I've noticed that there is a difference between writers who do this halfheartedly and writers who go about it wholeheartedly. What is that difference? What is the line that separates OK fiction from good fiction and good fiction great fiction?
Stephen King said in his book On Writing: "While it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one."
There is a definitive point, or moment, or realization, where that distinction is clear--but perhaps it moves and shucks and jives to get out of the way. The reader knows something is up, feels it subconsciously perhaps, but just can't put their finger on it.
Stephen King also said: "We need to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten; such experience helps us to recognize those things when they begin to creep into our own work, and to steer clear of them."
I've noticed, as well, that the "mediocre and outright rotten" can be a great help to a beginning writer. And while I feel bad about discussing this sort of thing, it is sort of like the horror genre--it's something you definitely have thought about but were too afraid or thought it too taboo.
Of course, the "Bad" writer could very well be you. But it's a real thing. You can learn from them. That is, if you know how to look for it. It may be the way they describe something and you say to yourself, why do I need to know this? Or the writer has many blatant mistakes which he/she hadn't bothered to fix or have anyone read to catch the big ones. Sometimes there is just no magic. You can even have a writer who writes beautiful prose, and have superiorly accurate sentence structure, but if the story they are writer isn't interesting, or the way they are conveying it isn't entertaining where it sticks in your head and you want to keep reading about those characters, then you have a problem.
If the writer who is in the "bad" category doesn't know they are there, or can't learn from their situation, then there may be nothing you can do to help them. They may be arrogant, or don't want to admit they need some help. Either way, it's best not to get too involved with them, as they can drag you down.
When I come across writing that is really bad, I get just as excited as if it were a really good book. There is so much to learn. For instance, there was a book I came across by someone (I wont give details in-case one day that person reads this and knows it was them), but from what I understand, the person was offered numerous times to look over their book. They refused, and self-published the book online. People later found that the story she wrote was blatantly about her co-workers and it was a big joke. She went on to write another one, though I never looked into it. My wife had a copy and I thought let me see what it's about. Well, I'll just say I learned a lot from it. I don't feel bad, because I had even offered to help--just to look over it. It was so bad that even someone with no experience could have improved it greatly. The thing that really got me is the person felt they didn't need any help and put it out the way it was, with mistakes and all.
Now, there are the writers who write with terrible syntax--but still know basic sentence structure (don't get me wrong, you can't be terrible with the rules), yet there is some magic and they are entertaining and you want to keep reading. It feels like they are talking to you through their words, someone you've known for a long time telling you a story. You want to go on an adventure with them, see through their characters eyes, because those characters seem real and not something made up from one person.
It all comes back to why we are here in the first place. Writing. The key is to be true to the characters and what happens in real life; you see it every day, live it. If you have a knack for seeing things that happened day after day, and notice how people talk to each other and react, then it shouldn't be that hard. The next step is to funnel that into your writing. It's in your head, now it's time to get it out onto the paper. You have to get out there and do it and not hide behind theory. I know it's scary, and I'm very guilty of it, but it's what has to be done. And hopefully we will evolve together and get published.
As always, keep writing.