Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Do You Think That You're a Better Writer Than the Average Reader of This Blog?

A little experiment and conversation starter for this Wednesday.

We all know that getting published is hard and that only the strong survive, to the point that agents only take on a handful of clients a year despite thousands of submissions. At the same time, accurate feedback is rare in this business, and it's hard for someone to get a sense of their abilities. This might be a way of measuring that.

So You Tell Me: based on what you have seen from comments and contests, do you think you're a better writer than the average reader of this blog?

Then let's discuss the results and implications in the comments section.







212 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   1 – 200 of 212   Newer›   Newest»
150 said...

I'm making a guess right now: 85/15.

Kiersten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Nat-dog,
You opened up a can of worms. I'm not touching this one... hahahaha

Kiersten said...

Doesn't deciding to write in the first place require a certain amount of, if not arrogance, confidence? Why write if you don't feel like a) you have something to say and b) you can say it better than someone else could?

I'm with 150, which will mean a majority of us are better than the average. Makes no sense statistically, but that's why we're writers, not mathematicians...

Anonymous said...

Of course each of us thinks us a better writer than the other guys. If we lacked such certitude we would be unable to suffer the slings-and-arrows vicissitudes of querying agents. A writer ain't gonna make it if he feels he's in the middle of the pack. He's gotta believe he's the lead dog...everyone else has a rearend view.

Devon Ellington said...

I don't think I could make a fair assessment based on off-the-cuff blog comments. There are so many variables to "better or worse" including amount of time and polish put into a finished piece and the market to which it's directed.

To base someone's quality on blog comments? I don't feel I have the right so to do.

A blog comment might draw me to the person's blog; I might read it over a course of days or weeks to see if I respond positively to that person's work, and, then, if the person is published, I might track down some finished work.

I don't generally do the better/worse comparison game because, ultimately, it's not about whether or not I think I'm better or worse than another writer, but which of our work fits the needs of a publisher and which of us gets hired.

So I'm not voting.

Have fun with this.

Anonymous said...

Nate, c'mon! New era of unity, remember?

Natalie said...

I'm not sure how to assess others' writing skills in comparison to my own, but I voted no. I don't think I'm any more gifted than anyone else, but I know I work harder than a lot of people.

I love to write, and I work to get better and better.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Still united!

Dave F. said...

I'm not a better writer but I do work harder at it.

Josephine Damian said...

Better or worse doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things - what matters is the taste of the decision-maker aka - the agent.

Whenever Nathan (or any agent) has a contest - their top choice is always different than mine - since the agent's opinion, dictated by his or her taste, matters and mine doesn't - it's never as objective as better or worse (and no, I didn't vote)

Tony said...

It depends what "better" means. Corporate writing, I can blow anybody away. Fiction, that's a different game. I'm aware of my specific skills (strong voice, offbeat perspective) and weaknesses (it's hard to sustain all the threads of a story over several hundred pages). But yes, I clicked "yes."

Bane of Anubis said...

85/15 at least -- although with the fairer sex partaking, methinks their humility might bring that number down some (guys will probably be split about 99 to 1 b/c we know of only superficial humility and rarely have self awareness :)

As for unity... bah humbug... it rarely brings understanding, although it is a lot more fun and a lot less painful.

Kimber An said...

I voted 'no' because anyone who reads this blog regularly is here to learn and is, therefore, likely to be at my learning level.

I'm talking about skill level, of course. The depth and breadth of one's imagination is difficult to quantify and subjective to even try.

For the record, I don't need a reason to write. I only need a place.

serenity said...

I write well. My problem is figuring out what kind of writer I'm supposed to be. My audience, my genre, my voice. It's all still vague to me. Most of your commenters seem to have that one down a lot better than I do.

Kristan said...

I think you've said this before, Nathan, but it's not just the talent that matters. As some commenters have already mentioned, hard work is a huge factor as well. Researching the industry, I would put in there too. Determination. A thick skin.

I also agree with Kiersten's comment, and had to laugh at the last part. :P

Dara said...

That was hard...

I was debating between yes and no and ultimately went with yes...I'm not trying to be egotistical though. I think that there's a fine line between being that way and having a healthy sense of one's ability. You have to have some faith in yourself and your ability to write or you won't succeed. I used to always question my writing, always thinking it was sub-par at best and that I wasn't good at it at all--until my critique group and an online writer's group I'm a part of told me I was too negative and that my writing wouldn't improve if I had that attitude.

So, I've tried to change my frame of thought and now think that my writing is a lot better than I gave myself credit for (with still a great deal of improvement needed) and that it may be better than average.

Of course that may change depending on the number of rejection letters I receive, lol:P

Anonymous said...

Yes.

Anonymous said...

I know when to stop.

Jade said...

Very interesting debate.

One other variable to toss into the pot - luck. And timing (make that two other variables). Luck and timing play, in my opinion, as big a part in getting published as talent does.

If you're a good writer as well as being passionate about your craft, thick-skinned and bloody-minded, you've got what it takes to get published. But will you? Well, it depends on the mood of the agent at the moment of reading your query, and whether your words resonate with him. It depends on the list that the publisher is planning for the next year or two. Are there any gaps in it that they need a certain kind of novel to fill?

Writing is all about talent and perseverance, but in other ways it's just like playing Texas Hold'em poker. The cards you are holding might not be the best, but when the flop is dealt, luck and good timing play a vital role.

Ink said...

Ha!

But maybe I should let you vote for me, Nathan? Might be more constructive, at least for me. ;)

Really, though, what an interesting and wriggly can of worms to open up at the beginning of a new era. I'm curious to see what will happen, though. I think a whole lot of writers will vote for being better than average, partly because that confidence is often needed (a sort of self-belief against the odds), and partly because we're all bloody blind... at least in regards to our writing.

The counterpoint to this is that I've also met a lot of writers who endlessly struggle with the I Suck And Everything I Write Is Worthless Syndrome. Except I have the idea that these feelings are more cyclical than steady, in that this mood is probably interspersed with moments of manic confidence (and such writers will probably ride these moments of confidence, both by writing and by submitting their work to besieged Californian agents).

I'm predicting a big chunk will say they're better than average (the sort of folk who always think that, openly or secretly), and then the up and downers will be split depending on whether they're up or down at the moment. Advantage: Better than Average. 40-15, and serving for the match...

The ramification, of course, is that most people will think they're at the top of the heap, though only some of them will be. A grand delusion, and one which, I'm guessing, often feeds many writerly expectations in regards to publishing success. And when these expectations are not met... much bitterness accrues. And the agents are the lucky ones who get to sort it out and deal with all the overheating engines. Throw in my favourite word, subjectivity, and you have a wonderful little catastrophe.

How can you not love it?

nancorbett said...

Loaded question.

Not going there.

Robena Grant said...

I voted no. There are a lot of good writers on this blog. Many of your readers make wonderful comments and give great advice, many are published, many hold multiple degrees. I've viewed the submissions in your contests and although brief there are enough words, or a hook, for me to say, wow!

Writing is a solitary thing, a creative endeavor that shows your world view, your thoughts. I'm not better than, maybe equal to, just different. I don't make a habit of comparing myself to other writers or blog-commenters because it's a waste of valuble energy. I'd rather be creating and learning but I love to visit the blog for insights into questions like this one.

Nocturnal Intellect said...

I know I definitely am not. I love to read and learn. Unlike majority of readers on here, I was educated in the country where English was not the first, or even second language, but a luxury for the few rich, who could afford private English lessons. I didn't attend school to learn to write or speak English, but I definitely love to see others express themselves through written words.

PurpleClover said...

I think there needs to be a third option "Depends on my mood."

There are times I'm uninspired and others when I am bursting with color.

