Raising The Bar

Have you ever thought you were good at something and then encountered others who left you in their dust? If we’re honest, we should all be answering, “Yes.” After all, we don’t become experts at something overnight. There’s always a learning curve. Even if we’ve now mastered something, others were there before us.

That’s a younger me at left. The image at right is courtesy of Microsoft clip art.

For some, mastering a sport or skill or creative endeavor does seem to come naturally. They don’t spend much time on that curve. Most of us, though, have to work long and hard, even when we love what we doing, be it playing baseball, crafting a beautiful piece of furniture, or writing fiction. You know the athletes who competed in the Winter Olympics earlier this month didn’t just pick up their skis, skates, and brooms last year, or even five years ago.

So it should be no surprise to me, who only started writing fiction in 2009, that my writing still has a ways to go before it’s good enough for public consumption. How do I know this? I read.

And one of the wonderful things about blogging is that I’ve met other newer writers, and, as some of them reach the big leagues (being published), I’ve had the chance to read their works. And I’m blown away by some of them.

Most recently, I read Jennifer M. Eaton’s Paper Wishes. Jennifer was kind enough to offer her 2013 top commenters a complimentary copy of one of her books, and this is the one I chose. Paper Wishes is contemporary romance. Although not my usual genre, I try to stretch my reading now and again. The blurb for the book is: Jill has no idea what she wants for Christmas, but when it looks like her best friend Jack is going to get exactly what he asks for, Jill makes a Christmas wish that will change both of their lives forever.

Even though I know how much work Jennifer put into this story, the final version reads so easily, as if the right words naturally fell into the right combinations on the page. While I was reading the story and enjoying it as a reader, the writer in me couldn’t help but take notes.

As, for example, on “Show, don’t tell.” Three simple words that describe one of the most difficult concepts for new writers to grasp. But take this sentence as an example: “I smiled as the familiar rumbling roll of my best friend’s chair ended in a bang against the outer wall of my cubicle.”

Doesn’t that speak volumes about Jack’s personality even before we meet him?

Or, how about giving a reader a clear picture of a character without flatly stating, “This person is a ***.” You know what kind of woman we’re dealing with from this single sentence: “The girls club streamed from the bathroom, leaving Monica smoothing her skirt and checking her butt in the mirror.”

These are just two examples, but they show Jennifer’s mastery of some of the key elements of story telling. And the entire story, even though it’s a short, is well-paced and provides a great balance of tension and conflict as it reaches “the end.” Looking at my own manuscripts in comparison, I see where they fell short.

The Bar is Raised

When faced with the realization that we’re not as good as we thought, we have options.

1) We can quit

We may come to understand that we’re not cut out for competition. Or we realize we’ll never be good enough to win, no matter how hard we try. And we decide to move on to something else. You know what? That’s okay. These activities are rarely life or death matters. I enjoyed riding as a young girl, but my life didn’t depend on mastering the ability to jump obstacles from the back of a horse. Beyond the financial constraints, my heart wasn’t set on becoming a professional rider. When others were obviously better than I would ever be and other interests came along, I gave up the riding lessons and didn’t look back.

2) We can keep trying

We recognize that the bar has been raised and aim to clear it, too. We can work to improve our skills. Train harder. Study more. Practice, practice, practice. We may come in last. We might fall off the horse. But we can keep at it. And over time, we may just win a round or two. At some point, others may start looking to us as the example to follow.

When it comes to writing, I’m still practicing and studying as I rebuild my two manuscripts, trying to meet the consistent quality produced by good writers. Maybe someday they still won’t be good enough, and I’ll decide to quit. But that time hasn’t come. For now at least, I’ll keep at it.

A Fun Photo

I shot this Saturday at the Library of Congress. I was playing with the panorama setting on my Galaxy S4′s camera. I love the interdimensional visitors effect.

Featuring visitors from other dimensions or universes?

74 thoughts on “Raising The Bar

  1. Pingback: Raising The Bar-learning from your everyday read | Jennifer M Eaton

  2. I do agree with you about the ‘practice makes perfect thing. I think, although I may be wrong, that I write better now than when I started blogging three years ago. Just writing nearly every day, and wondering if each word has earned its place on your page improves it. That is my belief anyway.

