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Do you know if you are a good writer?

Updated on April 9, 2012

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.

Ancient Tool of the Trade

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    • Barnsey profile image
      Author

      Barnsey 5 years ago from Happy Hunting Grounds

      Why thank you, now i'm going to check out your handiwork again! Excelsior!

    • empire mike profile image

      empire mike 5 years ago from empire, colorado

      barnsey, i really appreciate your comment of strawberry park, and your hub is so perfect for what i just went through. it started writing itself in my head last night as i was trying to go to sleep. i didn't feel like writing it tonight, but did it anyway. liked it and then accidentally deleted it. had to rewrite. like it better. published it and edited it about ten times after you commented on it. in the short time i've been doing this- shorter than you- i've published a couple of things that i knew wouldn't be received well, but that wasn't my purpose in pubbing them wasn't to get good comments, or any comments. it was something i needed to do. so, like you commented to becky, write from the soul outward, do it for yourself, and enjoy doing it. good talking to you, man. i want to read more of what you have to say.

    • Barnsey profile image
      Author

      Barnsey 5 years ago from Happy Hunting Grounds

      Absolutely right, Kebennett1! Good luck and thanks for commenting! Self editing is the next challenge!

    • Kebennett1 profile image

      Kebennett1 5 years ago from San Bernardino County, California

      Barnsey thanks for the advise! It's back to English school for me! I love to write but I know I'm flawed. Learning is a never ending proposition when you want to be published some day.

    • Barnsey profile image
      Author

      Barnsey 5 years ago from Happy Hunting Grounds

      Show the world what you got and write from the soul outward! Good luck, Becky!

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Since I just started to write 6 months ago, I don't know if I am good or bad. I do know that my college writing professor told me that I had great promise.

    • Barnsey profile image
      Author

      Barnsey 5 years ago from Happy Hunting Grounds

      There is a great sense of accomplishment upon truly finishing a novel, then a great sadness upon learning no one cares! It is a tough road but when you find that story you truly love to tell it will take you like the tide and push you outward. Good luck and thanks for commenting!

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 5 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      This is a great Hub, I have thought about writing a book for several years now, but I can't seem to get past the first chapter. I plan to continue to work on it, and in the mean time keep writing short stories and articles.

    • Barnsey profile image
      Author

      Barnsey 5 years ago from Happy Hunting Grounds

      Thanks for the read, Carbon12, and for the follow!

    • carbon12 profile image

      carbon12 5 years ago

      Good hub. I think a great writer is someone who is willing to learn, who listens to their readers, and someone who can use feedback, good or bad, to their benefit. Thanks for the read. Got my vote up. Have a great day my friend.

    • ThePelton profile image

      ThePelton 5 years ago from Martinsburg, WV USA

      I would also like to recommend a book: "The Writer's Journey" by Vogler. The most recent edition has a hedge-maze on the front. This is a very valuable source for any would-be author.

    • Barnsey profile image
      Author

      Barnsey 5 years ago from Happy Hunting Grounds

      Thank you for the read! Your the best! lol! I mean You're the best!

    • profile image

      mewlhouse 5 years ago

      Your use of "your" is spelled "you're". Other than that I liked what you had to say. I would add that reading countless volumes of great literature, and recognizing what it is, will help you immensely to "know" when you yourself are writing it, no matter what any others say. It matters little to be published or read by others except for your own feelings for wanting to be acknowledged, which is natural and something most of the "great" ones have suffered through.

    • Barnsey profile image
      Author

      Barnsey 5 years ago from Happy Hunting Grounds

      Words to live and write by, Thank you ThePelton!

    • ThePelton profile image

      ThePelton 5 years ago from Martinsburg, WV USA

      Roll with the punches, and keep writing. Write a lot, because that's the way to get better. Some great novels have been rejected multiple times before finding a publisher, and winning readers.

    • Barnsey profile image
      Author

      Barnsey 5 years ago from Happy Hunting Grounds

      Thank you, I need all the positive feedback I can get!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Thank you for your honest response to this question! :) I loved your use of similie: "like an iron chef de-boning a tuna." That's great. I'd say you have CLEAR POTENTIAL. :D