One of the very most difficult parts about the writing process is knowing whether you have “it,” as in the talent that it takes in order to have a book published.
This is one the biggest challenge in battling the “Am I Crazies.” How in the heck do you know if what you’re writing is actually good?
Sure, your friends and family might think you have a talent, there may have been a teacher who was supportive, but they’re often biased. So how do you really know?
I know there are writers out there who would stop now if they knew for sure they’d never find publication. But should they? How can you tell?
If people other than your immediate family and friends say they like your writing, when they see it published, you may have talent.
Publication itself is an indicator.
Publication for money is another indicator.
Publication for money for larger and larger periodicals might be another.
Each year earning more money writing might be an indicator.
Getting fiction into journals instead of nonfiction into mags might be an indication of talent.
Just my opinion.
If one of my pieces gets published, I have talent. Later, when I read the piece in print, I see all the flaws and think, nope. No talent.
When other writing colleagues give positive feedback on my writing, I've got talent.
When my friends and family read my work and then,
I want to delete all my blog posts.
I guess it depends on who you're looking to for affirmation.
Monica Garay says
I will never stop writing. I am in love with it.
More than anything, I love writing songs and making music. So what I like to do is randomly start singing one of my songs in front of someone who I know, hasn't a clue that I wrote it. When I get a, "who sings that, I like it?!"…that's when I know I've done good 🙂
I think my 7 year old niece put it best. Last year she told her teacher for career day, that she wanted to be a writer and a singer like Aunt Monica. That sure made me smile. I laughed, thinking – no I'm not, I take care of elderly people! But then I realized – I am a writer, even if I'm not getting paid to do it!
I guess what I mean is, if it's in your heart…don't stop. And just because a company won't publish your book, doesn't mean it's not good – it just means it won't make them enough money.
Kierah Jane says
Although I've had my fair share of rejections, enough of those rejecting agents have said they like my voice and my writing and have requested that I send future projects if I don't find anyone to take on my first book.
Anne Lyken-Garner says
You're the last person I have to tell that writing talent doesn't get your book published. You have to have a platform so that publishers are sure they can make money out of the product (you).
I recently contacted a top (and I'm not just saying 'top' for emphasis, I mean 'top') non-fiction agent. We had a few e-mails going back and forth. He said he liked the project. He even said he agreed I had the talent and expertise to write the book. The end result was that he didn't take me on because my profile wasn't high enough.
My book(s) impressed him.
I am qualified to write them.
It's a great project.
I don't have profile.
Sorry if I sound bitter. I'm not. Honest.
I have a 'Follow Friday' going on my newest blog. I've highlighted your site today because I think it's worth it. Don't worry, you don't have to do anything. It's not an award or anything like that. Here is the link https://www.abloggersbooks.com/2009/10/my-follow-friday-nathan-bransford.html
Wouldn't that be hard to tell… Some will like your writing and others wont. Look at Stephenie Meyer, some much more experienced writers (Stephen King for one) said she 'can't write for darn' and 'she goes to bed with a thesaurus'. I am a novice (and an extreme one at that) and as far as I can tell she even broke a few rules. But I for one (in something like 20,000,000) fell in love with her words. It is also to her credit that I am almost finished writing the first draft of my first YA Supernatural Romance novel. My mother has been reading excerts to her yr 7 classes and I already have groopies LOL. Fingers crossed; I might someday share her rung 😉
quin browne says
sites that promote writing (i.e. ning groups) are not a good place to find out your skills and talent (and/or gift)… i've yet to find one that wasn't tainted by cliques–thus, good writers are often ignored, where as really, really crap work, work that makes your hair hurt when you read it.. it is praised to the heavens by minions.
i have the talent… i need the focus.
Lord of the Geeks says
I always wonder if I'm having an American Idol moment. You know, when you're watching the show and someone awful gets up and is a horrible singer. I'm thinking, wow, someone in their family really failed them. They should have told them not to make a fool of themselves on national TV.
Anyway, I don't know if this amounts to a hill of beans, but since everyone I know is biased, I tend look more for things that aren't said, or things that are said days later after our initial conversation/review. I ask them how long it took them to read the MS. If it took the vast majority a day or two, I take it as a good sign. If it takes longer then that, not such a good sign. I wait to see if they bring things up days later on their own, without me dragging the subject up. And not just the normal, "How's the book thing coming along?" stuff. I'm interested in if they want to discuss the actual book more. It means they've been thinking about it. Has any word of mouth stuff happened? Have they mentioned it to someone else on their own? Does that someone else now want to read it? Do they keep harassing me to get on with the next book, and can they read what I've got now? Even if tall that happens, I still wonder if I'm in that American Idol moment.
By the way, I'll be surprised if anyone reads comments that are two days after the original post. Of course, I guess I did.
