By Christina Delay
Recently I’ve been reading Marcus Sakey’s BRILLIANCE trilogy. Yes, I know I’m behind the times, but OMG have you read these books yet?
I’m enjoying them immensely, both from a reader and a writer perspective. Mr. Sakey’s use of descriptors is like none other, and while I revel in his genius, it also makes me wonder what I’m doing writing.
Because I know I’ll never be able to write like him.
Has this ever happened to you? You think you’re doing great, then BAM an amazing book or author comes and slaps you upside the head with their talent or story or characters and suddenly, you’re not doing so great.
This isn’t the first time I’ve felt like a hack. It won’t be the last. And after the appropriate amount of self-pity and eating my feelings, I turn toward the tactics I know will help me regain some confidence.
First, it helps to remember who you are as an author. What kind of stories do you write? Do they even fit in the genre of who you’re fanpersoning over? In Marcus Sakey’s BRILLIANCE case, the trilogy is a police procedural with a sci-fi twist. And yeah. I don’t write that.
Second, consider your authorial voice. Is it a close match to the author who is unintentionally making you feel inferior? More than likely, not so. In fact, you may be enjoying the writing because it is so different from your voice.
Third, list your strengths. What are the things you really excel at in your stories? What are the things that readers or critique partners or contest judges call out again and again about your writing and your characters?
Pro tip: It really is okay to print these accolades and place them where you can see them. Writing is hard and sometimes, we need the reminder.
Feeling better yet?
If so, gently analyze what it is about the writing style that you so admire. For me, Mr. Sakey has a very natural way of dropping phrase twists that live within the character’s voice that are so well done that I have to go back and reread the little miracle I just read.
I’ve taken plenty of writing classes before, but perhaps I could use a refresher in cliche twists or character voice. Even if I’ve heard it all before, hearing the information again when I’m at a different point in my writing journey could reveal fresh insights.
What elements do you find yourself admiring in recent reads? I can almost guarantee that there’s a class or book for improving that skill.
The best cure I’ve found for the I’m-A-Hack feeling is to get around other authors. It’s one of the reasons I founded Cruising Writers. And it’s one of the reasons I’ve planned a new writing cruise next spring. Being with other authors not only gets the creative juices flowing, it also allows for your craft to grow by an exponential leap. (Also, this particular writing cruise will have Becca Syme teaching about Strengths for Writers and Kirsten Oliphant of Create If Writing teaching about marketing, so you know, it’s a good place to be.)
Sharing struggles and triumphs with authors who understand is one of the best ways to remember that you’re not a hack. Every creative goes through this cycle, and most authors feel that their craft isn’t good enough…yet. That’s important to keep in mind. The yet. It keeps us striving for the next level, and when we reach it, oh man, it’s brilliant.