    Like

    • I think you’re absolutely right. As with any endeavor, regular “exercise” will strengthen our abilities, whether physical or mental. That doesn’t mean everyone will reach the top, but we will all see some level of improvement. And from what I read of your writing, you are definitely good!

      Like

  3. I enjoyed ‘Paper Wishes’ as well. Nice crisp writing and a fun read, especially since I read it just before the holidays.

    I think you’re too hard on yourself, though. I’ve read your fictional Meghan Bode posts, and you have a nice, crisp writing style as well, exactly the writing style I most enjoy reading. Combine that with the intrigue of your archaeological mystery, and I think you’ll have genuine success. If it’s structure that’s holding you back, that can be overcome by rewriting the story (a lot of work), or starting fresh with a new project (daunting), or starting anew but bringing in elements of the previous story (less daunting). Either way, I’m glad you’re sticking with it. I look forward to seeing your name upon a published book some day!

    Like

    • I am my own worst critic without a doubt. On the one hand, I don’t doubt my ability with words, sentence structure, and the like. Give me a few rounds of editing, and I can get those right. But I see shortcomings in the overall story—namely creating enough tension and conflict, presenting enough obstacles, and giving characters sufficient flaws. That’s where the bulk of substantive comments come in from my beta readers. I know I’ve said before that I find a lot of modern fiction to be “over the top” in these areas. But I have no control over what “the modern market” expects and wants. I think my rebuilds are moving in this direction. But I won’t know if I’ve succeeded until I finish them and send them out for another round of beta reviews. I’m hoping the new versions will pass muster. If they don’t, then I’ll need to reevaluate my goals. Maybe I’ll enjoy writing for an audience of one, and that will keep me going on to write another story. And then I might switch my blogging focus to supporting those of you who are going with the larger audiences. But for now, tired as I may be, I’m not ready to give up!

      Like

  4. I think everyone already looks to you as an example to follow because you keep at it. The more we revise, the better the writing will be. I know how frustrating it can be when it doesn’t all fall into place. But it can take years to write a novel. You’ve already written two novels after writing for about five years. You’re way ahead of the game. :) And you’ve found an audience that loves your short stories. It’s true that most writers will always be in training in a way. Even the ones that have been writing for a lifetime.

    Like

    • That’s so nice of you to say! Even if I would suggest looking more at successfully published writers than to me for examples of how to do things right. ;)

      When I get down about my abilities, I do remind myself that I have written two novels. They’re not good enough to publish, but they’re so much farther along than many other attempts others have made. That’s an accomplishment in its own right. And after the last round of beta reads, I really thought I was shelving them for good. But then, months later, the characters started whispering about story revisions. And I realized I couldn’t turn my back on them. So we’ll see what happens with these rebuilds. Of course, I hope I’ll learn that I’m on the right track with them. But if not, I’ll reevaluate. Maybe new ideas will take their places. Or maybe I’ll turn from writing and focus on helping my blog buddies achieve their goals. Either way is a good way, I think. :)

      Like

  5. Love that picture of you jumping. My oldest daughter did that and loved it. Now she jumps her mountain bike. It’s cheaper to park and feed. This post was awesome. I read Paper Wishes too and loved Jennifer’s writing style. Isn’t it funny how that when we first start into writing, we think our story is so awesome and everyone will love it…but after studying it more and reading more, we realize how far we have to go still. I think when we raise the bar, it shows that we are maturing as writers. That’s good.

    Like

    • Horses were expensive in my day, and they’ve only gotten more so. ;) I didn’t go the mountain bike route, but I can see where that has the same sense of exhilaration as going over fences on a horse. Oh yes—I went through exactly what you describe. I was absolutely positive the books were “ready” for a broad audience. And then my awesome beta readers noted areas for improvement. And I read published works by new blog buddies. And I realized how far I still had to go. I learned that I need to do better. Now, I have to sit down and get there!

      Like

    • To be honest, that photo reminds me of my multiverse in Summer at the Crossroads. I’m hoping it’ll help inspire my writing. ;) Loving the writing is the most important thing. Anything else is icing on the cake. I’m still retraining my brain to remember that and to not get down if what I write doesn’t find a wide audience!

