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Article: 'Are we there yet' what did you think?

edited September 2013 in - WM and WN
I am one of those people who never know if my writer is good and so often don't send work out. I let my fear get in the way of my writing. I read this article hoping for some support in banishing this fear (especially since I bought this magazine with the idea to enter some competitions and finally get writing). But this article just increased the fear!
It put more blocks in my head about whether or not I had what it takes to be a writer. The article just said you need to understand the basics but then "too many writers believe they have mastered the technical elements" but havn't I imagine. Then you must understand how to structure the story after mastering this list of basics. And then I guess you "should strive to improve .. basic skills and aim higher".
I was good honest advice but then it's not very helpful to those writers who are afraid. It offers no encouragement or even where you can get all this information from to master the basics etc except of course the writer of the article has conveniently written a book called 'before you write a word.'
I was always under the impression that writing is the way to learn to write. Over the years I've read a lot of writing books but never written enough. This article seems to set very high standards which means that those who are afraid their writing is not good enough will always think that.
The answer to are we there yet must me no and we never will be because how will we ever know if we have got all this right?

I did appreciate some of the advice and also agreed that some published books are quite poorly written. But I didn't find it very encouraging. The writers that have been described as 'there' are Mark Twain and Cormac McCarthy to name two. The others I've never heard of. Are they there? What about modern writers: Joanne Harris? Carlos Ruiz Zafron? Elizabeth Kostova?
Surely how good a book is, aside from the basics, is possibly a matter of opinion?

I just wondered what others thought. Are you discouraged like me?


  • I think you need to try smaller things at first to help build up your confidence.
    I'm fortunate to be part of a writers group who have various competitions, and judged by published writers, so I've been able to see what I was doing right, and what still needed work.

    I then set myself the task of improving those weak areas.

    We have the OWC here, which is a gentle way of putting your writing out to be judged, but within a safe environment.

    But at some point you have to be prepared to put those books aside and get on with writing and submitting.
    Rejection is a part of a writer's life, but when everything works and it gets accepted, it's wonderful and makes up for all the no thanks.

    Only you can take that big step...
  • Gods yes! All the bloody time. It doesn't stop me writing, though, any more than it can stop you.
    We're writers because we write. What are the basics? In my opinion the first ones are learning decent grammar and how to spell, but perhaps that's naive and/or old-fashioned.
    When I get a rejection I'm discouraged - but then so is everyone else.
    Don't let it get you down - many of these 'experts' are only self-styled ones in my opinion, and if you read a lot of that stuff you'll find much of it is contradictory.
    Just write, sweetheart - strive to improve, yes, but don't ever stop.
  • edited September 2013
    I don't think any aspiring writer can know if they're any good at it until they start submitting their work.
    I was very, very fortunate that the first time I submitted something for a competition I was shortlisted. This gave me huge encouragement and the confidence to continue - and now whenever I get rejected, I know it isn't because I'm totally useless. Not everyone is so lucky, but I would say that one of the best ways to find out if you're on the right track is to submit stories to competitions that offer critiques.

    So, I would say, forget the How To books and get writing and submitting - and accept that you often won't get it right. Doris Lessing said the only way to learn is to write - or something along those lines.

    Good luck, be brave and get on with it, Jen. :)
  • why dont you put some stuff on a good critique site - critiquecircle or youwriteon? You will get random anonymous reviews.

    Just write.
  • Thanks for that. I picked up this magazine and decided now is the time to start giving my writing focus by entering competitions. I might not win but at least I'm writing and can call myself a writer rather than keep saying I don't write enough. So far so good, I've been writing properly for a week, both a novel I'm working on and some stories for two competitions
  • Keep it up Jen :)
  • edited September 2013
    You're right in saying that the best way to learn to write is to write. It's certainly the way to improve. It does help to have a good command of spelling, grammar, and punctuation, or you will never impress an agent or publisher, no matter how good the rest of your work is.

    "How-to" books can be useful in some respects but they are largely about teaching you to write to a formula. Don't try to do that, whatever you do: it will take the life out of your work and give you no satisfaction.

    It is difficult for some people to get over the initial fear of submitting work and the advice given above, to submit for a critique, may be the best way to do it. Otherwise, continue to try to make yourself grasp the nettle. Good luck!
  • I dont think competitions will give you useful feedback.

    You really need impartial feedback from strangers - and even then it is a matter of opinion. You will just know if they hit the mark.

    I suspect you write v well, ;)

    what sort of stuff you do? It helps if you get feedback from other people doing same.
  • Hi Bill. I write supernatural/horror/weird fiction I guess. I've had critique from Writers' Forum in the past. I do write normal stories but find it difficult, they keep turning towards the more abnormal. I have also done a short story course via WM but that was ages ago and I didn't really write much after that. I'm entering some competitions, one closing the end of the month. Free entry so it doesn't matter if it's useless
  • accomplished/published writers enter comps and dont win, so dont take failure to win comps to mean that your writing isn't any good. It good be too good or just not suitable. It depends on the comp.
  • As bill says, it depends on the comp.
    I would add to that - it also depends on the judge's personal taste/
    Even in our own WM I have noticed the short story critiques - of the winners, that is - follow a pattern.
    One competition's meat is another's poison.
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