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How do you know when you are writing at a "professional" level (1 Viewer)

Llyralen

Senior Member
Well, you’re in good company.

My next step is to become like some writers on here… using WF mostly to post snippets of work and get feedback, recruiting beta readers and critique. But we can also ask style questions. I’m coming into the “tell me where I missed a spot” phase. But you can progress in many ways. Writing more is one of them, trying out different tenses and points of view and genre is another. Editing works (your own and others) and critiquing are all ways to improve. Actually “What did you try that improved your writing skills” might be a good thread topic.

I know I’m getting better because something I wrote in March that I absolutely loved, I now realize is a bit boring and I am going to have to re-write. I think I did it by writing in present tense and learning to punch-up dialogue in editing. But I’d be excited to find things to try that could leap me forward.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
Well, you’re in good company.

My next step is to become like some writers on here… using WF mostly to post snippets of work and get feedback, recruiting beta readers and critique. But we can also ask style questions. I’m coming into the “tell me where I missed a spot” phase. But you can progress in many ways. Writing more is one of them, trying out different tenses and points of view and genre is another. Editing works (your own and others) and critiquing are all ways to improve. Actually “What did you try that improved your writing skills” might be a good thread topic.
I have been getting into critiquing others work. Still not great at it, hope to get better as my skills grow. Sometimes I'm just like who am I to say anything with my skill level lol. But it's necessary, helps others with there writing and yours too. I judged last month LM challenge and try to regularly post pieces/snippets for critique as well. I recommend judging or posting if you haven't already done so.
I agree that would be a good thread~
I know I’m getting better because something I wrote in March that I absolutely loved, I now realize is a bit boring and I am going to have to re-write. I think I did it by writing in present tense and learning to punch-up dialogue in editing. But I’d be excited to find things to try that could leap me forward.
My writing still isn't great but compared to earlier this year it's gotten much better. Some members had pointed out my improvement since joining so that's always encouraging. Currently I want to work on scene structure and pacing cuz mine needs a lot of work. Now that I've learned to clean up my sentences a bit it's time to move on to story structure 🎉
Looking forward to playing around with scenes
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
"How do you know when you're writing at a professional level?"
If you're waiting for that mystical event to arrive, you'll have a very long wait. In all things, art especially, it's a constant progression toward something we'll never attain. You're looking for a pinnacle to reach, but the problem is, there isn't one; we're tasked with climbing an endless stairway.

I've trained in the martial arts for over sixty years - and am a 7th Dan black belt in Taekwondo, and have 2nd Dan ranks in three other styles, and every day I practice and find faults in my technique, but I'm not discouraged by that; perfection is the lethal plane of flatness from which no further progress can be made, and I definitely don't want to go there.

Perhaps my greatest lesson was delivered when I was about 6 or 7 years old by my Savate instructor (Savate is a kickboxing and knife fighting style). My teacher was an artist - a successful painter, and I recall being discouraged one day because I didn't seem to be progressing. He then told me than in all art, one must deal with the conflict between the hand and the eye. When you first start out your eye is better than your hand, and everything you create looks like ... poop (keeping this G rated). Then your hand improves, and for awhile your hand and eye are equal and everything looks wonderful... but then your eye improves and everything you create looks like poop again. What happened though was that your eye improved, and in time your hand will catch up.

Never be discouraged by what you create, and know that there is no end to this stairway we all climb toward perfection (or professionalism).
 
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Turnbull

Senior Member
Yet you really have to on some level. You need to be honest enough to look at your work and the work of other successful authors and be able to tell if yours and theirs are on roughly the same level. That requires honesty and the ability to step back and read as a reader does.
I somewhat disagree. For one thing, it's difficult to read as a reader does. There's too much personal involvement, and because you know the context of your story and a reader wouldn't, there's a gap there that means you need outside perspective. Granted, it can help to take a break from a story and sort of "forget" it for a little while and you come back with a cleaner mind, but you're still aware of the context. This is especially true of visual things -- like the author will describe a location, but it only makes sense to them, not to the reader. You need to know that people outside of yourself see roughly what you see in your head.

Also, there's too many ways to be a good writer. Some have fantastic writing style, others have strong concepts, and still others have characters you will remember for the rest of your life. Comparing to others too much means that you forget that you should be successful in your own way, not in a way that is necessarily like another writer out there.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
I somewhat disagree. For one thing, it's difficult to read as a reader does. There's too much personal involvement, and because you know the context of your story and a reader wouldn't, there's a gap there that means you need outside perspective. Granted, it can help to take a break from a story and sort of "forget" it for a little while and you come back with a cleaner mind, but you're still aware of the context. This is especially true of visual things -- like the author will describe a location, but it only makes sense to them, not to the reader. You need to know that people outside of yourself see roughly what you see in your head.