I do hate it when people take things so rediculously serious that they post a term paper on trivial matters. Ugh. I write how I feel...then I edit fifty times until I finally believe it's post-worthy. :) And I love smilies...and starting sentences with "that" if I know it annoys people. I also love crazy adjectives that can be brilliantly edited later. sigh. I could go on and on.

I love comic relief and so anyone with comic relief catches my attention (I think off the top of my noggin, his name is Scott).

I don't think I'm a better writer than the "term paper" people but I hope to grab attention with quippy posts. ...okay I think I reached term paper length there.

anlyledo said...

Fun Question! As a psychology researcher type... I can tell you that when you ask a group of people a question like this, about individual ability on some socially desirable trait, most people will rate themselves as "above average" - even though it is statistically impossible for everyone to be above average. We like to think highly of ourselves!

Anonymous said...

I think I'm the bestest writer of all.

Mark Terry said...

Based on the fact I am a published novelist and a full-time freelance writer, yes.

By all other standards, I'm not the one to judge.

Word verification: dented

Anonymous said...

I am incredibly insecure about my writing.
From reading your blog, I am very impressed by the comments, their command of language and their intelligence.

I am certain that I am not as good of a writer as many here.

But I do consider myself a storyteller and a writer with artistic talent.

Josh said...

It's kind of hard to tell. I voted no because I'm really not sure about the talent of the people who visit this blog.

A lot of people who comment here are very witty and intelligent, but that doesn't necessarily translate into being a good writer. You can also have all the talent in the world but be incredibly lazy, never complete anything ... so that person really isn't a good writer either.

Most of the people here are unpublished, so with that said, I would have to think we're all pretty much on the same level. Being published seems to be the only fair criteria.

I think an interesting twist on this question would be to pick a specific published writer and ask whether or not people in here feel like they are better writers than "X".

Anonymous said...

I think I horrible writer. I use think I good but when come to this guy blog I realize he tell me and all writer something. We not good as we think are. He really want us know truth. He tired of writer confident to disagree with his idea. If he say he right he right. Why can't all stupid writer here just learn it? He right. He know best. Writer peoples are meant to grovel at feet of agent and beg notice us. Believe his words. That it. He right. He know best, and he got hair that is awesome.

lotusgirl said...

I debated on this one, because I'm not sure that my initial writing is better, but I revise and revise until, well, hopefully, it gets there.

Luc2 said...

No. I'm still learning, and I've seen some submissions here at contests that left me in awe. But I'm not worried. I do learn, and am enjoying the process.

And if I can believe some of the comments I see often on this blog, I have a fair chance, since this is a crap shoot and many bad writers get published. :-)

Kiersten said...

Anon 9:59, perhaps the next You Tell Me poll should be Do You Think You Have Better Hair Than Nathan?

I'd guess it will skew very heavily toward no.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon@9:59-

As always, I am happy when people have the confidence to dissent and I never hold it against anyone. All I'm offering is my own opinion, and I'd have to be pretty stupid to think I'm always right.

I don't really care for it, however, when it's done disrespectfully, and needless to say, yours didn't pass muster.

Kate H said...

Well . . . if two-thirds of us think we're better than the average of all of us, we're moving toward Lake Wobegon country (where all the children are above average). I don't really see how this vote could help us evaluate our own skills realistically. It's probably more a measure of whether we like the kind of stuff other people are doing as much as we like the kind of stuff we ourselves are doing, and anyone who doesn't prefer their own sort is probably in the wrong genre.

Eric said...

Well, duh....

But then again....

The Dunning-Kruger effect is an example of cognitive bias in which "people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the meta-cognitive ability to realize it". They therefore suffer an illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average.

Anonymous said...

BUAHAHAHAHA

I said you had awesome hair...

Crimogenic said...

Most importantly, Nathan has great hair, I would totally vote on that poll.

As for this poll, I don't think I'm a better writer than the average reader of this blog, because honestly I haven't read enough to judge. But I do think it's takes more than being a good writer to get published, but still I'm going to worry my little head of how to be a better writer. I will always want to be better than the last novel.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Trust me, you were most wrong about that.

Anonymous said...

No way amd I answering this question. No way, no day.

Megoblocks said...

Course, from a research view, this isn't going to show much. It assumes that votes & participation is an accurate representation of the average reader of said blog (no random sampling). It assumes said votes reflect an honest opinion about themselves (no error checking). And of course, it allows for voters to see the results, allowing their responses to be influenced by others (contamination).

How this is ever going to pass any sort of peer review is beyond me :)

Heather said...

Just like in Lake Wobegone, where all the children are above average.

What would be most interesting to me, I think, would be comparing how writers at various levels of success think of themselves. I certainly know some writers who could win the Pulitzer and would still be insecure, while plenty of very, very unpublished others think they're just ahead of their time is all, and that's why no agent will touch them with a 39.5 foot pole.

I'm guessing one of the keys to success is a balance of confidence (to follow your own unique vision for your work) and humility (to put ego aside and revise to make the work as good as it can be).

Nathan Bransford said...

megoblocks-

Sigh. There goes my shot at a fellowship.

Rick Daley said...

Since we're comparing writers to readers, I'll say yes.

Remember, a square is always a rectangle, but a rectangle is not always a square.

Many readers may just be reality TV fans.

Julia Weston said...

Oh boy. I feel vaguely ill. No, I don't think I'm a better writer than ANYone here. Except maybe the one who says you have awesome hair. :) Honestly, the moment I start feeling confident about my writing (confident enough to share it), I'm plunged back into the how-dare-I-think-of-myself-as-a-writer mindset. Like falling through the ice. What's with that??

Rick Daley said...

anon@9:59...Do you also write the assembly instructions for children's toys ;-)

Travis Erwin said...

Since I fully realize my strength is in storytelling and not the actual writing, I answered no. I am in awe of others ability to string words, but beautiful prose is sometimes like beautiful women. Fun for a while and pretty to look at, but not what you want for a long term relationship.

Stephen Duncan said...

I'm pretty confident in my story telling abilities. Plot, characters, pace - all come easy for me.

Writing technique does not, and I am fully aware of it. My agent, bless him, has plowed through 3 line edits with me.

So my answer to the question depends on your definition of 'writer.'

Mira said...

I'm not sure why I think this is a fun topic, but I do.

But it also makes me think.....

I'm going to give a split vote for myself. Present and future.

I'm voting 'no' presently because I am a fairly new writer, and I'm still finding my voice. Also, my command of grammer sucks, sucks, sucks.

And if you measure writing by being able to craft art through words, I will never be a good writer. My skill with words comes from clarity of thought, not from the artistry of words.

That's the thing. There are so many different styles of writing. How can you really compare art with art? Popularity is a weak measuring stick.

Anyway, I'm also casting a 'yes' vote for myself in the future. I trust that my skill with writing will improve. I also believe I have some truly valuable and deeply powerful ideas and emotions to convey through my writing.

I'm not really answering the question of if I think at some point I'll be better. I'm answering the question that at aome point, I think I will be very, very good.

MiraFae said...

I don't think I need to be better than someone else to be a great writer. I'm not sure books really fall into that kind of rating system. It's all subjective.

Stuart Neville said...

Because I know my answer to that question would flip between yes and no on an almost hourly basis, I shall abstain. Sometimes I think I rule, sometimes I think my pet cockatiel can poop better words. I don't see a way to answer the question honestly and objectively when it's so loaded to begin with - but I suppose that's the point.

Rick Daley said...

I have awesome hair.

Parker Haynes said...

Do I think I'm a better writer than this blog's average reader?

That depends on my blood alcohol level at the time of the question.

More seriously... my biggest concern is NOT whether I'm a better writer than someone else, but whether I'm a better writer today than I was yesterday, or last week, or last year.

I imagine all of us (except those whose level of self-confidence approaches conceit or arrogance) have both moments of elation at our writing and often severe self-doubt.

Just my opinion

PurpleClover said...

