The Difference Between Being a "Beginning" Writer and a "Bad" Writer

Apr 16, 2013

So. Hi there. It's been a while. Some personal stuff meant I took a sort of impromptu blog break, but no worries-- all is well! And the time off gave me a chance to muse on further blog topics, so here goes!

I've been thinking a lot about writing, publishing, and how it all "works." For me, personally, I've been writing for years. And I'm going to be honest: it took a while for me to write anything that could be considered a good story. But here's the thing. That doesn't mean I was a "bad" writer when I started out. I was a BEGINNING writer.

Nobody listens to an eight-year-old slaughter Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the piano and says they're a bad pianist. They're learning. They're figuring out which notes are which keys, and which fingers go where, and how to play them smoothly, and quickly, and correctly. And that's wonderful.

Writing takes time. We start off slaughtering a semi-decent idea. And that's wonderful. Sure, it's no masterpiece. It's our first, or third, or seventeenth attempt, and we managed some words on paper that resemble a story. We learn about character development, and which plot points go where, and how to pace things and add emotion. When I look back on my early writing, I smile at myself-- not because I'm laughing, but because I'm proud of my beginning-writer-self.

Because being a beginner is HARD. It takes more work. It involves more frustration. And yet we slapped those stories together and made something real, even if it was just a rendition of Twinkle Twinkle.

One reason I've brought this up is because of the instant gratification of self-publishing. Now, don't misunderstand-- I think self-publishing can be a fabulous and legitimate way to publish your work. I've read some incredible works that have been self-published. BUT. I think it's a path that's, if possible, even more fraught with obstacles than traditional publishing.

One thing I've noticed is a lot of people who query like crazy, don't get signed, and decide to self-publish instead. Again-- this is NOT necessarily a bad thing. There are a myriad of reasons a book may not get picked up. But it's important to remember that one of the big reasons is that the book is just still a little too close to the beginner end of the scale. And there is NOTHING wrong with that. With self-publishing, the cautionary tale is taking that beginner-end novel and shopping it to the masses. In a way, it's selling yourself short. Instead of moving on to the next book and getting further along the writing path, it can hold you back by keeping you focused on a story that's just not quite there yet.

I may get some flak for this, though I hope not. Self-publishing, just like traditional publishing, is a completely personal decision, and often depends on the individual book. It can be a valid, and sometimes better, way to get your particular story into the hands of readers. It involves a heck of a lot of hard work, and I have serious respect for those who do it.

But it's not something to rush into. Yes, moving from a beginning writer to a competent writer to a great writer takes time. We're all still hiking somewhere along that path. It's okay for it to take time. It should take time. So let it. Enjoy it. Don't let the world of the internet tell you that publishing is something you must achieve by this time next year.

You are not a bad writer, no matter where you are along the path, as long as you're moving forward.

So, my friends, what are your thoughts?

22 comments:

LisaAnn said...

Well said, my friend. I agree that self-publishing can a wonderful avenue, but--like it or not--self-published books often have to wade through seas inhabited with other self-pubbed books that maybe weren't ready to see the light of day yet. This makes it that much harder for readers to find that wonderful diamond hiding beside all that rough.

LisaAnn said...

P.S.- I hope your twists and turns have righted themselves. Thinking of you!

ilima said...

So so true. I would be horrified if I had self-pubbed that first book (which I thought at the time was genius). Years later, and I'm finally at a spot where, with the help of others in the industry, I'm comfortable with putting my writing out there. It's hard work, and I don't think I'll ever stop growing as a writer, but it doesn't mean I sucked at the start, just needed to grow a bit. :)

akossiwaketoglo.com said...

Well you're right when you say any publishing path chosen is a personal decision.
It's hard for me to not think of myself as a bad writer most of the time.
You start out as a beginner but how many years do you remain a beginner? how many manuscripts until you're no longer a beginner?
I'm guessing there are no definite answers but those are the questions that came to mind after I was done reading this.

Great post though. Good food for thought. :)

~Akoss

Michelle Merrill said...

