good story, often it’s who you know and how much you’re prepared to pay that is the difference between that good story staying in your head or getting out there in the world.


3 thoughts on “What to Do When You’re a Bad Writer with a Good Story

  1. Hello SWFW!

    Thanks for the post. I’m just curious. You’ve answered the question what to do when you’re a bad writer, but how do you know when you’re a bad writer? I’ve never been published, but I don’t think being unpublished qualifies you as a bad writer (especially when you’ve just graduated college and still have a lot of time to become published.)

    I think I’m a good writer that could always get better. I read books, blog posts (like yours), and try to improve my skills all the time. Do you think the quality of the writer is based upon their output or their work ethic? In other words, is it because their writing is just really bad or because they are just not willing to improve themselves or because they believe they’re good? Or is it just a combination of the two? I’d appreciate your thoughts.

    Thanks again!
    My Website: https://popculturegrinch.wordpress.com/


    • Such a good question! Not sure I can answer it though. There’s a reasonably famous quote that says there’s no such thing as a bad writer, only bad writing but maybe that’s just to make us all feel better about ourselves.

      I agree that being unpublished has very little to do with whether you are any good and based on the competent construction of your query and the thought behind it, on face value you’re not one of the bad writers I was talking about.

      I think there are some people out there who simply aren’t able to recognise bad writing (their own or others) and that’s usually when it’s a problem because it’s up to somebody else to tell them. Cue hurt feelings if not done right. It’s strange because I know I’m not a good cook or a good artist but I don’t get upset if someone tells me so. Writing, like so many other artistic endeavours, is one of those things that everybody wants to be good at. And because most know their alphabet and the basics of construction, they think that translates into the ability to write. Unfortunately, sometimes, it doesn’t.

      I think bad writing is a bit like bad art – I’ll know it when I see it. But coming up with some generic rules to identify it is a little more complex. That’s why it’s important to have honest beta readers, I guess. People who are prepared to tell us the truth about our writing, not just our mums telling us how clever we are.

      Anyway, thanks for reading and thanks for giving me a prompt to do something I like almost as much as writing – thinking about writing. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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