TRAVIS said: "Since I fully realize my strength is in storytelling and not the actual writing, I answered no. I am in awe of others ability to string words, but beautiful prose is sometimes like beautiful women. Fun for a while and pretty to look at, but not what you want for a long term relationship."

Okay I have to agree with the first half...you probably needed to be more specific with what makes a writer better. My grammar or word choice may not be up to par to some, but maybe I can tell the story better?

As for the statement about beautiful women:

WHAT?! First of all, assuming you're married, did you just call your wife ugly?!

Why can women not be beautiful AND commitment worthy?! That's almost as bad as saying they are either "smart" or "pretty". sigh.

tsk. tsk.

I will give you a break this time...

Debendevan said...

My sense from my own writing is that we write best when we are passionate about the topic or subject matter. My passion is the unevenly chronicled history of the Flemish Diaspora and the contribution of the Flemings to history (see www.flemishamerican.blogspot.com ). On that subject, I would comfortably argue, I do indeed write better than the average reader of this blog.

Martin Willoughby said...

Seeing as prospective writers are more likely to read this than the average blog reader, it's probably a bad question.

I would say I'm equal...but would like some feedback on that.

(I'm British and like to compromise)

L.C. Gant said...

I'm surprised at how many people either "played it safe" with their answers or didn't answer at all. I answered "yes" right away, no hesitation. I don't consider that arrogant at all.

This is an industry that will eat your confidence for breakfast if you let it. In order to even get in the door, I have to convince you (the agent) to believe in my ability to tell a story. I have to sell my point-of-view to you. So, if I'm not confident that my work is better than average, why should I expect you to think it is?

I agree that it's difficult to tell the quality of someone's writing just from blog comments; personal blogs are a better indicator of that. However, I disagree that you can't know whether you're a good writer or not. I've seen enough "average" writing to know I'm better than average.

Do I still have a lot to learn? Absolutely. But I know my skill level. There's a difference between arrogance and confidence. Arrogant writers think they're perfect. Confident writers know where they need improvement, but they also know how they stand out from the crowd.

Hard work and "luck" aside, this business is all about standing out from the crowd.

Great question, Nathan! I had fun thinking about it!

Hilary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SL said...

Nah. These days, thanks to medication, my thoughts are so jumbled that most of my sentences/verbalised thoughts don't make a whole lot of sense and are full of inconsistencies. :( Sigh.

Kat Harris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julia Weston said...

L.C. Grant said: "This is an industry that will eat your confidence for breakfast if you let it..."

So THAT'S what's happening! Maybe I should start lacing my confidence with arsenic.

Nathan Bransford said...

kat-

Good question, although I don't necessarily see it as divisive. Honestly I think it can be taken many different ways. Is it a fair premise? How do you define it? What do the results mean?

I really didn't intend for it to be divisive, just a conversation starter and food for though.

Kat Harris said...

I would vote on the "Do You Think You Have Better Hair Than Nathan" poll.

But only after he posts a more recent picture.

:-)

Do I think I'm better writer than the average reader of this blog?

Maybe.

I don't know.

I write for a living, but I don't know how your average readers make their livings.

You have created a positive community for writers on this blog.

Why would you ask a question that feels as divisive as this one?

Nancy Coffelt said...

I've been published since 1992 (boy that makes me feel old!) and it feels like the more I grow as a writer the LESS confident I feel.
I'm now so super aware of my mistakes, both big and small. Aaaak!
That being said, I'm hopelessly addicted and am eternally grateful for the internets and the opportunity they give me to spew all my "extra" writing.

Hmmm. I'm wondering if the people that voted "yes" here also laugh at their own jokes.

Kat Harris said...

Sorry I deleted the original comment I asked. My phone rang and I accidentally pushed the "send" button before I was ready.

*blushes*

Thanks for your response.

Hilary said...

Writing is the only thing I have EVER wanted to do.
I can't afford to think about this.

This is like asking, "Do you think you're a better lover than all your spouse's other lovers?"

Well, I hope so, but obviously my opinion doesn't count for much, and obviously your purpose for asking this question isn't getting my answer so much as informing me of something I didn't want to hear.

ikmar said...

I like Hillary's comment.

To be better than the average, you have to be better than 50% of the other writers. Add optimism and ego, and that percentage changes a bit more. Add personal taste and biased viewpoints about style, and it changes even more.

So, assuming our self-confidence is stronger than our self-doubt, I'll say 75/25 is a healthy ratio.

Stephanie said...

Hmmm... I don't know. I would say I feel that we're all so different, it would be hard to say who is better and who isn't. I would never presume to say I was better than anyone else because all that is subjective. I'd like to believe there's room enough for a wide variety of writers in the publishing world. I will say this, though...I may not be better but I have more persistence and determination than most people I know. Plus I'm the most prolific writer I know.

Anonymous said...

It's an impossible question, really. We all probably have different ideas of what makes a "better writer." Some may be thinking of writing in the sense of sentence structure, grammar, and spelling. Others may be factoring in hard work, creativity, percentage of sales, or any number of things.

We all have our strengths.

-A

Anonymous said...

Hmmm
Here are some thoughts:

I don't like to compare myself in this community. At the same time, I think it is a fair enough challenge because people like Nathan and editors have to make comparisons and choose.

So, do we vote yes for ourselves?


Another thought:
I have had trouble with defining "better writer."

I have often put myself as deficient because of my insecurity over my mastery of the craft of writing.

However I do have something going on, I believe.

It is easier for me to discern the values around these aspects when I compare craft to art. There is technique and then there is art.
I have seen a LOT of very skilled technique that is not art. Art takes me somewhere else and can be in many forms, but it is more than form itself, even when it concerns itself with specific forms.

I think I am not as good of a writer as many others so I am quite grateful for help, kind help especially, including editing that recognizes the art and does not try to reshape that as much as to help it stand sturdier, spellcheck, dictionaries,microsoft word, word processors, and readers who contribute to my being/becoming a better writer.

It takes a lot of committed folks I think to make a writer into the best version he/she can be.

Doug said...

It depends. On certain topics I am the expert. On others not as much. Does it matter to me. Not in the slightest.
I write what I like to write. If you like to read it, I'm happy. If you don't, I don't mind. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
This may sound snobbish to you, but it's all part of the process of thickening your skin. Very important part of being a writer.

Jason Branch said...

I honestly don't think that it's a very fair comparison. Blog comments do little to show story-telling ability, character interactions or development, or other literary devices more important in writing fiction. You may have an argument for comparison with non-fiction, but when a body writes for publication (fiction or non-fiction), he or she trudges through the multi-layer editing process, unlike a blog, where answers and comments tend to be less formal. Apples and oranges, in my opinion.

Ink said...

Hilary,

I'm guessing if your spouse has a whole bunch of other lovers, well... you might have more problems than figuring out how you're writing stacks up on Nathan's blog. :)

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Ulysses said...

Am I a better writer than the average reader of this blog?

I don't know. How good is the average reader of this blog? It's pretty subjective, too, isn't it? Who's judging? What are the criteria for "better?" My grammar is good and my spelling (although often Canadian) is usually accurate, but beyond that it's tought to be absolute.

I know only this: that there is no-one in the world who can write the stories I write as well as I do.

Of course, as others have said, writing (and art in general) is a supreme act of ego. Not only must you believe you have something to say that is worth hearing, but you must believe that no-one can say it better. So by definition, I'm better at writing my stuff than the entire population of the planet, not just the average reader of this blog.

I bet I'd suck if I tried to write someone else's work.

Am I a better writer than the average reader of this blog? In the main, probably not. I'm probably in the average, but I'm working to get better.

Amy said...

Anlyledo has a good point.