John Roundtree says
As with most things in life a writer experiences all the growth stages from child to adult. And like a child, a teen, or a young adult we see ourselves as accomplished when, at that golden stage of maturity, we discover we never really were all that. But maturity is a moving target; a successful author never stops growing. Why? Because the market is forever changing. An agent's desk is the portal to this changing market and thus the first hint of talent for a writer is — a request. Until then, we're only perfecting a sill until the maket decides it's talent. –John Roundtree
Lord of the Geeks, I read it. 🙂
I think the American Idol people would never ask for feedback in the way that you do – or if they hear it, they discount it. Someone like you, who takes in every word, and looks for sign – you're a very different type of person.
I would be money you're not an American Idol type.
I've learned that it really doesn't matter if your work is good, you like it, others like, it even catches an agents eye. What matters is "who" you are, not "what" you do. If you don't already have a platform and your name out there, then the big wigs really don't want to deal with you.
Catch 22 or what?
Rather than ramble on, I totaly agree with Icy, the end reader decides. Part of my inspiration to write was because I couldn't find anything at the bookstore to read, simply put I write what I want to read. Hopefully others will like my work too.
I don't think there is a reliable way to tell whether or not someone is a talented writer. There is only a way to tell if someone is a good writer. Being good at something is a function of both innate talent and acquired skill. I do believe you can become a good writer with next to no talent if you practice hard enough. At the same time you can become a good writer even without putting much work into honing your skills, if you are gifted enough.
It gets even more confusing. Being a "good writer" can mean that
– you're good at the actual craft of stringing words together,
– you are a great storyteller,
– you can describe wonderful, believable characters
or any combination thereof. Some novels sell more or less on their writing alone, some sell because of their plot, some sell for their characters. Some writers are talented in one of those areas, but not in the others. Only a very small, elite group of writers is equally good in writing, storytelling _and_ characterization.
In the end it isn't even important if you are more gifted or more experienced. What matters is that people, particularly outside you own family, like what you write (particularly crit groups, agents or other people who can tell apart bad writing from good). In that case chances are you are a good writer, although even this is not a given. They could think you suck, but they are too polite to tell etc. and most agents just send form rejections anyway, which leaves no indication of whether you're good or they are just filled to capacity. However, if those people repeatedly tell you that you suck harder than a vacuum cleaner, despite you spent years to improve your writing, it might be an indication that you are not talented enough to achieve "good writer" status somewhere during your lifespan. Which means looking for another hobby/career might be in order, except you loving writing so much that you do not care if you suck or not. 😉
Personally, I try to reflect a lot on what and how I write and where my strengths and weaknesses are. For example, I like to think I have some sort of talent for storytelling, but when I read many other writers' work, I regularly feel humiliated by their ability to string words together in such beautiful ways. Does this mean I am a talented writer? Or an untalented one? Would either mean I am/can be a good writer or not? In the end, if I can get my work published it probably means I am good enough. If I cannot get it published it can either mean I suck as a writer or I am just unlucky. Unfortunately, since the latter is the likely outcome for everyone who wants to get published, I will probably never really know for certain if I am good or not.
It is tough for me to get through my first draft because I always think it is crap on a stick.
Once I do get through it I am awesome at revising and in the end I think it comes out well.
Maybe I just have editing talent 🙁
Matt Sinclair says
I write, therefore I am. Whether "I am" after I've passed is beyond my control. Immortality isn't all it's cracked up to be anyway. I believe I have talent. If the vast majority of the literate public never learns that, so be it. It won't be for lack of trying.
Hard to say. I don't think whether or not a person gets published directly relates to whether or not a person has writing talentjo
First, there are many poorly written stories out there. Best sellers even. I'm not a reading snob, though. I still enjoy them and understand why they are published – they have a great STORY. However, when I'm critiquing mode, which I've been in a lot lately, it's hard to read those books without cringing, even though they are some of my favorite stories. This is reason one why I don't fee publication is the top standard on what makes good writing.
Second, there are people who are excellent writers, but their stories aren't published. At least not yet. I have read these stories and reader in me would be the shocked if they never got published because both the story and writing are fantastic and better than many of the books I have read, some best sellers included. The realist in me, however, would not be shocked.
Well, I've succeeded once again in evading the question at hand. How can you tell if you have writing talent? I don't have the answer for that. I can say, with confidence, whether or not you get published determines your writing talent thought.
Here's my take on it, though. The first thing you need is a good story. Get it down on paper. Rid your story of frigid logic and plot holes. If anything in your story doesn't have anything to do with the plot, theme, or necessary character development – cut it out. If don't have a knife, gauge it out with a spoon, but get rid of it. One of the abilities of great writers, IMHO, is to even cut the good stuff. That beautifully, well-written paragraph that has nothing to do with your story. If you like it, save it. There will be other stories.