      Like

  6. I haven’t read Jennifer’s books, but I do enjoy reading her blog. The one you describe sounds wonderful.

    I know exactly what you mean. I feel that pressure every time I read something stunning. My knee-jerk reaction (i.e., Eris) is to think about going back to waiting tables, but then my creative spirit slaps me upside the head. I guess the nice thing about having quit once before is that you remember the agony, that it’s actually worse than the struggle of fighting to succeed. Hard to imagine.

    Anytime you think about quitting, just remember I said that it feels worse to quit than it does to fight. OK? ;)

    Like

    • On the optimistic side, I’d have to say these characters don’t have much quit in them. I thought I had shelved the manuscripts and would focus on new projects, like a novel for Meghan. But apparently Katharine, Madeleine, and the others have different ideas. ;) There’s still the question of whether I can make their stories entertaining/intriguing/gripping enough for a wider audience. I know I’m upping the conflicts, tensions, and obstacles (and hopefully character flaws). But will the efforts be enough to make the stories “marketable?” That’s still the 64,000-dollar question.

      And I’ve started my beta read for TOC—And I’m enjoying every minute of it. :)

      Like

        • There I go again…flying through the keys and submitting before I finish typing. I wanted to address your point about how your characters won’t let you go. I think there’s something to that. That’s what happened with me and Spark. I’m sure for every writer there are different reasons why certain stories grip them continually, but I think at the heart of it is always because their story needs to be told by that particular writer. Katharine and Madeleine and all the other players need *you.* They won’t leave you alone until they’re satisfied. A lot of that has to do with our willingness to learn the craft. If we refused to grow as writers, those characters would ultimately abandon us.

          Is this too deep for a Tuesday afternoon? ;)

          Like

          • I don’t think it’s too deep for today. ;) The post was a bit introspective, after all. I think Kat took the review comments as a challenge to write her own fiction. Remember—she’ll tell you the original stories are how things actually happened. But since those didn’t work as good fiction in “our” universe, she decided to make up something that might! Now, of course, I have to choose the right words and scenes to make those ideas work. And I hope I don’t disappoint her this time. I know Ally and Ben chose well with you, and I hope they’ll have the chance to step out on a public stage, too. They’re great characters with compelling stories—I hope you haven’t forgotten that! :)

            Like

  7. Once you get the words down like Jenn did, it helps to have a critique or two to help with the editing. Jenn works hard at her craft. I know this because I`ve helped by critiquing her work. She strives for the best she can do and then is not afraid to make it better–raising the bar.

    Every word Jenn writes makes her stronger, as a creator, and as an author. And I`m proud to know her.

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

    Like

    • Hi, Anna, thanks so much for stopping by to read and comment! Critters and betas are invaluable. I have some good ones, too, and they’re responsible for my understanding of just how far I still need to go with these WIPs. They are worth their weight in gold—as I’d bet Jennifer would say of you. She’s a great writer who works hard, and it’s wonderful to see her find success in the marketplace.

      Like

  8. I sometimes become disheartened when I read writing that I know I’ll never be able to match, but we all find our own way and we all like different things – the writers I love are very diverse, so when I’m less doubting of myself, I think there’s a place for me out there. I would be very disappointed if you gave up writing to help others JM, because I’d really love to see you in print one day!

    Like

    • The flip side of this post could be one about those times when we read a traditionally published low-quality book and wonder, “How the heck did this find an agent and press?” Much as my two WIPs weren’t ready for publication, I think they were far better than some works I’ve read!

      Thankfully, there is no “one” type of writing that we need to follow because that would get boring after a while. So on those days when I’m less doubting, I like to think there’s an audience, even if it’s small, that would enjoy my stories. To get there, though, still requires some major work. And I hope I have what it takes to pull it off. I was too naive and oblivious when I wrote the initial versions of the WIPs. Now I know better, but I haven’t caught my second wind to carry me to the finish line. Hopefully, I will, and you’ll see me in print before too much time goes by!

      Like

  9. That’s a great photo of the cathedral, JM :D

    I know there will always be many others who write way better than I do and I just love reading their work. Your examples of Jennifer’s work are brilliant, it takes a lot of hours and a real talent to describe people without ‘telling’.