There has been a psychological study in business asking managers if they believe they are a top 10% employee at the firm. 80% answered they believe they are a top 10% employee. Most people believe they are better than they are, but really, is there anything wrong with a healthy dose of self-confidence? You should believe in yourself if no one else is going to... I've seen the opposite, people who think they are never good enough, and it's paralyzing.

Be proud and believe in yourself!

Nathan: Do you believe you are a better blogger than the other agents? (Now there's a can of worms!) (And you don't have to answer that question.)

AC said...

A lot of us probably got into writing (to be published) because at one point we've read a book we hoped we'd love and later thought, 'I could do that--and better.'

Readers of your blog are probably much better writers than the majority of people sending queries to agents.

Hilary said...

Lol @ Ink.

Good thing I'm not married.

Indignation off my chest, I'm going to go mail out a short story now.

Nathan Bransford said...

Amy-

Haha, good question, and no, I don't.

Holly Anderson said...

I'm the absolute best at saying what I am thinking, and that's what I write about.

So there you go!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I think there's a ton of GREAT writers out there, with fabulous stories to tell. But it's so taste-based that writing is only one piece of success.

Scott said...

If I land an agent, I'll have some hard stats to go by. Until then, I'll say "no", because blogs are weird and it's a more productive mindset for me considering the subjectivity involved in such a comparison.

I mean, imagine reading an entire series of comments here that barely adhered to the laws of any punctuation or grammar universe, voting "yes" to the question, and then finding out that the "CM" tag at the top of all of them stood for "Cormac McCarthy".

:O

Ink said...

Of course, the key to all this is something no one seems to be mentioning: How do we tell if we're right? And if we can find out, should we?

A lot of people think they're better than average. Some of those will be, and some won't (at least if we could ever make an objective decision on it). But, if you think you're better and you're not... is it better to know the truth or is better to hold on to that pleasant delusion of your own ability? Does it harm or help you to know the truth?

And if you think you're below the average... would it be good to find out you're actually above it? Or would that steal your drive and diminish your need to grow as a writer?

In other words, what is the value of confidence? Where does it help and where does it hamper a writer?

Interesting discussion here... how many of us are going to go and blog about it this week? :) Hypergraphics of the world unite!

My best, as always,
Bryan Russell

Anita said...

I think there are people who are better writers on an intellectual level than others, but if the intellectuals don't know how to create likeable characters and a rousing story, then who cares about their smart writing?

Morgan Dempsey said...

Do You Think That You're a Better Writer Than the Average Reader of This Blog?

No, but it doesn't stop me from trying.

Amber said...

Very interesting reading.

I agree with most, there are some really good writers on this blog.

BUT - I think to spend so much time and be so dedicated to keep writing and keep ignoring rejections on this long road to getting published, we must all have that bit of arrogance that lets our muse tell us to keep going, we can do it!

Brigid said...

I voted no. I am young, and I am still learning. (That being said, I was basing my guess on the contest winners and the more memorable--typically well-written--comments.)

But don't write me off. I am improving.

Flemmily said...

So, the next question (for the folks who said 'yes')is are you: A. Overconfident, or B. Realistic and a Damn Good Writer?

I will admit this, though, I think the readers of this blog are largely better writers than what the average agent or editor would find in their slush piles!

Or, at the very least, they should be.

Adaora A. said...

That's kind of a double-edged sword Mr. host. At least that's how it reads to me. If we say yes we're arrogant, if we say no then we don't have any confidence. I like to think it's a bit of a happy medium. I think there isn't any sucessful person on earth who didn't get make it without a bit of humilty, a bit of arrogance, creativity (which I reckon is relative), and talent (also relative in some ways).

Marilyn Peake said...

I actually can’t answer this question because I don’t have enough information about who reads this blog. I know that, on all blogs, not every reader posts comments. Some of the entries in your last contest blew me away; they were exquisite. I assume, from some of the comments on this site, that your readers include literary agents and published authors, some published by small publishing houses and others published by the big publishing houses. If those people turn out to be your "average reader", I can’t say that I’m the better writer. Am I a good writer, however? I think I am; I hope I am. My writing has received a large number of great reviews from reviewers and has won numerous awards. I have a minor in English Literature, and I try to improve my writing with every new piece I write. I’m looking forward to hearing your interpretation of answers to the question you posed today.

JES said...

Sheesh. Just about every significant word in that question needs to go in quotes:

Do You "Think" You're a "Better" "Writer" Than the "Average" "Reader" of This Blog?

"A better writer" doesn't always translate to "a writer, better-published," and I think we could all agree on that. (So MANY variables go into the second.) But even discounting that, we're stuck with deciding if (for example) "more careful writer" (of things like typos) implies "better writer," or if "snappier wit" does, or, or, or...

We all know our own tics and foibles and they always seem more charming and forgivable than someone else's. I suspect the commenters and contest winners whose writing here appeals to me probably have quirks like mine.

Are we better than the others? I dunno.

Madison said...

You know, I'm the best writer for me. If I compare myself to everyone out there then I might end up growing depressed because there's TONS of people out there who can write better than me. But I'm improving everyday and loving what I do, so that's all that matters. :)

JohnO said...

Nathan, you have the makings of a social psychologist. They've been studying a recurring human pattern of people overrating their own abilities:

http://www.apa.org/monitor/feb03/overestimate.html

But a problem with the way you posed the question: Does your blog even have average readers?

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Re: "I don't think I could make a fair assessment based on off-the-cuff blog comments. There are so many variables to "better or worse" including amount of time and polish put into a finished piece and the market to which it's directed.

To base someone's quality on blog comments? I don't feel I have the right so to do."

***

Well, I kind of go back to NB's basketball metaphor - would you be able to pick out the NBA basketball player who was just goofing around, or having a pickup game with nonprofessionals? I think you'd be able to...or WBNA...

It might even be you could get more of a sense of a writer from their blog posts, than you would get from the query they labored over...because the voice would come through in the blog post, while it gets obliterated in the labored-over query...or conversely, the dashed-off query (my old specialty).

I'm biased, because I have gotten positive comments from an agent about my blog posts...just no deal yet...my mother says (simultaneously supportive and bewildered): "You always do your own stuff. Can't you do more of what other people are doing?" Then I think of my creatively frustrated grandmothers and all their childrearing and housekeeping (certainly worthwhile endeavors), and it's like, no, no I can't...oh well, I'm off on a grandmother tangent, never mind...

Steve Fuller said...

If the answer is no, then why in God's name would you write?

If you aren't better than the AVERAGE reader of a blog that gets (I'm guessing) a couple thousands hits per day, then you will never get published.

Janet said...

Well yes, of course. How else would I find the courage to continue?

Whether or not my impression is justified is another question altogether. Like most people believe themselves to be better than average drivers, it stands to reason that most writers believe themselves to be better than average. We're not all right, obviously.

What really plagues me is HOW MUCH better than average is necessary to get published... Better than average just doesn't cut it.

Michael said...

Now, I'm not dumb or cocky enough to say that I'm the best writer who reads this blog, but from my experience with other aspiring writers, I am better than the average. I know that good and better are subjective terms, especially when talking about art, but I wanted to participate in the discussion and all I could say was yes or no. There was no decline to state option, so I'm happy with my response.

Whirlochre said...

I'm with Kiersten and LC Grant on this.

I have to believe it (as I have to believe many other things) or I simply wouldn't make it out of bed in the morning.

Maybe this POV will be perceived as arrogance by some but I have no direct control over that — and in any case, I submit my thoughts to this post on the basis that unless they had been solicited and I'd given them considered consent, they'd almost certainly never have erupted spontaneously, heedless of all other souls, from the froth of my megalomaniacal bombast.

Whatever the answer to this question (and there are no rights or wrongs, just variety), the simple truths remain. No-one is guaranteed to like me, nor anything I write, and unless I work at what talents I've got I'll stay stuck at the level of aptitude my delusions of the moment equate with brilliance/ineptitude.

