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Friday, October 10, 2014

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

First, I'd like to announce that Sesshyowl won my Attack on Titan giveaway. Yay! Thanks to everyone who entered. We had 1,673 entries! Don't forget about our Dr. Who giveaway happening now. Second, I saw this post about the difference between being a beginning writer and a bad writer on Shallee McArthur's blog and knew I wanted to use as a guest post on mine. So here you go.

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.


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