Friday Speak Out!: Write Away the Suck

Friday, January 16, 2015
by Sioux Roslawski

There are two comedians who—every time I see them perform—make me snort and laugh out loud. When I watch them do stand-up I place bets on the absorbency of my pantyliner. Every single time they give stellar performances. I’ve never seen them have a bad night. I’ve never considered their performance merely mediocre.

Sadly, one of them took his own life in 2014. But the other is Chris Rock. His delivery, his pointedness, his facial expressions make him irresistible to me.

Recently Chris Rock was on the David Letterman show. Dave was speaking of Rock’s new movie, Top Five, and asked him how long it took to write the screenplay.

“It took three months just to get out of the suckin’.”

Letterman said, “I didn’t know you could write away the suck.”

Writers know this all too well. Most of the time, our first drafts are so far from stellar, they’re in another solar system. However, what we do with that horrible draft separates the whiners from the shiners.

Let Your Critique Partner/Group Pounce On It

You may think there’s nothing of merit in the piece. It’s directionless. The characters are wooden. The ending isn’t anything to savor. Whatever. Have no fear. Your writing colleagues will be able to offer some possible solutions. Be sure to tell them what you’re wondering about, and I can almost guarantee they will deliver.


Dive into some well-written books that would be on a bookstore shelf next to yours. There might be a line that makes your creativity explode. You might stumble on a strategy they used that you can modify. Even if you can’t point to one thing in particular you got from your little reading rest-stop, you’ll absorb and assimilate--and your own writing will benefit.

Save, See and Slash

Don’t delete that draft that’s stuck in Suckville. Save it. Examine it so you can see what is worth keeping, and slash the rest.

Several years ago I finished NaNoWriMo victorious. In one month I had written 52,000-something words. I thought I had something clever and fresh and connected. However, after a closer look, along with my writing friends reading it (writing critique friends don’t let their friends write crap), I realized I’d spent a solid month suckin’. I licked at my wounds for a while, and then I read. I read lots. Freeman by Leonard Pitts, Jr. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. Sandra Dallas. Jodi Picoult. And when I read Pat Conroy’s South on Broad, Conroy gave me a gift: a three-word question that I am going to use towards the end of my WIP.

So, if your first draft isn’t anything to rave about, don’t despair and don’t discard. If you do something with it—instead of whining—you might just end up with a winner…

* * *
Sioux Roslawski is a freelance writer in St. Louis, along with being a 3rd grade teacher. Her stories appear in fourteen Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, along with several volumes of the Not Your Mother’s Book series. She’s quite proud that there is only one set of ellipsis in this post (It’s a miracle!) and is hoping that—when it comes to her WIP—she’s out of the suckin’. More of Sioux’s musings can be found at

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Renee Roberson said...

Oh, boy do I know all about writing away the suck! My very first novel did a whole lotta suckin.' But I stuck with it, changed the POV, hired an editor, took the opening pages to SCBWI conferences, and am getting ready to send to a few beta readers. I'm done with the whining and ready to start shining!

Off to share this post on my social media pages :-)

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Yes, to everything you said. My great fear is always that I'll get something published before the suckin' is fixed because, you know, stuff does fall through those cracks sometimes. And once it's out there, well . . . it might not be a career-ender, but it could sure stall things for a bit.

Val said...

Sadly, sometimes suck is forever. I've chucked a few minor projects. And should have chucked a few more.

You've gotta know when to chuck it, know when to pluck it, know when to walk away, know when to run...

A larger project, of course, is worth saving. Your blueprint should get the job done.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee---Unfortunately, I sent my Big Sucker to beta readers way too early...But I learned from that huge mistake. However, I don't think I would be heading (hopefully) in the right direction without the feedback from those beta readers.

I hope if you're ever in the St. Louis area, you let me know...

Lisa--Sucky stuff in cracks...That sounds a bit risqué. ; )

Val--Kenny Rogers? At least that song was from pre-plastic surgery days. But I imagine you have at least one major project in you. Perhaps a how-to guide for living in the country? Like a Martha Stewart guide to refined living (but with some spunk)?

Margo Dill said...

If I wouldn't have just come up with a new tagline, I think a perfect one would be: WRITE AWAY THE SUCK! :)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--Can I assume you've had to write out of the suckin' as well? ;)

Maude Lynn said...

That's exactly what I'm trying to do right now; write away the suck. When I have writer's block (as I do now), the only cure is write no better how bad the finished product is.

Tammy said...

How true! My favorite is dumping the worst into a file to drag out later. If I'm lucky enough and forgetful enough, my most brutally honest critic will read it: an older and wiser me.

Unknown said...

Great post, Sioux. And I agree with everything you said too. The first draft is just the beginning of the journey. You've got to suck before you can shine, and there's a whole lot of hard work in between.

Bookie said...

So well written, Miss S! My problem is I have no good reading partners. I have recently found ONE who helps and I don't want to wear her out! But other friends, and other writing friends, just are writing my kind of thing. I won't give up though...and yes, I have a great number of computer files with sucky stuff in the them!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Mama Zen--I find it hard to believe that you write anything sucky or eve have writer's block...

Tammy--That's the key--not always listening to our worst critic...ourselves.

Terri--"Suck before you shine." I like that. Pehaps you can put it on t-shirts...

Claudia--I have lots of sucky files as well. And I'm right with you--I sometimes feel sorry for my critique group, like I'm making them weary month after month. But that's the gift we writers give AND receive--the gift of honest critique.

Linda O'Connell said...

I just went back and revisited some of my sucky poetry and actually, instead of deleting, I revised. Much to my surprise, I mined a nugget. You are right about writing through the suck. Great post!

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top