As for Nathan's hair — groomed as if by nereids, I say.

anonnumberone said...

WELL...

After reading the comment left by Eric (10:08 am), he seems smarter than me. But this wasn't about smarter but about writing.

Ordinarily I'd have to say that I do consider myself a better writer than most. Otherwise I wouldn't keep trying.

Of course, that could just be my "...incompetence robbing me of the meta-cognitive ability to realize..." that I suck.

Hey, wait a minute, maybe I don't like Eric's comment after all.

Jen said...

No. I still have a lot of work to do and a lot to learn.

That said, I don't try to compare myself to other writers. I try to judge myself against earlier work, to see how far I've come and how much further I have yet to go before I'm satisfied with what hits the page.

kitkat said...

I voted no. I don't have that much confidence in my writing. I like to write - I love to write! It's more exciting than eating (for me), but since I haven't seen anything except first paragraphs... well, I won't jump to any conclusions.

Besides, over confidence will ruin a writer. I'd rather be shy and always work for improvement, than become lazy and complacent.

Jen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jen said...

Reposted to fix a spelling error that got past me:

Almost forgot:

RE: Steve Fuller's comment, "If the answer is "No", then why in God's name would you write?"

The answer is obvious. If I don't, I'll never get better. Whether or not I'm any good at it yet doesn't negate the fact that I love to write, enjoy it immensely even when it makes me crazed, and feel I have something worthwhile to say.

That's why I do it.

Scott said...

After reading all those comments, I definitely need a margarita. Where's the Behler beagle when you need her?

I love to write. Writing is a journey I eagerly take. I have confidence in my writing. That was not always the case. Am I a better writer than the average reader of this blog? I have no clue.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Very much agreeing with Devon Ellington on this one. I don't use blog comments to judge someone's writing ability (unless there are multiple, blatant spelling and grammatical errors). When I'm writing a story, I put more thought into the prose than when I'm writing a quick blog comment. I scrutinize every word in a story more closely than I do a comment here, unless I have a specific point that I need to be very clear in making. I assume most people do the same. I feel more comfortable judging my place in the hierarchy of writing ability when reading blogs like Query Shark, where I suppose people are likely to put more effort into showcasing their wordsmithing abilities.

As for judging my ability in comparison to others' in a contest...it depends. In some of the past contests, I haven't particularly cared for the finalists chosen. I either liked my own entry or others I read while skimming through better. Other times, I've completely agreed with the finalist selections and/or the eventual winner.

Samuel said...

You may as well ask: do you think you're a better person that the average human being?

Lady Glamis said...

Well, I was one of the six finalists in your last first paragraph contest, so I think I can safely say I'm a good writer. I agree with Kiersten up at the very top of the comments: deciding to write requires a certain amount of confidence. My confidence wavers a lot, but I keep trying to get better as I go along.

Ink said...

Or who thinks they're a better writer than the average published writer?

Anyone have the chutzpah for that one?

Meg said...

I said no. Ask me again in a year and I bet I'll say yes.
I'm still learning so much about writing in general. Half the time I can't even spell common words properly, forget about proper grammar.

Madame Lefty said...

I sort of agree with some of the earlier writers, that writing and especially wanting to be published calls for healthy doses of confidence, arrogance, and talent.

I do see that some commenters have strengths in others areas, where I'm lacking, but that's another discussion entirely. If you know you're writing strengths and know what separates you from the rest, then I'd hope you'd be better than the average writer or reader.

Anonymous said...

Oh I get it! This is an essay question!!!
Yipeee!~!!

You have two writers.
Writer A surfs the internet all day, comments on Nathan's blog occasionally, reads up on all things writerly, and is somewhere in her fifth draft on her third still-in-the-closet novel.
Writer B has published fifteen self-published minibooks, leads a writers' workshop once a week at the Ladies Club, gives public poetry readings at Brains R Us Booksellers, has a PhD in education, and is writing his memoirs with a slant towards fiction.
If they are both traveling at the velocity of 1 paragraph every six minutes during their up time and four deleted words per half-paragraph and Writer A is using a two year old MAC and Writer B is using a four year old PC and Writer A is surrounded by one supportive person and seven who think she's should get a job as an insurance broker and Writer B has been a runnerup for at least one out of seven of Nathan's contests, has a fan base of seventy-seven high school girls who covet his every word,who will get a first request for a partial and who will be the first to break into legitimate print?

Ladies and Gentlemen, you may pick up your pencils.

Travis Erwin said...

Purple Clover was right to admonish me. I failed to get my point across in the earlier comparison between writers and women.

When I said beautiful woman I meant, the flashy high maintenance high fashion kind of beauty that all guys lust over at one time or other ... the Pris Hilton's and what not. They make a dazzling appearance but that shine soon fades because there is no substance underneath. And yes, definitely there are women who have both as there are writers that are true wordsmiths and storytellers. But they are rare creatures indeed.

Loren Eaton said...

Wait, this is a psychology experiment, isn't it? I'm not touching it ...

Eric said...

anonnumberone,

The "smart" quote was lifted from a study, and so not my words. I posted it as a joke at my own expense for voting that I thought I was above average.

Phoenix said...

If I want to be a published novelist, it doesn't matter whether I'm better than the average reader of an agent's blog or not. I have to be superlatively better than the average writer in my chosen genre(s). That's the stick that matters. Once "better" is clearly defined ;o) Or maybe I just have to be luckier. Or better connected...

So if there are 100 people vying for a publisher's slot in epic fantasy and 99 of those people write brilliant, internalized literary fiction but wouldn't know a fantasy trope if they tripped over one, and I'm the only one in the room who turns in a story with the genre's requisite characters and plot, then what matter the brilliance of the 99 when it comes decision time?

Alas, those aren't how the odds usually stack up...

MissyP said...

I think that I'm a raunchier writer than the average reader of this blog. Whether that is better or worse all depends on individual perspective.

starduster said...

Spring has sprung...the grass is riz...I wonder where them flowers is. I voted "Yes".

Annie said...

Yes.

(People here use too many words).

Yarn Up said...

Given your Hot Spot for Plot, I can vote, "Yes, but tough to Test."

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan,

Just thought about this: Do you judge a writer's skill based on their posts on your blog? Can you tell who's a good writer from blog posts? Opening two cans of worms might be better than opening just one. :)

Nathan Bransford said...

Marilyn-

Good question! No, don't think blog comments are generally a good reflection because hey, it's a blog, and if someone judged me by my blog and particular my comments they probably would think my writing riddled with typos and nonsequitors.

I do think I can tell more based on contests, but by no means do I think it's a be-all-end-all or anything.

Richard Lewis said...

From years in the trenches:

1. It isn’t as it good as you think it is.

2. Other writers are better than you are.

3. If you don’t keep at it, you’re not going to get anywhere.

4. If you don’t read widely, you’re not going to write wisely.

5. Adjectives and adverbs are perfectly fine.

Or, the same from a different and equally valid perspective:

1. It’s better than you think it is.

2. You can be as good as any other writer.

3. If you keep at it, you’ll get somewhere.

4. If you read widely, you’ll be writing wisely.

5. Adjectives and adverbs are still perfectly fine.

Scott said...

In addressing the confidence issue . . . I did not begin to write because I had confidence in my writing. I did not begin to write because I thought I could write. I began to write because I finished a book and wanted to know what happened to the characters after the book ended. So, perhaps there is some arrogance in what I did, I took those characters I had grown to love so much and continued on with their lives. It was only when I finished their story, that I truly realized that I wanted to write.

So, confidence did not exist when I first began to write.

Rafael said...

I like to think that my work stands on it's own. Am I better than the "average" reader of this blog? Don't know. Can I be better than I am today? Oh yes. There lies the challenge.

Steve Fuller said...

Regarding what I said earlier...

