I’ve known I would be a writer since I was in first grade. My teacher asked us to write three double-spaced pages about a class trip to the moon, and I wrote 10 single-spaced pages (which may be why she always hated me, I hadn’t quite mastered pronoun use at that stage of my life). I wrote “novels” until I was in high school, and then the more reading I did the better my writing got. My high school English teacher praised my writing and encouraged me to keep going, and I continue to improve now.
Writing isn’t easy, and it isn’t supposed to be. If it was, everyone could do it. Writing is a skill like anything else. You don’t expect to be good at basketball the first try or for everyone to be able to swim like an Olympian, so why does everyone seem to think that if you want to write, you can?
I’m not saying that writing should be exclusive. If you want to write, go crazy. Enjoy yourself. However, know that you might not be good enough to get published. I love soccer, but I knew I wasn’t good enough to play for college (and I was only good enough for high school because we had a no cut policy and we were constantly in need of players) so now I can only play for fun. It doesn’t bother me, because I don’t need validation as a soccer player. I know I’ll never be one of the best, but that doesn’t stop myself from enjoying the game when I play.
One of the problem with self-publishing is that it’s so easy that everyone thinks they can become an author. They devalue writing with that kind of attitude. If you like writing, that’s great. Write all you like and take criticism gracefully to allow yourself to improve, but until you honestly believe that you’re a good writer and other people agree, don’t self-publish. You would profit much more from posting your writing on a free site for people to offer helpful critiques, rather than making unsuspecting readers buy a piece of work that should have never been published and making them angry over wasting that money.
I worked in the writing center of my school and let me tell you, I saw some terrible papers. One, of them was, written. Like this. And when, I asked the, girl. Why she, was using. Unnecessary. Punctuation. She said. “I didn’t know sentences could be that long.” Another person’s phrasing was absolutely terrible, and some guy’s paper was so boring and tedious it made my eyes bleed to revise it. These people knew they were bad writers, but there are some people out there who write just as bad but want to be a writer, so they convince themselves that they’re good and that other people are wrong.
Someone asked for feedback on their book, saying that it had been rejected a bunch of times and wanted to know if it was them or the publishers. I read it, couldn’t bare to finish it, and gave her my notes on what was wrong (which was a lot of things, from characterization to plot to grammar to being unrealistic). She ignored me, bashed me for being rude, and then went on to self-publish. Do you think that that book will help the author? She’s not going to make any money on a bad book, and she’s not going to improve in her writing when the reviews will say “don’t buy this book” rather than “maybe if the characters showed some sympathy in chapter five” or “the plot needs to be wrapped up better at the end.”
General Tips to Improve Your Writing:
- Take criticism. If someone says “your plot is weak,” they are not being rude. If they say “THIS SUCKS” and nothing else, then they’re being rude. Ignore them and seek more specific reactions.
- Write more. The more you write the more you’ll improve.
- Read more, especially in your genre. It will help you understand how plots and sentence structure works.
Now, the title of this is a little misleading. If you like writing, I’m not telling you to stop. However, I want every self-published novel I read to be just as good as the traditionally published novels. I want the stigma of self-publishing to go away. The stigma is there because of the people who think writing is for everyone. I want everyone who self-publishes an amazing novel to be able to get the pubic to read that novel, but they can’t do that if those readers first find a terrible self-published book and now won’t touch them.
This post isn’t just criticizing bad writers, it’s just some tough love. Wouldn’t you want someone to tell you that you were a terrible singer before you went on American Idol? (Although, some of those people don’t graciously accept Simon’s decision when they’re told that they’re terrible, just like some people don’t accept that they’re bad writers when they’re told.) A general rule of thumb should be that if you can’t find at least two unbiased non-friends and non-family members who themselves are writers that say you’re a good writer, you probably need to keep practicing.
Writing is a gift, just like musical talent or athletic skills. We need to keep treating it as something special, not as something everyone can do.