    Like

    • I am ever-so-slowly grasping the concept of “show don’t tell.” But, boy, is it a tough one to master. Jennifer nailed it, though, in this story. Now, I’m sure she had to do major edits to get there, but not everyone succeeds at the task. There will always be many writers who are far better at the craft than I’ll ever be. For me, I’d be happy to get something out there that people would enjoy and that wouldn’t be ridiculed for everything that was wrong with it. :)

      I hope you’ve won the battle with Harold and are now sole ruler of the Writer’s Nook!

      Like

  10. Writing is like anything else, J– the more you do it, the more you learn and confident you get I think. I also think I’m a much “better” writer some days than others. I don’t know why that is but I know it’s just as important to write on those not so great days too. I like to give my characters habits or mannerisms that help make them seem more real.

    That pic is great! How did you do that?

    Like

    • It is easier to write on the days we feel good about our writing, isn’t it? I suspect being able to write on the not-so-good days is a sign of maturity and growth as a writer, much as when we have to drag ourselves out of bed some days for the day jobs. I’m working on the mannerisms, too. Even if they’re just “little somethings,” readers can identify more easily with the characters. It’s the flaws I have a hard time with!

      My phone’s camera has a panorama setting, so you slowly move the camera and it automatically captures overlapping shots. As I found out, though, if people cross through the area while you’re doing that, they get chopped off if they fall on the overlap. Something like that would be a great book cover, don’t you think? :)

      Like

  11. I must admit, that I STILL read stuff, close the book, and think “I will never be able to write like that”.

    I think to an extent we all have to learn to be out own person when it comes to writing. Learn what you are good at, and exploit it. (That is why you’ll find my work is dialog-heavy) The trick then is to discover what you DON’T know, and learn from masters. I have different beta readers for different purposes: One for scenery, one for imagery, one for emotional reaction, one for romantic elements, one for general editing (’cause my punctuation stinks) — and they all cross over and find things that the others didn’t see. I need all these people because I get so swept up in a story that I love that I become blind to what might be missing. Fully thing is, when they point it out, I smack myself and say “oh yeah, of course”.

    Thanks so much for the kind review, and I’m glad you enjoyed Paper Wishes. The story was far out of my genre, and I am tickled with the way it’s been accepted into so many peoples hearts. :-)

    Like

    • When these WIPs are finished, there will be far more dialogue than in the original versions. ;) I’ve come to realize that’s become my strongest suit, too. The Meghan Bode short stories made that clear. Tension, conflict, character flaws—those areas need a lot more work. I can’t thank my betas enough for pointing out those weaker areas. I hope they don’t feel bad—thinking their comments might have zapped my self-confidence last year. Because that wasn’t the case at all. It just got overwhelming to think how much more work these WIPs needed if they were to become good books. But even when we don’t make much progress, these characters don’t want to let go. And I don’t want them to, either!

      For being out of genre, your writing never gave that away. And that’s not an easy task to pull off! :) I can’t wait to read something in your genre—especially to see how the explosions go!

      Like

      • Ha! I’m a little nervous after a recent seminar I went to that suggested not to start with high action. The current work out to query starts with a plane crash. Then it slows to discovery, then chase, then ends in 75 pages or so of explosions. Definitely my kind of ride. We’ll see if the publishers agree.

        Like

        • I’ll bet you could think of a dozen stories you’ve enjoyed that start with high action. ;) Sometimes it seems that when I read advice from agents and editors, you see their own clients and authors doing exactly what they’ve been told NOT to do. It’s like the examples they show of successful queries—none of them fit the model the agents say to use. Argh! (And your work sounds just fine to this reader!)

          Like

      • You know what, though? Writing a romance taught me a lot. I did not have actin to hide behind, so I had to delve into Internal thought to fill the gaps. I ended up a better writer after the experience.

        Like

  12. I would only be repeating many of the comments above. I’m in the same sandbox with you–still learning, still not giving up. I also think about what Arthur C Clarke once said about how he knew he wasn’t the best writer out there but he strove to write the clearest prose he could. My take away from that is to discover and cultivate my strengths as a writer and not try to copy someone else, though I’d still try to learn from the greats.

    Like

    • I think dialogue has become the strongest part of my writing, far beyond what it was in the earlier versions of these WIPs. Meghan’s stories seemed to be a turning point in that respect. And I’m slowly getting the feel for “show, don’t tell” although I suspect I’ll always struggle with that. Time will tell if the changes that Kat and Kathryn have chosen for their stories will pass muster. I think they’re improvements in the sense that they’ll appeal more to readers—even though I know the changes aren’t really what happened in their lives. :) This time, I’ll try not to let them down.