I just can't imagine anyone would seriously think they will eventually be published if they aren't better than the average writer on one dude's blog.

I mean, yes, if you just picked up a pen yesterday and you are learning the ropes, ok...but come on...you either think you have what it takes (and are therefore better than almost every other writer on this planet), or you don't. And if you don't have what it takes, then why write with the goal of being published?

There are more exciting ways to lose my hair than stressing out over being an author. If I didn't think I was the best writer on this blog, I would NEVER write professionally. For fun, yes...but you wouldn't be on Nate Dawg's blog if you were just writing as a hobby.

j h woodyatt said...

I voted No because I know for a fact that the judge is biased.

Steve Fuller said...

Oh, and I assume my comments are being confused with arrogance. I fully believe writers need to be humble enough to know their writing can improve. We can all get better and I am thankful for honest criticism.

But if I played basketball at my local gym and I thought 50 guys were better than me, would I seriously try out for the NBA? Of course not. That is my point. Now I am off to lose more hair.

other lisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marilyn Peake said...

Thanks for your answer, Nathan!

Lisa Dez said...

I think the answer is my word verification:

veriable

I work everyday on becoming a better writer, which is a good chunk of the reason I read publishing blogs. Yours attracts some very talented people. So am I better than them?

Hell yeah! :)

Real answer: Probably not so much, but I didn't vote because I think it's impossible to judge "better" based on blog entries.

PurpleClover said...

Oh Travis,

I'm just joshin' with you! I knew what you meant the first time. :)

I'm just givin' you a hard time.

But given your personal circumstances, I probably should have left you alone! I'm sure you don't need more headaches. :)

Alessa Ellefson said...

This sounds like the question: "Do you believe you drive better than the average driver?" And everyone answers yes.
So... what exactly is the point of the question?

Robert A Meacham said...

In my mind, I am better than average in everything I do.It would be nice to be polled by others to see what their perception of me as a writer holds. Sure, I have had a few reviews for the amazon shorts program, but until I snag an agent that is willing to take a chance on my work,I remain average...as far as perception goes.

Iain Broome said...

I'm new to the blog, so it feels terribly rude to say yes.

I've recently seen friends get book deal though, and I don't begrudge them their success at all. They've been working for years to get there.

I think it's a natural instinct to think, 'I can do better than that.' But that doesn't mean it's always the case.

Hmm. Anyway, yes. I couldn't help it.

Scott said...

"But if I played basketball at my local gym and I thought 50 guys were better than me, would I seriously try out for the NBA? Of course not. That is my point."

But you can see those guys, so you know, right? If the question were asking how you felt about your writing after browsing a book store, than I can almost see the analogy. Writing isn't quite as straightforward as "getting the ball in the hoop" or not.

I've no idea what 99% of the people who comment here are writing; not the genre, the voice, or the POV. Some chime in with snippets, others adopt a smooth conversational prose. All get the job done.

Personally, I write what I want to read, enjoy doing it and rarely think about other writers and how good they are. In fact, I assume most are just as good or better, but I know none are writing MY story. I think my impetus to work towards a career comes from a belief somewhere deep inside that my voice, my style and my story will appeal. I certainly don't expect an agent to place a stencil over my MS and see if it lines up as "better than average".

I do wonder what people think about their work compared to published authors that they see. I imagine there is some sort of benchmark, which may be closer to what some are saying.

Amy said...

Anonymous 1:35 that totally cracked me up.

I'm going with the guy with 75 teenage fans, teenagers are always the first to start new trends.

spinregina said...

Oh, I'm late in the game here, but I'll offer up 2 thoughts.

1. I think the readers here are as yet unpublished (for the most part) writers looking for advice and a sense of community. So I'm happy to count myself as on par with them all.

2. I've visited loads of commenters sites and I'll second my statement above.

Interesting quesiton. Is this kind of like having the girls on the Bachelor vote for one of their own for eviciton?

Ruthanne Reid said...

Heh, that's a no for one simple reason: I have always sucked at actually being funny in blog comments. :D

Karen Duvall said...

I don't. I may be published and have an agent, but man, I've seen samples of writing by many of the folks who visit here. Most impressive! 8^)

Eva Ulian said...

Of course I'm a better writer than the average reader on this blog especially as there are so many anonymous answers which is a tell-tale sign how insecure these readers are. It baffles me that people have not the guts to put their names to what they write. Are they ashamed of what they have written?

Nevertheless, I do believe that most readers on this blog are pretty smart, which only goes to inflate my own ego, since I am competing with intelligent and creative writers on the whole and not a bunch of dudes, by a long shot. Incidentally, I enjoyed reading the answers.

Avily Jerome said...

I voted no. I have no idea what the capabilities of the rest of your readers are, but I am fully aware that I am still learning, and therefore, probably less accomplished than most. Thanks for the chance to vote! That was fun!

Dawn said...

Yes, I'm better. I haven't won any contests, but my friends say I'm a wonderful writer and often go into detail about how my writing has touched them. When they can give me specifics, I tend to believe them. Maybe I shouldn't, but I'm sticking with yes.

disorderly said...

Is this a trick question?

As writers, I think most of us have to believe we possess at least a modicum of talent, or we'd throw in the towel. Comparing our abilities to those of others in the same boat, though, is a bit of a recipe for disaster, isn't it? I mean, either we come across sounding arrogant or we imply a lack of self-confidence. I'm not sure I want to be in either of those groups. :-|

Dani said...

After reading the way people responded to Steve Fuller's answer, I'm just going to leave that one alone.

By the way, Nathan, nice blog!
Long time reader, first time commenter.

John Zeleznik said...

I know I'm a good writer, but factoring in the popularity of this blog and the talent level of my brethren, I figured I needed to be a little humble here.

gem said...

I said, no, I wasn't a better writer. I'm not disingenuous. I don't think I am better. Actually I think I'm a much better performer, vocally and on stage--I think those are my real gifts. That's why I'm going to go further as a writer than if I thought I was really great. I can take lots of criticism--I deserve it. I'm unflappable. And I never give up. But if were a performer and someone didn't immediately and fully appreciate my gifts, I be so disappointed, I'd lose heart. And I a great writer? No. Am I a hard worker? You bet. Do I have an agent? Yes. Have I written more than two books and countless stories? Yes. I'm simply not afraid of failing at this. I love it but I know I can do other things better.

Tony B said...

Can I craft a better story than most? Absolutely!

Have I been trained in the subtle rules of writing? No. I don’t have an MFA. Instead my schooling was shaped by my love of math, logic and building things. Because of these quirks of my personality I ended up in with a career in engineering.

For fun I wrote a first draft for a fiction novel. The few people that have read it liked it. Or course there is the possibility that becasue they are my friends they are lying to protect my feelings:-)

In any case, when I look at my draft I see a story I love, but I don’t see the poetry of language that I want. Because of that I checked no on your survey.

Just_Me said...

Yes... but only for my given genre and the kind of book I'm writing. I don't write commercial fiction well. I couldn't write a calculus text book.

I doubt I'm even better than all the sci-fi writers around here, but they can't write my book. They can't write what I want to read, if they did I'd be reading instead of writing. So it's a bit of a trick question.

Bethanne said...

I might work harder than Dave F. I don't know how he knows how hard I work, anyway...

Strange. I thought I was alone most of the time.

Lupina said...

Honestly, I have no idea what the writing level of the average reader of this blog might be, and it never would have occurred to me to make that sort of comparison. So I demur. My immediate question is, what inspired you to ask this of us, Nathan? Any particular incidents or epiphanies you could share?

Vancouver Dame said...

I voted 'yes'. A writer needs confidence and a knowledge of how they compare with what's out in the publishing world at the moment; they also need to have some exposure to the great writers of the past.

Whether a person has been published or not, they bring their own subjectivity and their own experience to their evaluation of another's writing.

