Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Are You Better Than The Average Writer?

I'm not ashamed to say I'm a pretty faithful follower of literary agent Nathan Bransford's blog, and today's post is a perfect example of why that is. Take a look.

Is that not the most awesome conversation starter ever?! Needless to say, the discussion got very exciting very quickly. I love debates, so of course, I had to jump in and argue my case. There were quite a lot of comments, so for the sake of simplicity, I've reposted my thoughts on the issue below:

I'm surprised at how many people either "played it safe" with their answers or didn't answer at all. I answered "yes" right away, no hesitation. I don't consider that arrogant at all.

This is an industry that will eat your confidence for breakfast if you let it. In order to even get in the door, I have to convince you (the agent) to believe in my ability to tell a story. I have to sell my point-of-view to you. So, if I'm not confident that my work is better than average, why should I expect you to think it is?

I agree that it's difficult to tell the quality of someone's writing just from blog comments; personal blogs are a better indicator of that. However, I disagree that you can't know whether you're a good writer or not. I've seen enough "average" writing to know I'm better than average.

Do I still have a lot to learn? Absolutely. But I know my skill level. There's a difference between arrogance and confidence. Arrogant writers think they're perfect. Confident writers know where they need improvement, but they also know how they stand out from the crowd.

Hard work and "luck" aside, this business is all about standing out from the crowd.

Great question, Nathan! I had fun thinking about it!

Time for you guys and gals to share now. And let's tweak the question just a tad: Do you think you're better than the average writer...not just on this blog or any blog in particular, but better than the average writer in general? If yes, why? If no, why not?


  1. I like to think I have a unique perspective and voice, along with some good experience fodder to funnel into my writing. (Notice how I'm avoiding answering the question as posted?) :)

  2. Hehe, yes I picked up on that, Angie! You know what, I don't blame you at all. It's a sticky sort of question. I tend to tell it like it is, so I took a stance, but that could probably get me in trouble one day...

  3. Yes.
    I can see a book or two in my career where, with what I know now, I could have nailed aspects of it better. But after spending 15 years as a book editor and ghost writer, the pure construction aspect I have down. I just can spot the "show don't tell," passive voice, and things that new writers (and old) stumble with. I've been in a rock solid critique group for 15 years. I've been able to write across genres.

    But I think the bottom line is I've also lived enough to know I have something to say, quirky enough to know how to create a character who's a shade left of normal . . . I'm not interested in writing anyone else's stories, just my own . . . I found my "voice."

  4. Erica, I know you don't need my affirmation, but I agree with you 100%! I truly admire your skill and accomplishments, and I hope to one day build a career as solid as yours. You go, girl! Do your writing thang!

  5. I answered Yes to Nathan's question and I can't decide about yours---there are so many variables. The big thing for me is knowing I'm getting better at writing every day I sit down and write.

  6. Yes, there certainly are a lot of variables to both questions! That's what makes it so fascinating to me. I think how you look at the question says more about you as a writer than what your actual answer is... But that's another post entirely ;-)