How To Judge Your Achievements
The subject of writing quality is a tough one to discuss, as there are quite a few opinions as to what classifies quality writing. Speaking from the perspective of an author, it’s tempting to use the tools I’m most familiar with: royalties. In my opinion, this would be a huge mistake. Why? Because not every great story or author gets noticed. Judging great writing quality then must be determined some other way, but how? Skill level. If we look at an author’s skill level all else falls into place. Here’s a breakdown of what I’ve found to be the most consistent and telling way to judge your achievements and success.
Level One: Amateur
An amateur is someone brand new, more than likely just starting out. In the writing community, this often means an author without honed skills. What does this look like? Well, many armature level authors start out using websites like StoryWrite, Fanfiction.net, and Literotica. These sites provide budding authors with much needed feedback, while readers enjoy access to free material. For amateur authors, this can be a critical step in jump starting a writing career.
Some authors do choose to remain at an amateur level, but not all. Many authors, however, will naturally progress to the next level, even without knowing the proper steps. Amateurs begin making long term acquaintances, friends that more often than not, encourage a progression into the next level. For those that do advance, an interesting trait develops close to the transition – boredom.
Boredom may or may not occur, but many bored amateurs do become published authors. Why? Because boredom transitions into a search for opportunity. These amateurs often wonder if they are ‘good enough’ to be published and out of sheer curiosity will start looking for publishers. In time, these same amateurs will seize the opportunity to submit a first manuscript. When these manuscripts get accepted, amateurs are shocked they even progressed into the advanced category.
Level Two: Advanced Amateur
The writing quality of advance armatures will vary greatly from work to work–some works will be extremely artistic and well-crafted while others will be total flops as they experiment with different ideas. Because of this varying quality in skill level, advanced amateurs can be hard to spot or even define. For sake of argument, an advanced amateur is best described as a published author within their first year or so. Authors in this category will start a catalog of their own, trying to get a feel for the industry. But what consistently marks authors in this advanced category? The clue to spotting an advanced author happens to be in their catalog. Advanced amateurs will, more often than not, be experimenting with different ideas. For writers, this means books involving different genres or sub-genres.
Finding the right genre is a personal commitment, one many advanced amateurs struggle with. This is why advanced amateurs can stay locked in this stage for so long. Authors write with varying motivations, not all of which are conducive to gaining professional experience. The advancement into the professional level isn’t possible accidentally; the transition requires honing skills to a point of obsession and brutality.
Many tools authors want to judge quality writing with are embraced in this stage. The skills aren’t fully developed, but there’s an awareness of them. Authors will start to find their proper writing genre, one they enjoy working in. If an author is willing to keep working hard, there will be an eventual advancement into the professional category. In between the advanced and professional levels, there can be a blurring of quality. The key however, is that the quality is not yet consistent.
Level Three: Professional
Authors, reaching the professional level, will consistently sell well across their entire catalog. Notice, this does not always mean a high sales rate. Professionals though, know how to write a consistently good product, one readers want to buy. Professional writing can be tricky to spot, at least without buying multiple books from the same author. Judging an author’s catalog however, will give a hint to their professionalism. Authors that have reached this level, will possess a narrowed down catalog. This doesn’t mean an author’s catalog must be small in order to be consistent. Realistically, old titles from previous levels will still be sold by the author. What matters, is the consistency of the latest titles.
New titles at the professional level will have a common theme running from book to book. The author has found his or her genre, and knows how to write within that niche. The writing at this level often appears better, mainly due to consistent improvements over time.
I hate admitting this, but any author willing to try hard enough can make it to the professional level. Many writers will say it takes a special kind of talent to become a professional, but this couldn’t be more untrue. Only consistency matters. What many authors and readers see as those talented few are actually writers who have advanced beyond the professional level. Unlike the previous levels, not everyone can transition up to the artist level through hard work alone. Special skills are required for any author to become a real artist.
Level Four: Artist
True artistry not only requires an inherent talent, it requires an investment few writers can make; true commitment. After the time spent going through various levels, artistic authors internally know they’re simply different. They’ve made as many enemies as they’ve made friends. They’ve challenged their genre and tested the edge, trying to push boundaries into the mainstream. The true motivation behind an artist will never be sales, but a passion for what they write. Authors will know instantly if they qualify for the artistic level, whether immediately or in the future.
In today’s market, many authors think they have that special skill to become an artist, or they can somehow learn the trick. Sadly, the number of true artists seems to be shrinking. Self-publishing gives many authors the opportunity to find out if he or she is an artist, which I certainly support. The truth is, authors wanting to reach the artist level must, I repeat must, go through the armature and advanced armature levels, but may or may not actually bypass the professional level. While many artists have the passion to match skill with their experience, many stop short of the final level. The writing industry can be daunting, and it affects authors in long term most. Artistic authors may be forced to perform in the professional realm at times in order to make a living.
Artists are the select few authors we all know by name. Why do we know them by name? Because they have a real skill and love for their readers beyond professional writers. Authors may take a look at their books, wonder why they’ve become so famous, but at the end of the day, it’s the artistry. The use of writing tools like grammar, punctuation, and formatting, will not always be exceptional. Authors of this level though, they know their craft, don’t care one wit about their market, and most importantly, they’ve learned their limitations and strong points.
As an erotic author, there are many times I look at the writing industry and wonder what is going on. Today, many authors are likely to hurt another author’s chance just as likely as they are to teach an amateur. I’m not proud of this fact, but I’m proud of those who continue helping other authors to advance. In reality, many authors start out as amateurs because they have a passion for writing. With the growing surplus of authors created by a new and vibrant self-publishing industry, many are quick to blame amateurs as the source of all problems. This opinion couldn’t be more wrong.
Amateurs by definition will lack the refined skills many advanced authors feel they should possess. Sadly, authors need to take an honest look at their own writing. What skill level you’re on has nothing to do with pride, sales, or even time experience. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, even if you get stuck at a particular level. Acknowledging what level you’re at is the best way to advance if that’s what you choose to do. The trick is finding a starting place, and sometimes that’s a task of its own.