The ability to write a story that transports or informs the reader is more important than that person's credentials.

Great question, and I see it as a good discussion topic, not divisive at all. A good debate is invigorating.

Holly Jahangiri said...

Why? What is the Web 2.0 obsession with ranking and judging, scoring and competing with one another? It all seems a bit silly, after a while.

Yes: I know the tools of the trade and I am one of the few writers who does, in fact, earn a decent living writing. Thank goodness - because I can't do math. I think I'm a "better" writer than those who have no grasp of the mechanics and think that it shouldn't matter, because their ideas are so utterly fascinating that the astute reader must surely put up with the twisted syntax, tormented spelling, and pained punctuation.

No: There will always be someone out there whose writing makes me think of learning a trade, like underwater welding. There will always be another writer who can bring me to tears or make me laugh until I cannot catch my breath with nothing but his writing. There will always be a writer whose skill doesn't match mine, but whose sense of timing, trends, and readers' taste is impeccable - whose style and themes are highly marketable - and thus she is wildly successful at selling her writing, while some of us sit here and debate, "Why?"

In the end, we are competing only with ourselves.

And Nathan, having seen what some people submit for publication, I have discovered that getting published is not tantamount to winning the lottery. It may be challenging, but the odds aren't that bad.

Anonymous said...

I answered yes, but it's difficult for me to compare my writing to others. Instead, I try to take a realistic view of my strengths and weaknesses. I had more than one agent offer representation, so I have some evidence that I'm on the right track. The MS is still in submission land. I've gotten some feedback from a couple of rejections. Two positive take aways are that I have a strong voice and the high concept is appealing. The negative comments related to secondary characters. So I've made progress, but I still have plenty of work to do on craft.

Polenth said...

No. Compared to the general population, my writing is above average. Compared to the blog readers here, I don't think it is. There's a generally high standard of English in replies and contest entries. Quite a few people here are already published and have more writing experience.

I don't see that as a problem though. The only way to get better is to keep trying.

Adam Heine said...

How to read the results of this poll:

If the poll comes out 50/50, it means most people judged their own skills fairly accurately. After all, only about half of us can be "better than average", by definition.

If the poll comes out skewed towards "Yes", it means we (as a group) think too much of ourselves.

If the poll comes out skewed towards "No", it means we think too little of ourselves.

But there will be a fair-sized margin of error because the sample-size is small and biased towards people that like to read what Nathan writes (sorry, Nathan, you are a locus of error ;-).

Laura D said...

Better or worse is too subjective when referring to writing. I don't understand why a lot of things are popular. It's a matter of taste.

Lupina said...

P.S. Remember how funny and incongruously pompous it always sounded when Yogi told Boo-boo he was "smarter than the average bear?"

Sally Apokedak said...

Here's the deal: Better than average just means we're in the top half.

That's not very hard to do, is it?

To be published, we need to be in the top one percent, I think. Do you ask for completes on one out of a hundred proposals, Nathan? I hear that pretty consistently quoted.

So if we think we're in the top half of the readers here, that still doesn't mean we're going to get published.

But there is way to get feedback and judge our writing. We can enter respectable contests, and we can look at our rejections. More personal, encouraging rejections or more form letters? Winning good contests or consistently missing?

You can also pay for critiques and edits. It's money well spent.

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

Judging the blog writers/readers by their comments is a faulty endeavor indeed.

Just by my own comments... which tend to be spartan in content, I know that other readers become more or less verbose.

Newbee said...

I love this question! Seriously I do. I guess that all depends on your definition of a "better writer".

I believe that I have an incredible story and a book that will be for the masses. No, it's not the best as far as sentence structure. I'm sure that many of you could say the same thing more eloquently. But, that's not who I am. I'm writing for teens and those who read iconic books. (ie Twilight, Harry Potter, ect.) The story is like no other and it fashioned in a realistic way that I feel makes it special.

So, do I believe that I'm a better writer...No, I do not. Smarter...maybe.

rob said...

Ego lego. You may think you're a better runner, but it's only the stopwatch that can prove it. You may think you're a better writer, but I'm stuck as to how you can apply a measurement to that. Perhaps only Nathan is the judge here. I know you need ego to think you're better, and any dinner is tastier when it's made with lurve.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for such a late post...I work ten hours a day. I don’t check the blog until late.

This is interesting, to say the least. It is a question that most writers probably ask themselves from time to time, from doubt to doubt, from inspiration to inspiration. Are we any good? Are we better than the next? Or...can we compare to those who have made it to the top? Does it really matter? After reading books by the “successful” on writing techniques and methods, can we relate? Do we have the same powerful force driving us to write another book, short story, or blog response whether we are (or get) published or not? If we write because we are afraid NOT to....then, we are among the top regardless of whether or not we find that “agent connection.” I voted “yes” because I breathe to write.

marye.ulrich said...

Hell no! I'm intimidated by every person here.

Anonymous said...

Adam H, since Nathan confined his question to the average reader of of his blog, the sample is not biased as the objective pertains only to the population of readers *who* (not *that* -g) read this blog. Also, the number of votes at this writing stands at 448, which is a good sample size for this population.

Furious D said...

me rite gud.

me rite guder dan anywon.

BarbS. said...

I said no because, like Josh, I'm not sure about the talent of the people who visit this blog. Who's to say some of the greats aren't the average reader?

gem said...

Just Me -- since when isn't science fiction commercial fiction?

Dan said...

To borrow from the Karate Kid:

You’re the best!
Around!
Nothing’s gonna ever keep you down
You’re the Best!
Around!
Nothing’s gonna ever keep you down
You’re the Best!
Around!
Nothing’s gonna ever keep you dow-ow-ow-ow-own

Maniac Scribbler said...

I think that there's certain things about my writing that are better, but there are certain things that other people are better at.
(Talk about circumlocution and totally beating around the bush.)
I am able to improve, though, and I will become better, and that's what counts!
ManiacScribbler =^..^=

Reisa Stone said...

Dear Nathan,

I'll bite. I'm a better than average humorist. That's my forte. I love making people laugh. The more they respond, the harder I work. Being a stage performer helps, because I get instant feedback on my material.

From the comments on this blog pertaining to the business of writing, I'd say I'm average at making pithy posts.

I'm not as good a fiction writer. My material is narrative nonfiction that soars into fancy. It always returns to something I've experienced first hand.

I may be better at writing essays. I was born writing, at least that's the family legend. And I've never stopped practicing, whether it's Letters to the Editor, media releases, journaling or interviews with business people for the paper.

My Ukrainian cookbook narrated by a wild, malcontent Baba is going to be an enormous hit. In the end, what counts for me is that no one else in the world can recount these stories of my precious heritage in the same way. It's my mission, so no comparisons can be made. In my 40's, I'm finally learning to balance excellence in craft with popular taste.

Renee Collins said...

I think I'm a better writer than the people who answered no.

BarbS. said...

No doubt about it: We're ALL better writers than the individual that posted at 11:29 pm--a post destined to be remove by The Administrator, I should hope, LOL

genkischuldich said...

Hahahaha... no. I think I'm an average writer, at best.

However, the type of writer who seeks out agents' blogs will tend to be above average. From what I've seen in various competitions Nathan has held, people are generally better than me. They're also the best of the better writers out there.

So despite not being as good as the other commenters on this blog, I think I'm doing okay.

Ruth said...

I'm not trying to be better than other writers. Their quality of writing cannot take away from the quality of mine.

However...I am definately a better writer BECAUSE I read this blog.

Thank you, Nathan!

eleanorstrousers said...

I've only started reading today, so I will uncategorically claim to be superior. Tomorrow, after I have actually read anything by the other readers, I will hang my head in shame. But for now, I'm the best!

DebraLSchubert said...