      Like

  13. JM, I feel like I could have written this post. Like you, I started writing creatively in 2009, so I’m a newbie as well. I had a similar moment of realization last week. A blogger I follow recently launched a literary magazine, The Tahoma Literary Review. After reading his post last weekend, I clicked the link to check out his new mag’s submission guidelines. I knew right away I wouldn’t be submitting any of my current work. What he’s looking for is far above my current ability. I was disappointed, but fortunately it was short lived. I’ll reach that level some day. I just have to keep at it. Author Malcolm Gladwell wrote about putting in 10,000 hours of work in order to become proficient at any skill, and in that scope, I’ve got a long way to go.

    One of my goals for 2014 is to start submitting some of my flash fiction around to different magazines. I decided to focus my efforts on flash fiction after I realized I’m not ready to tackle novel writing yet (but I keep tinkering with my outlines anyway. It’s too much fun). Are my short stories ready to submit? Maybe, but I won’t find out unless I take them out for a spin. Something I’ve learned in this writing adventure is good writing is not a destination. It’s a journey in which we’re constantly building upon new knowledge and improving. Thanks for this encouraging post.

    Like

    • 10,000 hours and a million words of garbage. I’m not sure how far along I am when it comes to those numbers, but I hope it’s closer to the end than the beginning. When I read something that’s so well-written it’s hard to remind myself that the author probably has been at the writing game longer than I have. Of course, if I read something good from someone only three years in, I’d have a hard time not packing it in—even though I should realize they’re one of those outliers who masters something quicker than anyone else.

      I’m beta reading a story now, and I catch myself wishing I could write as well as the author does. Again, I remind myself she’s been writing longer and has a degree in English. She should be good! And she is. But there are too many days when I wonder if I’ll ever reach that point with the novels. Will I write something that appeals to readers, draws them in, and leaves them wanting more? My self-doubt loves to chime in with comments like, “No.” :P

      You are way ahead of me on the submissions front. I haven’t written anything that I would consider submitting, short or otherwise. Of course, that stems from shopping one of my novels, Summer at the Crossroads, far too soon. That was a painful lesson to learn. But I could only learn it by doing it. And I wouldn’t trade that experience or the knowledge gained from it for anything. We can’t know how we’re doing until we show our work to others.

      When I first started writing, it was just such fun to enjoy the ride and see where the characters would take me. Since then, I’ve learned so much about process and structure and “show, don’t tell,” and so many other technical and academic elements. In the process, I lost track of the enjoyment of the journey. I’m really trying to get that back!

      Like

      • Comparing our work to another writer’s work is like tiptoeing through a landmine – at least that’s how I see it. We don’t know what’s beneath the surface, meaning how long the writer has been writing, how many painful drafts and revisions the work has been through before it reaches our eyes. I’m guilty of comparing myself to others too, and it only ends in making me feel bad. The hard part for me is remembering writing is a process. The final draft often looks very different from the first. And my final is usually the best I can do at that moment in time. Hopefully 5 years from now, my final draft will be better by a factor of 5 years’ worth of work! You brought up a great point – Learning By Doing. That’s all we can do. Keep reading, keep learning, keep writing. But in the meantime, take your eye off the finish line and remember to enjoy the journey :)

        Like

  14. The quotation about travelling springs to mind – the one that goes something like, it’s the journey not the destination that matters.
    I love the photograph – it would make a great book cover!

    Like

    • That quotation is a perfect summation of where I want to be. When I started writing, it was simply for the sheer fun of it. It’s fine to have acquired other goals (finding an audience who will enjoy reading what I write), but they shouldn’t take away from the fun of it!

      That photo really has me thinking about a cover for Summer at the Crossroads. I’ll need a good one if I decide to go indie (which I probably will), and something like this could be perfect!