Also, there's too many ways to be a good writer. Some have fantastic writing style, others have strong concepts, and still others have characters you will remember for the rest of your life. Comparing to others too much means that you forget that you should be successful in your own way, not in a way that is necessarily like another writer out there.
No it's not. You were a reader long before you were a writer. Hopefully, you're reading voraciously because you'll never learn to write well otherwise. It just takes turning off the writer part of the brain and just enjoying it for its merits. I don't have any problem doing that at all.
 
Perhaps my greatest lesson was delivered when I was about 6 or 7 years old by my Savate instructor (Savate is a kickboxing and knife fighting style). My teacher was an artist - a successful painter, and I recall being discouraged one day because I didn't seem to be progressing. He then told me than in all art, one must deal with the conflict between the hand and the eye. When you first start out your eye is better than your hand, and everything you create looks like ... poop (keeping this G rated). Then your hand improves, and for awhile your hand and eye are equal and everything looks wonderful... but then your eye improves and everything you create looks like poop again. What happened though was that your eye improved, and in time your hand will catch up.
Very apt description. I remember I once read an M. C. Escher quote where he said, "If only I'd learned to draw better!" At the time I was shocked that such a skilled renderer could say that, but now that I'm more seriously into writing and art I understand it completely -- he wasn't being insecure or self-loathing; he was expressing that deep frustration of being unable to capture his vision on the page because his vision was so beyond what he could currently do.
 

Kyle R

WF Veterans
ANYWHO my point is editing needs to be done no matter what Novice or professional. How do you know you are at the level to even bother with querying? Is it based on what others may tell you? What you think?
Unless you're one of the rare lucky few, your trajectory with writing (and submitting/querying) will likely follow a similar path to that of many writers:

You write a work that you're proud of.

You submit/query.

You get rejected. A lot.

You write another work.

You submit/query.

You get rejected again. A lot.

You rinse and repeat.

Eventually, you start to get personal responses. Rejections, still - but now they come sprinkled with feedback, and a touch of hope.

You repeat the process again.

Now most of your rejections are personal ones. Form rejections still trickle in, but for the most part, your work seems to be drawing attention to itself, standing out of the slush pile, in some way.

Still in it, you continue to repeat the process, until one day an offer comes in - an agent, editor, or publisher would like to purchase your work (!) - provided that you're okay with doing some edits on it, first.

You do a happy dance. You kiss a stranger. They call the police on you, but by the time the police arrive, you've already left the scene. (Okay, maybe this part won't happen ...)

And so on, and so forth . . . until one day in the glorious future, you've become such an accomplished and experienced writer, that publishers/editors/agents offer you a direct line of communication for you to submit future works, skipping past the slush pile completely.

I'd say, at that point, you can safely conclude that you write at a professional level. 👍
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
And so on, and so forth . . . until one day in the glorious future, you've become such an accomplished and experienced writer, that publishers/editors/agents offer you a direct line of communication for you to submit future works, skipping past the slush pile completely.

I'd say, at that point, you can safely conclude that you write at a professional level. 👍
Except, as I mentioned above, I'm familiar with several writers who are better than most of the stuff I see published, and they just never hit the right eyes at the right time. Writing at a professional level and getting published are not positively linked.

Paul Draker could have #1 best sellers every two years and movie deals for every book. Literally. He's that good. Can't get published, and pretty much gave up after his second novel. A very great shame. Pete Morin: Four wonderful novels, three that you can buy. He even had an agent. Couldn't get published. Gave up after those four novels. Jo-Anne Carson: Wonderful fantasy romances. Funny, inventive, and interesting mysteries. Self-publishing like Pete and Paul, but not giving up, thank goodness.

Just three examples, and if any one of them had hit the right eyes at the right time, they'd be a name you'd know without me typing them here.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
Except, as I mentioned above, I'm familiar with several writers who are better than most of the stuff I see published, and they just never hit the right eyes at the right time. Writing at a professional level and getting published are not positively linked.

Paul Draker could have #1 best sellers every two years and movie deals for every book. Literally. He's that good. Can't get published, and pretty much gave up after his second novel. A very great shame. Pete Morin: Four wonderful novels, three that you can buy. He even had an agent. Couldn't get published. Gave up after those four novels. Jo-Anne Carson: Wonderful fantasy romances. Funny, inventive, and interesting mysteries. Self-publishing like Pete and Paul, but not giving up, thank goodness.

