Do you know if you are a good writer?
Answering; How do you know if you are a good writer?
I'll stick my neck out here. Why not? The jury is still out on my writing skills I presume since I have yet to be published so I will answer this question in my usual method of communication, through my personal experience.
Since I was a teenager I built a fictional world in which my friends and I would play our Dungeons and Dragons game. Our game grew bigger each year and our ideas even more so. Eventually I had accumulated so much information and original content my friends suggested I should write a book. I laughed the idea away for years, but one day I did begin writing and I wrote until my fingers nearly bled. I wrote an entire trilogy based on their and my characters and the world I had created.
So in love was I with what we had wrought with nothing more than imagination I had the utmost confidence in it. When the Shorecon came to Cherry Hill NJ and there was a writer's workshop hosted by Elaine Cunningham I wanted to be there. I wanted advice from fellow writers, I wanted feedback from peers. When I arrived I was elated to see Elaine Cunningham there and about ten people sitting on the benches.
I had arrived somewhat late and missed her initial talk. She wanted to begin the writer's workshop so she asked who had brought some of their work with them. I had brought a problem chapter of my first book with me, hoping for feedback. Not a single other person raised their hand!
I was aghast! I wanted feedback, but I didn't want my chapter passed around the room so I could be humiliated! Thank goodness that didn't happen. Elaine sat down to give out some autographs and talk to fans and she took my chapter and said she would like to read it overnight if I didn't mind. I was excited! I agreed to see her the next day at the convention so we could discuss my writing.
First thing she said to me, "Joe, I have to ask you, how thick is your skin?"
Uh oh. Red alert!
I said, "Very thick, ma'am, go ahead and give it me." I wasn't lying. My skin is thick. If there is one thing I can take it is abuse. If your a woman then you have twice as long as any man before I get up and walk out on you. If your a man you'll be fine as long as you don't get too personal. I can take it. Can you?
Elaine smiled, she made butterflies get up and scatter somewhere around my mid-torso. "Joe, while I think you are creative and have clear potential you may need a refresher course in english."
I can't help but laugh now as I think about it. She then proceeded to flag, bag and tag my chapter like an Iron chef deboning a tuna. I knew then that I was not yet a good writer. I was an amateur so in love with his one and only complete book that he couldn't see the blaring mistakes.
After that the best thing she said to me was this; "Don't worry about it. Most authors don't recognize their own flaws until they see their words in print. If your lucky I just saved you the trouble." She smiled and laughed. More butterflies and I made my humble and hasty retreat.
I took those words seriously and self published my first three novels as a sort of self education on writing. I never tried to market them or sell them, I only told friends about them and I doubt I even sold twenty of each. Knowing this the opinions I recieved I took with a grain of salt, good and bad. I truly did see the flaws of my writing better than ever and suddenly I was refocused.
It isn't just about proper spelling, its also about streamlining your words. The easier the read the better. Then there are another dozen things I could say to describe what makes a good book but in the end don't we decide that when we read a book ourselves? No two people have exactly the same tastes and preferences. After writing four more novels I believe I have finally found my voice and I have learned to accentuate my strengths yet admittedly still struggle with my weaknesses. Even now I have two camps of opinion on my writing. Some say I am not descriptive enough while others like the "describe as I go" technique I have used thus far. Will I change my style? I don't know.
What makes a good writer? You cannot please everyone and the key is to never please yourself. Always strive to improve. Do that and you will become a good writer. Have a worthy story to tell, tell it well, and you will be a good writer. In the end only you can decide if you are a good writer, and seeing your words in print could change your mind about that real quick. Good luck, you're going to need it.
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