The Downside to Becoming a Better Writer

Yes, I absolutely believe in striving to become better at what you do! When it comes to writing, it seems I’ve always heard a lot about authors continually working to improve their craft, no matter how long they’ve been in the game.

However, before I was published, I didn’t hear much about how it actually feels when you, as a published author, do improve. When you’ve learned more, and you’ve lived more. When your passion and style has hit a stride on a whole ‘nother level (ahhh, yes!)—and then you think about or look back at your earlier, published work…and see all the things you could’ve done differently. (Ahhh…oh?)

Yup. What was once my absolute best work, years ago, is now years behind where I am today as a writer. And as a person. When you believe in all of your work, you can’t just leave the older stuff high and dry like it doesn’t matter anymore. It does matter. Still, as you promote an older book of yours, you may be thinking, “But please, dear readers, particularly any brand new dear readers: if you should notice my weaknesses here, do be so kind as not to prejudge all of my other writing, based on this.”

If only an author’s earlier material could all magically revise itself as the author continues to publish better and better work.

Now, lest anyone should think, “Oh. So this is her way of confessing that her older books aren’t as great as she thought they were, so I won’t waste my time reading them”—no. That’s not what I’m getting at. While I may be improving as a writer and as a human being, I’ve never been an idiot. 😀 I wouldn’t have published a book if it wasn’t any good. And, yeah. All of my books are good. (Author bias, here? Perhaps. But even one’s bias can be informed, and quality literature has been informing this bibliophile ever since she learned the alphabet. Besides, I firmly believe that authors should firmly believe in their work, or else they shouldn’t be publishing it.)

Anyhow, and thankfully, I think many readers do realize that authors grow as they go, just like anyone or anything else in life. I do reread my own books for pleasure, and I pay attention to my readers’ feedback. So if I find or am alerted to an error that truly matters in an older book of mine, yes, I’ll correct it. One of the perks of independent publishing, there. As for areas in my older writing that could’ve been better but that don’t really need to be changed now, I make a note of those areas for future writing. Then I have to breathe, know that my older writing is what it is, and know that it’s okay. I was a good writer when I published it, and I’m an even better writer now. That’s life.

With that said, I do think there are good reasons for authors to go back to revise older books, at times. I myself have revised and published new editions of some of my work. Even so, if you want to be a prolific author, it won’t be possible to keep going back to revise everything you’ve ever published. Therefore, you’ve got to have grace with yourself. Know that there’s no such thing as a book that’s perfect to everyone, and your older books don’t have to be perfect in order to keep making a positive impact in readers’ lives.

You were a good writer back when you published it. And you’re an even better writer now.

_______________

Here are two love stories, second editions of books that are even better now: Yella’s Prayers and World of the Innocent.

  

 

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Writing for Love or Money?

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Oh, I’ve heard various tips and ideas from various folks in the business.

“Authors have to study a genre, research the current trends in that genre, and then write books that follow those trends, if they want their books to sell.”

“You’ll lose your passion for writing and limit your creativity if you’re only trying to be trendy or fit in a popular box. Besides, readers don’t want the same book they’ve already read, just with a different author’s name on it. Stop worrying about the fads and write the book you’re meant to write, since there are people who’re meant to read it.”

“You have to pick up the pace and put out several books a year if you want a worthwhile return on your writing investment.”

“Quit trying to write and publish so many books so fast. That’s sloppy, and it’s not fair to readers or to yourself. Slow down and respect the art of writing.”

“It’s pointless to write and publish if you’re not making decent money from it.”

“It’s pointless to write and publish if you’re in it for money. That’s not what writing’s about.”

I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist.

So. Is it better to write and publish for the love of books, or is it better to write and publish for other rewards? Hm. Well, I’m of the mindset that different writers write for different reasons, and I believe one writer’s reasons can be just as legitimate as another’s.

