Friday, 20 April 2012

Don't Compare Your Writing to Others

Sometimes I read published books and feel demoralised. They're SO much better than my own writing. Sometimes I read my own published books and feel demoralised. They're SO much better than what I'm writing now.

And then I remember that to get to that final form I'd written and re-written and edited like mad. Then it went out to the friends who read for me (that's the stage I'm at now). Then it got re-written again. Then my agent saw it, and I incorporated her feedback (it's not usually much, as she hasn't come the editorial route). Then my editor. Then I re-wrote it. Then I had some more feedback from my editor. Then I did some more editing. Then a copy editor saw it, then a proof reader.

So, I shouldn't be comparing the stage I'm at now with the finished product. And nor should you.

Neither should you be comparing your work in progress with other writers, for example, in a workshop group. You're not writing their book, you're writing your book. Their book reflects them, your book should reflect you.

And the other thing it reflects is the amount of writing in-put the book has had, in terms of experience, inspiration and time. They might have been able to spend more time on that piece of work, or been in the process of writing it for longer. Perhaps they might be near completion of the story and are utterly certain about what's happening and where it's going, while you're still floundering.

So don't be demoralised by reading other people's writing if you think it's miles better compared to your WIP. Yours can get there too - if that's where you want to go. It might not be what you're doing, or what you want to do. I can admire and enjoy someone's magical realism writing, but it's not what I want to write.

It's a bad idea to compare your writing to others' work, or even your own previous work. I'll write about comparing yourself to people who get published even though you think you're a much better writer next time.

But for now, all comparisons are odious and may de-rail you. Just keep on going and write the best you can write right now.


Cara Cooper said...

Really valid comment Sarah, it can really deflate you looking at other people's stuff and deciding it's better. I guess the main thing is to get your stuff written as well as YOU can and get it out there.

Marina Sofia said...

Very sound advice but very difficult to follow. I recently came across a book of poems that I had written (not published, just handwritten) as a teen-ager and got very disheartened when I realised that, for all of its adolescent mistakes, it was probably quite a bit better than most of the stuff I write today. But then I remind myself that I like alpine skiing - downhill all the way, I say!

Sarah Duncan said...

Exactly Cara. You can only write what you write, so it can only ever be the best you can do.

Marina - I'm amazed that your teenage poetry would be better that what you're writing now. When I think of some of my efforts I cringe!