This may not be the best time for my first comment on your site. But, oh well, here goes: hell yes, I'm a great writer! Of course, for a while I thought I was a great cook and you can ask my husband how that turned out. My schtick is humor and insight into the crazy world of rock and roll. I love to write what I love to write about. And, when I'm writing about what I love to write about, I'm damn good!;)

Marjory Bancroft said...

Nathan,

You want a high ration of "Yes" to "No" votes because science shows...

1. Most of us think we're better than average on everything that matters (intelligence, looks, driving skills, you name it).
2. Or rather, most mentally healthy people do.
3. Those who are mildly depressed do see the truth about themselves more accurately. (But they often tend to see others as better than they really are.)
4. The optimists and mentally healthy folks who see themselves as better than average are more successful.
5. Thus, seeing the truth about our writing puts us at a disadvantage for success in publishing.

150 said...

Oooh, I called it wrong. Lots more humility than I expected here.

(Fork & Knife) said...

Yes

...in light of all the rookie mistakes in the contests.

Jess said...

I picked "no" not because I don't think I'm a good writer but because I don't know the average blog reader here. Many of them may be published already. There are plenty of anonymous commenters to factor in as well.

But the big reason I can't tell?

Dood, we're writing comments on internet blogs. Writing fiction is a whole different brain function. And I don't know many people who bother spell-checking their blog comments, know what I mean?

Anonymous said...

Some days yes, some days no-freaking-way-what-am-I-thinking.

Today, however, is a yes day. (:

Jo said...

Would we keep trying if we didn't think we were better than average? I think a healthy confidence in one's abilities is a good thing.As long as it's backed up by hard work and being able to accept criticism in order to better yourself.

Ita said...

I said yes. Then I read all the comments. Hmm, perhaps I am a little arrogant.

I'll never be a great writer if I keep spending my precious writing time reading this blog.

Greenleaf said...

Very peculiar question. The only right answer is "That depends." I read all 759 pages of J.K. Rowling's "The 7 Deathly Hallows" in a 24-hr period. I tried for 6 months to read Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night," and just couldn't get past page 140. Does it mean Mr. Haddon is a bad writer and Ms. Rowling is a good writer? No. Beauty is in the eye of the reader.

WitLiz Today said...

No, because I think the average reader of this blog far surpass my abilities as a reader. How do I know this? Well, as I read the comments answering Mr. Bransford's posts on what are you reading, what's your favorite book, etc....I come up with a big fat zero for myself. I should just post a blank comment when he does this and then you'll know what I'm talking about.

I totally believe good reading habits are essential to being and becoming a good writer. Since I have the attention span of a kumquat, it takes me days to read a cozy mystery, or thriller, much less a book with considerably more literary weight.

Recently, I tried to read Edith Wharton's, "The Age of Innocence," and, well, let's just say I aged twenty years in the first chapter trying to keep up with who's who. And this is after I saw the movie, so I have a definite problem with reading comprehension relative to attention span problems.

These I can conquer over time, given patience and perseverance, but I think my writing will suffer until I do.

Bane of Anubis said...

Greenleaf - interesting point...

I would definitely say that JKR isn't a "good" writer in the classical sense (not to say she's a bad one, either), but she's an excellent storyteller (although she succumbed to serial-itis in her last few books - i.e., too much fluff and filler).

I find good writing much easier to identify in the audio-format. When I hear certain words (frequently adverbs) spoken aloud, I cringe at the awkwardness of it. There are many good-selling authors (admittedly, mostly in the YA genre) that seem like horrible writers, but that could be because I'm listening to the story on tape (or from my wife reading to me :)... I've never tried reading a story and then listening to it to see how much my perception is affected... hmmmm....

Cat Moleski said...

I voted yes! But only after peeking at some of the comments. I think it's good to have a healthy sense of self-worth, but knowing where you fall in the pile takes time and lots of reading. The more I read in the genre in which I hope to get published, the better able I am to discern at what level is my work. I don't really think I can tell how I stack up to everyone else who reads this blog, simply because I haven't read all their work. But I like to be positive!

Michelle H. said...

AH! Nate-dowg, y'all just trying to trick a homegirl like me. I'm onto you, bro. This is like a trick question. I remember when you did the post about picking out the plot of the story and NONE of the options was the right one - not even the snakes on a plane one that was just a theme or premise or whatev'. I'm not falling for this again. My answer is... um... chicken. Yah, you heard right. Chicken.

Angie said...

Nope.

If you'd have asked "Do you think you're a better writer than the average person who calls himself a writer?" I'd have said yes, hands down.

But I think it takes something to be a regular reader of yours and others' helpful blogs, and I'm willing to bet the "average reader" here is well above average in the slush pile.

Alexa said...

I voted no but that's my default reaction to most questions like this. I still feel like I have a lot to learn but I am getting there and I can see a huge improvement from when I started but there's still lots of work to be done. It takes me a lot of rewrites to actually say what I mean in the best possible way. I'm always slightly in awe of people who can put down there thoughts and opinions quickly, I'd only blog about once a month if I did that.

Kathleen said...

For some reason, my comment yesterday never posted.

I voted no... I do not think I'm better, but neither do I believe I'm worse. And I believe that what is better and worse is different to different people. I have some skills that others lack, but others have skills that I lack.

HOWEVER... I also think the average reader of this blog is a better writer than the average aspiring author out there. Those of us here are willing to learn. We're not arrogant about our skills, we're doing our best to discover our skills so we can hone them, and discover our weaknesses so we can eliminate them. That's always going to result in better writing than those who aren't interested in learning what they're doing wrong.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Did someone mention a "wild, malcontent baba?"

Hi Reisa,

Your post reminded me of Adrienne Rich's line about the "raging stoic grandmothers."

I went to your blog - your cookbook is over 500 pages long? Wow! I made a little recycled-cardboard cookbook about a Snegoruchka (Russian for Mother Frost), "Salon of the Nine Cookies." It's a play on a room in the Chinese Palace in Saint Petersburg, Salon of the Nine Muses.

I wish us both luck with our cookbooks!

W.R.E.a.C Havoc CEO said...

Since I went to school for screenwriting and I am attempting to write my first novel, I would say experience would win out in favor of the average reader. I am confident in my ability as a writer, however I am sure there are people who have been writing novels as long as I have been writing screenplays. That said, I feel I have a lot of things to say about a myriad of issues that warrants more description than I can fit in a screenplay so I plan to learn the intricacies of the literary field and work to publish novels in the future.

Jamiyl Samuels

Jolie said...

All I can say about this post is:
Oh, snap, Nathan!

Well, I guess I could also vote ...

Jim Lamb said...

If one doesn’t have faith in one’s own abilities then how could one ask an agent to choose their work over another’s? A certain level of vanity is required to excel in any pursuit, especially the arts. The task is how one tempers that egotism with humility before being thought of as an ass.

Sharon Martin said...

I was going to say that confidence is necessary for a writer's success, but Jim Lamb and others have already said it. If I didn't think I could write, I wouldn't submit my work. If I didn't think I could improve, I wouldn't ask for a critique. Both of these exercises are essential, I believe.

Reisa Stone said...

Same back atcha, Wanda! Love your site. Nice balance of text and graphics. It's charming.

Do you want to swap links?

Re: 500 pages of recipes. Well, that's
Volume I...

Shannon said...

No. I think most are way better at witting than me. I work really hard, but I'm still learning. I think I have a really good story, but I am very aware that it needs some work.

Adam Heine said...

Adam H, since Nathan confined his question to the average reader of of his blog, the sample is not biased as the objective pertains only to the population of readers *who* (not *that* -g) read this blog. Also, the number of votes at this writing stands at 448, which is a good sample size for this population.

Dang, you're better than me at statistics *and* writing. I guess it's a good think I answered "no".

Timberati said...

I wish. Too often I provide clichéd responses in the passive voice.

I am working on my blog responseship and am improving slowly.

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