      Like

  15. Yes, yes, yes, I certainly can relate. Thankfully, I have a wonderful writer’s critique group that has some great writers. There are times when I think I’ll never match their ability. It doesn’t take long before I remember that I can learn from them. And, it always surprises me when one of them asks me for advice about expressing a character’s emotion. That is my strong point, where their strong points are more on description and settings. Even by just reading an author’s good writing, we can take tips from them. Keep up the good reworking. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

    Like

    • It’s easy on my down days to forget how much I’ve learned from those writers who are further along than me and also so much better. But I should also remember how many compliments I received on Meghan’s short stories about my dialogue and setting a scene and mood. There are aspects of story telling that I do well. Until now, though, there haven’t been enough of them. But further practice and study may very well change that. And I have to get back to enjoying writing simply for the act of setting down a story that no one else has done before. Do I want to be successfully published? Yes. But is that the only reason to write? Absolutely not!

      Like

  16. Great post. Thank you for being so honest and for sharing it with us.

    I look at my words some days and say ‘yeeeeeah, that was awesome’ while other days I just want to duck down, put my head in a bucket and fill it with sand.
    But even on the days I do do that, I (eventually) lift my head out and keep going.

    Every day I learn something new. A technique. A rule. An idea that I can nudge/mould/beat into something new. And that is part of the process for me.

    Each day I read something which raises that bar a little bit for me. What I love most is that through mingling with other writers, hanging out with my critique group and writing/editing something every day, I creep a little closer to that bar every time.

    That’s the magic of writing, at least for me.

    Like

    • Wow, you just wrote a fantastic blog post right here, Ileandra, and I hope earlier readers will come back to see it. :) I love those days when I feel like I’ve done well. I could use a few more of them to counterbalance all those days when I think everything I’ve ever written is crap. I know even the best writers still learn new ways to improve their work and strive to keep their words sharp and fresh. So it’s not like we ever stop learning. (Okay, maybe some popular writers should do more of that instead of resting on their laurels and “phoning in” the next story.)

      I think your attitude and outlook are perfect for reaching your goals and clearing that bar!

      Like

  17. You’re reference to ‘show, don’t tell’ is one of the best pieces of writing advice I think I’ve ever gotten.
    It’s even made me a better reader, too.
    Writing is hard work!!

    Like

    • Writing is hard work. And not everyone has what it takes to turn an initial draft into a good, polished story. I hope I do! “Show don’t tell” isn’t easy to put into practice. But I’m learning to recognize good examples in other writing, and I’m working it into my own. There may be hope for me. ;)

      Like

      • I’m with you on the recognizing it in other writing too. I read far differently since I’ve started writing. And hopefully I’ll write better now that I’m reading differently.
        I’m a ways off from submitting a book draft, but I’m working on a smaller piece to submit. Yikes!

        Like

  18. Concise rich sentences are jewels. There’s writing and casual story telling, but it has to be crafted a bit for the next level. It’s hard – some aren’t realistic about it. I’ve seen very talented writers expect instant success – and totally lacking interest to reenter the text to craft it for publication – not seeing it needed polishing. They just wander off, abandoning a good story that could be great. One was a very talented Asian writer from mainland China – she had stories of/about/for children – and I knew there was a big void in the market. But she didn’t want to take the time if it wasn’t good enough. Terrrible loss.
    Bottom line, is writers have to write. Authors are driven to get their “children” out there no matter what.
    Hang in there. Your writing is well worth the effort. (And stories so unique.)

    Like

    • I don’t want to be someone who quits because I think the first version IS good enough (and the heck with what anyone else thinks) or because I’m too lazy/unmotivated/disheartened to do the work that is needed to get to a good final version. I have to remember that there’s no magic time frame for reaching that goal. I might feel differently if I’d started writing in my 20s with the goal of making a living at it. But that’s not the way things happened. So while I don’t want to procrastinate, I also need to give myself permission to take things at a speed that works for me. And that will probably lead to me enjoying the act more and thus engaging in it more frequently again.

      Like

  19. You hit a bit of a nerve with me here. I’ve always felt like I’m reasonably good at quite a lot of things, but I’m never brilliant at anything! And sometimes it disheartens me when I see the bar higher everywhere with everything I do! Maybe it’s because I’ve always spread myself too thinly and tried to do too many things rather than really focusing on one. But then maybe we need both types of people in the world – those that put their all into one thing and really shine there, and those who are just reasonably good at lots of things. I love being blown away by somebody’s mastery at something though or an amazing talent, it’s not a jealousy thing (not usually anyway!).

