When you decide to be a writer, you’ve got to start somewhere.
That somewhere usually includes a place where you have no idea what you’re doing, hate everything you write, don’t feel as if you’re a writer—let alone a good one, and someone who feels like it’s a constant struggle to even get words down on the page.
When you’ve been writing for a while, have completed a few manuscripts, queried, had short stories win prizes, poetry published or signed a publishing contract… you still think and feel all these things. The difference is you know what to do about them.
4 Signs You’re No Longer A Beginning Writer
You Know You Have To Fix Things
Hands up if you sent your first queries off with an MS that was pretty much there, but you knew still needed work. You may have figured the agent or editor receiving the near-perfect masterpiece would look past any flaws because they’d help you fix any issues. After all, all publishers have editing teams, right? Not exactly.
Yes, an MS will get edited once it’s under contract, but to get it signed, it really needs to be more than “It still needs work”.
When you’re a Beginning Writer, you have hope that agents will see through the flaws to the gold underneath. Unfortunately, your first couple of rejections will knock that hope right out of you.
A writer who has a few manuscripts under their belt, or has gone more than a few rounds in the query trenches, knows the MS needs to be polished until it shines—and that they have to be the one to do it.
If they don’t know how to do it, they learn. That’s the first step to becoming an Experienced Writer.
You Understand That Writing Takes Forever
And not just the writing, but the planning, the editing, and the rewrites. You know this after taking what felt like a million years to write your first book.
Beginner Writer thought it would be quick and easy. They even had an exact outline, an exact number of drafts to write, and an exact deadline circled on their calendar for typing “The End”.
You know you’re no longer that Beginner Writer when following an outline exactly, restricting yourself to a defined number of drafts, and typing “The End” anywhere near your deadline makes you laugh out loud.
Yes, those type of goals are good to aim for, and if you can pull it off, good for you, but an Experienced Writer knows outlines go out the window, there’s always at least one more draft (even when you think you’re done), and deadlines need to be as flexible as the curve balls that life likes to throw at you.
You understand that writing takes forever, but you also understand how wonderful and satisfying it is to finish your MS, even if it now feels like it takes two million years.
Your Writer Envy Now Comes With A Side Of Crippling Expectation
It’s okay to admit you suffer from writer envy, we all do—Beginner Writer or not.
When you’ve been in the writing game for a while, instead of feeling envious of other writers who have finished their manuscripts or been brave enough to submit to agents, you now get a little green-eyed over the writers who signed a movie deal, or whose books you see in the bookstore while your physical book will only ever reach readers if they order the print-on-demand paperback.
Along with bigger envy stakes, an Experienced Writer also gets crippling expectation. It could come from expecting more of yourself after the achievements you’ve accomplished, or it could be from the outside—you’ve written a book people bought and now they expect more.
You’ve Accepted That A Writer Never Stops Learning
When you first start writing, the only thing you think about learning is everything involved in getting that manuscript finished.
You might learn to plot, outline, revise, cut weak words, and every other trick you need to create a book. And once you know that, you’re done, right? With that knowledge, you know how to put a book together and will use it on your next MS, and the one after that.
That might work for the second manuscript, maybe even the third. A Beginner Writer might think that’s all you need to learn, but an Experienced Writer knows better. They know that just because you learned how to write and edit a few drafts, doesn’t mean you can’t then learn better ways to write and edit the next few. Writers never stop learning, even if they’ve been writing for years.
It makes you a better writer, just like fixing your own writing, understanding how long writing a book truly takes and managing that writer envy and those expectations. If you’re doing those things, congrats! You are no longer a Beginning Writer.
— K.M. Allan