Once you have a good story, then worry about improving your writing. Good writing is nothing without a good story.
There are lots of way to improve your writing. One suggestion given to me was to copy a couple pages every day of someone else's writing who you admire.
There are book on Self Editing as well. Know how to edit. A good writer is also a good editor. (Again, this is in my humble opinion)
In the end, if what you care about is getting published, then knowing whether or not you have writing talent doesn't really matter. It only matters if publishers think you have it – and in those cases, if they don't it doesn't mean the talent isn't there.
I have my own personal standards for what good writing is. A lot of it starts with story. Strong plot, strong, sub plots, distinct characters, natural dialogue, written in an active voice, enjoyable pace and flow, proper word choice, correct spelling and grammar, etc.
How do you know if you are accomplishing these things? Study the mechanics of writing and story telling.
Good writing works togethehttps://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=5334836757176538347&postID=32347367788765362r to show the story. At least this is what I notice with my own writing. When I rewrite a sentence to get rid of weak words and reduce the passive voice it automatically moves from telling to showing.
So, my unofficial answer is, you know your writing is good when you can show the story that people want to read. The thing is, with publishing, you can do just that and still not get published.
In the end, it's a dice roll, no matter how good your story is and how good your writing is. In the end, whether or not your writing is good depends on who reads it. The slush pile reader who reads your story may put a pass on it, but that doesn't mean if it ad been published that wouldn't have eaten it up. By the same token, you may get published and not sell enough to meet production costs.
Good writing is important, but I think when it comes to being published that a good story is more important. Both are needed, at least to some extent, to become published, but not being published doesn't mean your writing isn't good.
I know I'm talented because my mommy tells me I'm a very special and unique butterfly with a lot of talents and that I can do anything I set my mind to.
In reality it's a little harder than that though it would be nice if that was all I needed to be confident in my writing. I know that I'm talented because every time I go into my advisor/creative writing professor's office she mentions one of the stories that I wrote. I could have written it a year ago or a few months. She always mentions at least one of them and I know that she's not just doing it to be polite because when we're in class she can't remember anything. When your stories stick with people like that it means something.
I also know that I'm talented because when I send stories out to magazines for publication sometimes they come back with little handwritten notes. It's not a lot but it means so much to me that someone from the Missouri Review would take the time to write "This piece is well-written, thanks for submitting" on the bottom of the form rejection letter they send. I know I'm talented because the editor of Willow Springs took the time to send me an email telling me that my story made it to the editor's meeting and that he wants to know when I submit again. All the little handwritten "Thank you"s mean a lot to me when it comes to talent.
I think that the best way to find out if you are talented or not is to take a short story that you have written and send it out to at least ten different magazines. See what they have to give back to you. If all you get is form rejection letters, maybe you need to work on your writing more. If you get the little notes, then you have talent. If you actually get published by the first place you ever send a story to then, by God, you were meant to do this all along.
c.a. Marks says
What sort of question is that?! LOL Torture us some more why don't ya. 🙂
Your question is the one that rolls around in my head 24 hours, 7 days a week. Yes, I'm THAT ridiculous about it; hence the reason I NEVER WRITE ANYTHING.
It is because I FEAR I do NOT have any writing talent and yet that is ALL I WANT TO DO but I never do it.
OK. Back to NaNoWriMo
When friends and strangers alike ask to read more of your work.
If they say, "Uh, it was nice," what they mean is, "Please don't make me read any more of your writing.
When people read your work, be it fiction, nonfiction, journalism, whathaveyou, do pages turn fastly?
I write when I'm sad, or if I just had an argument with my girlfriend, and I just need some time. Writing when I'm sad makes me feel amazing, and makes me forget what I was even mad about in the first place. I don't care about the word "talented" if I'm writing a story, or poem that is solely for other people to read the only thing I care about is making them feel the exact way I felt when I wrote it.
For me, it took knowing that I *had* to tell stories, even if they were shared with no one but myself. And from that, I decided that all I could do was try.
For the last few years, I've been both going to a writing conference and doing my own research. It was the conference that helped me chart my progress, because every year was like attending a really fun boot camp. This conference in particular offers as part of the package a 15-minute session with a published author. The first few years I had mixed feedback, but last year things changed. Being told by the author that she had nothing to criticize, and having a chance to discuss things such as theme and character, made me feel as though I'm finally starting to get it.
This year, I sat down with another author and a different story. Once again, he found nothing to criticize. We discussed in what directions I should take this new story. He thanked me for the easiest and most enjoyable 15 minutes he'd had so far. And I left that discussion feeling not like some star-struck wannabe (for this one was a bestseller I've been reading since I was a kid), but likr a *colleague*. I felt as if I was a junior writer receiving mentoring from a more experienced one.
And because of that, I know I will be there someday.
