Comparing Yourself to Other (Author Edition)

I’m reading Forging Silver into Stars by Brigid Kemmerer, and it is amazing. The way the plot unfolds has kept me reading for hours, the characters are so damn likeable, and the writing *chef’s kiss* is so utterly readable.

And I am having serious doubts about myself and being able to write anything half as good.

As an author, it’s hard not to compare myself to other authors. Especially the successful authors who have bestsellers, who have amazing writing style, who have tens of thousands of follows on social media. It is easy to let that nagging little voice in the back of my mind tell me I’m not good enough, and that I will never be good enough.

Of the above, writing hits me the hardest in the jealousy organ. As I read Forging Silver into Stars, watching the tricky plot unfold, watching friends become enemies and enemies become friends and two sides of a political divide who both whole-heartedly think they are right – I am in awe, but I also feel a stout jealousy. This book is amazing, and I wish I could write something an enthralling.

And all these feelings could stem from the fact that I am battling a rough draft with a watery plot.

This is the reason why we, authors and aspiring authors, should be reading the bestsellers. We need to see what is being published, what trends are in season, what tropes have been beaten to death, what tropes haven’t been done in a while, AND what the industry considers good writing. We need to expose ourselves to as much good writing as possible, study it, see how the top tier authors are writing, so that we might learn from it and become better in our craft.

Now, learning to write better by reading DOES NOT mean you need to go study classic literature. It doesn’t mean you need to be an expert in Chaucer or capable of reciting Shakespeare. (Though it’s really hot if you can.)

What I mean is that you should be reading.
Reading in your genre.
Reading the bestsellers in your genre.
Reading indie books in your genre.
Reading the occasional book outside your genre.

Because as an author you should also be a reader. You should love reading. You should love a well-written story.

Reading in your genre also helps you become a better author by seeing how others are telling their stories, how the plots unfold, how their characters are presented and go through their arc, how the story is spooned out a little at a time and builds into something big and thrilling.

In reading agents and editors blogs, from watching their YouTube videos on publishing and querying, I have come to the conclusion through observation that the first reason an agent rejects a query, the first reason they don’t get through the first page of the sample, the number one reasons why your book isn’t getting chosen is the writing. Now, there might be a dozen other reasons, but I’m not an agent so I can’t speak with authority on queries/trad publishing, so I won’t.

But as a reader, the number one reason why I put down a book or don’t finish a book, or don’t give a book that glorious and sought-after 5-star rating is the writing.

Sometimes the writing is clunky.

Sometimes the writing lacks that oopmh that makes me read a paragraph twice to experience it again.

Sometimes the writing is packed with narration and the passive tense that just puts me to sleep.

Sometimes the writing includes full paragraphs of unnecessary backstory or internal dialog.

And the quality of writing depends on the reader. Some readers are cool with the passive tense while it makes other readers cringe and throw a book across the room.

Take From Blood and Ash for example. The writing was okay. It had some repetition and a more than average number of typos, and some readers couldn’t get past it. I loved it. I devoured the book and the next two. I overlooked the meh writing because the story captivated me.

So writing depends on the reader as much as it depends on the author. But that doesn’t give you a free pass to not improve your writing. So go read and improve. 

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