    I really like the way Jennifer writes too, and she really does work at it, and gets as much feedback/critique as she can.

    I love your photo at the end there!

    Like

    • I should have linked to my “Jack of All Trades” post with this one! Because, like you, I feel like I’m good at a variety of things, but not outstanding at any one thing. So I’m rarely going to “win” at competitions like show jumping. But fiction is a different beast—there are so many genres out there and lots of people finding some level of success in each of them. Maybe that’s why I haven’t given up on it, even when beta reads show how much work is still needed.

      I’m happy enough if someone recognizes that I’ve done a good job on something, such as writing a good report and getting it out on a tight schedule. But I’ve never really had a desire for leadership positions, even if I thought I’d do a better job than someone else. So it would be fine with me if my writing found a small audience and I never wrote a bestseller. Even a few people saying, “I really enjoyed this,” would make me happy. :)

      Like

        • That is an excellent point. How would I really react to writing a book that gained a large audience? A blog post that attracts more than 100 views can make my stomach turn!

          Like

  20. JM, there are books I read and think I can never do this. Or I want to do this someday. And then I pull out my first draft from 2006 and laugh my butt off at how bad I was at everything. You’ve come a long way and you may not yet be where you want to be, but I know you can get there (or close to it). You are right about the two choices quit or keep trying. We wouldn’t be here if we both didn’t pick the latter.

    Like

    • I’ve had a decent weekend of writing so far (ca. 1,500 words, which is really good these days for me), including a clearer idea on how I’ll be linking up the bits of the revised story line I had sketched out. Some interesting surprises to say the least! But I’m enjoying getting back together with Catherine, Kat, and Kathryn, although saying goodbye to Katarina isn’t easy. But I think the new version will work better for readers. We’ll see when I get to the beta stage. ;)

      You’re so right, I’m better than I was, and writing has no final “you can’t get better than this” stage for anyone. Even the best writers know there’s always room for improvement. For now at least, I want to keep trying. And I am.

      Like

      • I’m working through a draft that I thought was awesome a year ago. It no longer is. I can see all the issues (after some very helpful comments from beta readers) and the book has gone from 61k to 75k in 6 weeks. I’m amazed by how much better I am at writing now than I was 1 year ago. It’s happened with every draft and every manuscript. I write the best book I can at that time. Unfortunately, in 6 months it’s a mediocre book and I have to take it up several notches.

        Like

  21. Yes, I remind myself I’m growing. I have to write. I want to write well. I can give up a project but not the craft. The decision to give up a project, or continue to work on it, is killer every time.

    Like

    • I thought I had shelved my first two WIPs. But the characters wouldn’t let go and offered ideas for revisions. I hope the stories will be “better” and will appeal to a wider audience. But only the rewriting and then beta readers comments will tell. I hope I’ll have written stories that will succeed. If not, I’ll probably be reevaluating my writing again!

      Like

      • Oh, I hope I didn’t give you the impression I thought you’d shelved anything! My comment was introspective. Your post spoke to me. :)

        Like

        • Oh, no—don’t worry! I was just elaborating on how I’d originally thought the first two WIPs were good, but then I came to realize how much work they would really need to reach that level. So I shelved them, thinking I couldn’t do what was needed to improve them. But then the ideas for the rebuilds came to me, and I decided to go back to them. Once they’re drafted again, we’ll see what the betas think. :)

          Like

  22. Your post resonated with me JM. An expression came to mind when I was reading, ‘If it was meant to be easy, everyone would be doing it’. Writing is hard work! They say ‘practice makes it perfect’ and you are right! Practice writing and honing your skills is the key. I have no doubt we will see your books in print :D

    Like

    • Reading encouraging words such as yours, Luciana, helps me more than you can know. They can help me through those days when I think everything I’ve written is garbage, and maybe I should just pack it in. Thankfully, my Muse will also step in to help guide the way when things seem darkest. Although this WIP has seen a variety of revisions, this is the third major overhaul of it. Maybe this one will be the charm. :)

      Like

  23. The keep trying option is definitely best. I think even best selling novelists keep trying to improve. I know the more I write the happier I am with my work. In about 40 years I might even have finished this book!

    Like

Comments are closed.