If there's one thing I've encountered with this topic, it's that there seems to be a taboo around assuming that publication will occur. As if by saying so, I'm being presumptuous, or that maybe I think too highly of myself. But if we spend our lives by being so self-limiting as to constantly tell ourselves, "I don't know if I'm good enough", then what does that do but keep us back? Fear only gets in the way.
I recognize that I probably have much more to learn. I look forward to continuing to do so. If another five or even ten years pass before I get published, then so be it. It probably just means that I have more to learn. And until it happens, I will keep trying. After all, even if it never does, one thing remains true: I can't stop myself from telling stories.
G. Jackson says
there's also a difference between good writing and good storytelling. that's an important thing, as a writer, to admit to yourself. that there are always elements of the craft that you need to work on. luckily, there is plenty of talent out there to observe, consume, and learn from.
G. Jackson says
i'll also add that friends and family make terrible critics. it is impossible for them to separate you the person from you the writer. i use their advice, but i use it sparingly.
Jessie Sven says
Damn! I was hoping you'd end in an answer, haha. I don't think there's any good judge of talent. Even publication seems a shaky judge.
The Amateur says
I'll say this. Those around you, even those who are competing with you in some way or another, will tell you you are talented. But that doesn't mean hard work won't fall in your favor. I know someone who has that gift. Always has. But, not being able to flex that gray muscle, her writing began to sound horrific. But, with the constructive criticism we gave her, she improved, after the story she first wrote, which had brilliant parts among with bad, she wrote a second that was just fantastic. So you may have talent and it can be dulled at any point. But how you bounce back from that and the time it takes you to bounce back is the key determinate.
A question for Nathan:
What percentage of books being commissioned for publication are done so entirely based on the talent of the writer?
Praises from my teachers in Elementary, High School, and from University professors with regards to writing ability and power to persuade made me believe I have talent for writing. Creative writing + the fact that my talent also involved inspring details of struggle, survival at first and victory over defeat at the end of every story that I have written and that provided more enthusiastic account of what life should be as they also been part of the process. Problem is making those stories into real BOOKS.
Sixteen years ago, my PC was being upgraded. The PC man's girlfriend found my first novel on a stiffy disc in the machine. She printed it out, read it and sent me – a total stranger – an unsolicited letter saying that she'd finished it at two am and she couldn't get the characters of of her mind. I value her letter more than the bronze statuette I won two years later for the same book in the category of unpublished novel. I know I have talent and experience, but getting published by a "real" publisher takes more that that. But I have not yet begun to fight!
annie diamond says
I know I can write because… whenever I come across a terrible book, I think: if they can write, so can I. that, and the fact that my teacher said so and she wasn’t being biased I'm sure.
Alex Beecroft says
I think that if you would stop if you knew you would never be published, then you should stop. Even if you have talent, if you don't also have bags and bags of perseverance against all the odds, you won't improve and you won't make a career out of it.
I think it's a craft you can learn as long as you're willing to put the work in, and that therefore talent isn't as necessary as we like to think.
Rebecca Kiel says
I always figured I'll just keep working at it until my first book gets published. Then I'll write and work at it more.
For me, I try not to think about it. If I begin to think about it, my brain moves to, 'What if I can't do it? What if what I have worked for my whole life isn't possible?' etc. In the end, I'm hyperventilating and feeling downright sick.
Writing to me is like breathing. If I don't write, I don't function very well. I have three different friends who I feed stories to. They are the type of people who will tell you anything and everything they think about something right off the bat. Which, with my writing, that's comforting. Everything else, not so much. The fact that they keep begging for more is hopefully a good sign.
But, even with them, my brain wanders to these worrying subjects.
Must remember to be optimistic…
I can make it!
When you share a little quick write and everyone asks why you are not published?
I think I'm a talented writer because since a very young age, I would always get complimented on my writing and I would always score superior proficient on writing exams. I have also made people laugh and cry from my essays. So I suppose if you can do that, then yes, you have a talent in writing. Also, just so I could make sure it really was a talent, I wrote fifteen pages in a foreign language and people still liked it! Maybe you should try that just to make sure.
I am…. scared about writing my best friend says I am good, but
i discourage myself too easy. I've began writting ten stories, but backed out of each one…. What do I do? help.
How about, so many writers are lucky and others do what is necessary no matter what it is, to succeed. Period. p.s. posting on a site like this is perfect example of losers unite.
Roxanne Blanford says
Question: "How Can You Tell if You Have Writing Talent?"
Answer: You just know.
You have it if you have an something important to say. It doesn't matter if you don't already have the technique; technique can be acquired, but the idea, the vision? It all comes from within from the lucky accident of your life.
Lizzie G says
You never know–not deep down. It's why writers drink.
It's very easy to tell: no one has any talent because there is no such thing. Talent is a hypothetical abstract concept with no basis in reality that serves as an excuse for the weak.