Awesome post! And I don't think you should get slack. But I will say that there are even beginner writer's that make it through traditional publishing too. It's not that their writing is bad...it just sounds more on the beginner scale when I read it. And there's nothing wrong with that. Obviously the writing wasn't terrible and the premise was awesome, just wasn't the best thing the author will write. They have the advantage of being with an agent that will continue to help them along their career. But that takes time and everyone is at a different place on the scale.

You KNOW that I was a beginner when I began. It was super obvious. And I've worked hard. Really, really hard. And even though I still might be a bit of a beginner, I'm proud of where I've come from and am excited for what lies ahead :)

Thanks for the post. It's good to see you here again!

Donna K. Weaver said...

So true. And why your betas shouldn't be only family members. Shouldn't even be mostly family members.

Melanie Fowler said...

It's just like you said, traditional publishing and self-publishing are good. They are both respectable forms of become in an author, but... again like you said, you can't rush into it. You can't just write a book and publish it the next day. It takes work to fix the typos or mistakes. I recently read the beginning of a book that was self-published and the idea was fantastic, but the misspellings and confusing dialog tags prevented me from wanting to read on.

Romance Book Haven said...

A great post and so true!

Nas

Janet Johnson said...

What a great post. I sometimes feel I move all over that scale all the time, but hopefully overall I'm getting better. But there's nothing wrong with beginning writing. We all have to learn somehow. :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Excellent points. Self-publishing can lead to great success--but there are certain rigors to traditional publishing that can really help a novel become its best version.

Laurelin Paige said...

I am self-publishing a book on July 31st, and I totally agree with you. It was a decision my agent and I made together WITHOUT subbing it at all. If we had subbed and it had been rejected, I would not have wanted to put it out there. We are doing it, actually, for reasons related to traditional publishing that I can't go into right now. But I do feel exactly what you are saying. I don't think self-publishing is necessarily the place to go if you can't get published traditionally. Likewise, I don't think you should always accept a small pub offer just to get your book out there. They aren't easy decisions. It requires lots of thought.

(I notice you didn't promote this o the WrAHM page. LOL)

Lynda R Young said...

Yep, I totally agree and it's a good way to look at it. We never stop learning too.

Yolanda Renee said...

As a self-published author and now a soon to be published author with Curiosity Quill press, I agree.

I still have my first book, my first effort from 20 years ago, bound on the book shelf, and it's laughable. My self published book, originally only meant for family got me interested in the process. But being self-published, at least back in 2008, it was derided. Today things have changed dramatically.

Still, it takes a lot of time, and effort, and yes, money. Using a 'real' editor is one of the keys, understanding marketing is another.

No matter what choice, be informed!

Kami McArthur said...

I loved this post so much!!

Saumya said...

Great post and so many important points to keep in mind. I'm glad I didn't self publish my first attempt at a book. It seemed so great at the time but now I have the insight and practice to know that it wasn't good enough. At all.

L said...

I enjoyed reading your post. I believe that you couldn't run a marathon without practice and that is what you must do with writing. I hope I will improve with practice.

stardancepress.com said...

Oh, so true. My first novel, even my second, and all the other incompletes along the way ... they should never see the light of day.

And I say this as someone who IS going the self-publishing route with my current novel, but that is because it's an odd genre and wouldn't be likely to find a home with an ordinary publishing house, not because of query rejection!

As with anything that is worth doing: practice, practice, practice.

dianalong87 said...

Such a great post! It's a good reminder to us that are beginning writers that just because our story doesn't resemble something written by Chloe Neill means we're a bad writer. We need time to figure out how to add the right amount of tension and imagery without boring the reader. I loved your example of an 8 year old playing 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star'.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I agree with the 'Begining writer' bit. We are not bad writers, we are learning the craft of writing with each book, and hopefully getting better and better at story telling.

DL Hammons said...

I agree 100%. The most damaging thing I've seen taking place in self-published books is the decision not have the material professionally edited.

David P. King said...

No flak from me. Spot on, is more like it. :)

Naina Gupta said...

This was such a great post. What a helpful read.

 
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