Some authors are looking to publish masterpieces that people will read, contemplate, and learn from for generations. Other authors focus instead on giving their fans a good time, here and now. Some writers are looking to make a living from their writing. Others aren’t. Some authors are looking to publish and sell multiple books in their lifetimes. Others aren’t. Some writers write because there’s a burning, vital message in their souls, and they simply must unleash their voice into the world. Other writers research market trends and deliberately write what’s trending in order to sell a lot of what people are enjoying these days.

Whatever one’s different purpose, motivation, or goals may be, I don’t think it makes one writer’s love and appreciation for literature, or even one’s professionalism, more or less than another’s. I believe the world needs all kinds of authors and different kinds of books, from the deep masterworks to the fluffy-and-fun stuff and everything else in between.

I’ve often said that for a writer, it’s important to know specifically why you, the individual, write. It will affect what decisions you make, what risks you’ll take, where you’ll place your priorities, and what will make it all worthwhile or rewarding to you.

Someone else’s reasons for writing may differ from yours, but that doesn’t mean those reasons are better or worse. Be true to your purpose for writing, put in the work toward your goals, and celebrate others who are doing likewise.

 

Pseudonyms: Who (and, Maybe, What) is That Author?

PseudonymsFirst off, I must make it clear that I have no problem with authors writing under pseudonyms. Pen names can be advantageous in a number of ways, including to help an author maintain a level of privacy, to increase a book’s marketability, or to make a distinction between books by an author who writes in more than one genre, particularly when those genres are quite different.

Something new I did this year got me to thinking, though. I knowingly read a romance by a male author who wrote it under a woman’s name. If there’s any other romance I’ve read before by a man who used a female pen name, I wasn’t aware of it, though I hear the practice is quite common for some men who write romances and cozy mysteries.

Now, there are a number of authors, male and female, behind the collective pseudonym Carolyn Keene for the Nancy Drew books I read as an adolescent, but those aren’t romance novels, of course. Still, at the time when I was all into Nancy Drew books, while I was sure there wasn’t only one “Carolyn Keene” behind all of them, it didn’t cross my mind then that some of the authors might be men.

The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew, #1)Captive Witness (Nancy Drew, #64)Rich and Dangerous (Nancy Drew: Files, #25)Counterfeit Christmas (Nancy Drew: Files, #102)

Granted, I’ve been familiar with the practice of women writing under male names for about as long as I’ve been familiar with the concept of pseudonyms. It’s only the idea of the genders being reversed that is newer to me.

Nevertheless, my biggest thought in all of this is, currently: will it ever become more socially acceptable–and sufficiently marketable–for authors to write under their own gender no matter the genre, even if some of those authors still choose to use pseudonyms for other reasons?

I mean, as visible as I personally make myself behind my own books, I can’t help wondering sometimes how that visibility might affect some readers’ thoughts or assumptions about the books I’ve written with main characters on the covers whose race/ethnicity differs from mine. And I wonder how similar that kind of effect might be if I wrote gritty crime thrillers or something and folks found out that the author behind all of that grit was a woman–a frequently-smiling-and-laughing one at that.

Will there come a time when readers, no matter their gender, will generally be more okay with picking up, say, action-packed espionage novels with political intrigue published under their female authors’ names or tender romantic comedies published under their male authors’ names? (And I don’t mean with their last names accompanied by their first and/or middle initials only, in cases when it’s for the express purpose of keeping the author’s gender ambiguous.)

Will using pseudonyms as a gender cover, more or less, for the sake of acceptability and marketability become a practice of the past?

___________________

Note: the sampling of books I have pictured from the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories and The Nancy Drew Files aren’t all by male authors. 🙂

 

The Bennett Women by Roberta R. Carr

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Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Online Book Club provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

The Bennett Women

The Bennett Women by Roberta R. Carr

Women’s Fiction

Three generations of women reach a make-or-break point in this novel about life, love, mortality, forgiveness, and joy. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys hopeful stories about family, especially readers of women’s fiction.

Officially reviewed at OnlineBookClub.org with 3 out of 4 stars. Take a look!