Just three examples, and if any one of them had hit the right eyes at the right time, they'd be a name you'd know without me typing them here.
I used querying as an example because the author who referenced "writing at a professional level" is traditionally published but I know there are plenty of people who can write well and even better than what's on the market. That's why I feel it's even harder to determine what that threshold is. How do you know when you reach "the standard" when your not even sure what it is 🤔
All I can do for now is to continue and try my best to get better 🤷🏼‍♀️
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Except, as I mentioned above, I'm familiar with several writers who are better than most of the stuff I see published, and they just never hit the right eyes at the right time. Writing at a professional level and getting published are not positively linked.

Paul Draker could have #1 best sellers every two years and movie deals for every book. Literally. He's that good. Can't get published, and pretty much gave up after his second novel. A very great shame. Pete Morin: Four wonderful novels, three that you can buy. He even had an agent. Couldn't get published. Gave up after those four novels. Jo-Anne Carson: Wonderful fantasy romances. Funny, inventive, and interesting mysteries. Self-publishing like Pete and Paul, but not giving up, thank goodness.

Just three examples, and if any one of them had hit the right eyes at the right time, they'd be a name you'd know without me typing them here.
I think it's unrealistic that an author will gain an agent, get published, be a #1 seller, and get a movie deal right out of the gate. Expecting to get rich from our writing is unrealistic; consider the number of published authors (self and via an agent) against those that have hit the jackpot and live well off of their writing - it's a VERY small percentage. So, if you're writing for the money, fame, glory, and book groopies - you're doing it for the wrong reasons, and you'd have a better chance in a rock band.

Write because you have stories to tell. Publish because you're tired of the same old story lines and want to provide something new and different. Most of all, do it because you love the art and craft of writing.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I used querying as an example because the author who referenced "writing at a professional level" is traditionally published but I know there are plenty of people who can write well and even better than what's on the market. That's why I feel it's even harder to determine what that threshold is. How do you know when you reach "the standard" when your not even sure what it is 🤔
All I can do for now is to continue and try my best to get better 🤷🏼‍♀️
Read my comment toward the top of the thread. When STRANGERS start to compare you to name authors, you're in the ballpark.
 

Lawless

Senior Member
How do you know you are at the level to even bother with querying?

Try and find out.

I mean, really, in most cases it would make more sense to send your manuscript to a publisher (or several) rather than worry that it's not good enough. Maybe write a good query letter first. Or even write them a letter "I have such-and-such a manuscript, could you possibly be interested?" (making your manuscript seem really interesting, of course).
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Yet you really have to on some level. You need to be honest enough to look at your work and the work of other successful authors and be able to tell if yours and theirs are on roughly the same level. That requires honesty and the ability to step back and read as a reader does.
I agree with this. It's one more discipline you must learn if you ever want to consider yourself a "professional."

There are a lot of awkward definitions for a professional writer vs an amateur writer. For example, a common thought is one who is traditionally published vs one who is not. I don't buy that definition. There are self-published authors now making six figures, and probably even seven figures. IMO, there is one thing that makes you a professional and that is that you turn your writing from a hobby to a business. And that means you can sell enough books to make your business a livelihood.

You have to be able to think of your writing as a product. And if you can't figure out if your writing is of a similar caliber as your competition, I don't see how you can compete. And you have to look at the entire package, including your ability to write relevant stories, choose the right covers, and market yourself as an author.

But you're right, there is a big difference between "writing at a professional level" and "knowing you're a good writer." And I think you meant to ask the latter. And there really is no definitive answer to that. Personally, if I were you, I would focus on completing pieces, and then comparing them to authors who you think are good writers. What is the difference? And eventually, you may not see one, other than you like your work better.
 

Turnbull

Senior Member
No it's not. You were a reader long before you were a writer. Hopefully, you're reading voraciously because you'll never learn to write well otherwise. It just takes turning off the writer part of the brain and just enjoying it for its merits. I don't have any problem doing that at all.
Forgive me, but it is an assumption that I was a reader long before I was a writer. Granted, that does happen to be true, but only as a lucky guess. I caution you to avoid assuming things about other people. It's one of the things that will trip you up as a writer, particularly when it comes to nonfiction. Also, I find your "I hope" statement to be rather patronizing. It comes across as sarcastic and demeaning. Please stop.

No. The writer doesn't go away. That's also another assumption. When you've written so much, and for that matter READ so much, you begin to notice patterns. Things fall into place and you start realizing how many published writers fall into the same ruts. I have written down the books I read for the past few years, and back before I started working a job that takes more of my time, I was reading well over a hundred books a year. One year I even got to 196 (it helps to work in a bookstore). Nowadays I've become so aware of writing technicalities that one of the first things that will stop me from reading a book is poor writing technique. I can't "turn off" the writer because the writer IS the reader.

That, and my post was about something completely different -- how being familiar with your own story and why each detail exists prevents you from being fully objective about your work. It was not about the writer versus the reader, it was about the creator of a work vs non-creators of that work.
 
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