How to Measure Growth As A Writer

Writing is art and craft. As such, many areas of writing have an unnerving subjectivity to them. Anyone who has tried to submit a manuscript to agents will confirm this—some will like it, some will not. So how do you know if you’re getting any better as a writer?

Really, the only true yardstick you can use is seeing if your writing today is stronger than your writing last year, last month, last week. Comparing yourself to others is a recipe for angst, frustration, and despair. But even you comparing yourself to yourself can be subjective—we are often blind to our own faults and judge ourselves more harshly than a stranger.

Another way is to find people you trust to give you honest feedback. Hopefully, they will be able to point out where you have grown as a writer, and where you still need work. If these are people well-schooled in craft, you can be somewhat reassured that you are moving in the right direction.

I found one other way to measure my journey. Donald Maass’ Writing The Breakout Novel Workbook. This book, for those who don’t know, walks you through exercises to deepen character, enhance plot, polish themes, and many more aspects of craft to improve your book.

I have used the Workbook in my process for my last 3 manuscripts, and I am currently using it to improve my WIP. The first time I used this book, I remember that every exercise made me gasp, “Why didn’t I think of that?” or “Why didn’t I do that? It seems so obvious!” So the revisions that I came away with were extensive—but much needed.

This time through, however, I am finding that some of the exercises are already complete, in that I did it in this manuscript already, without prompting. There’s still a lot I need to do to up my game with this manuscript, but finding those parts I already did made me happy. It means I am incorporating the lessons from Maass (and others) into my subconscious process. Hopefully this will mean stronger first drafts, which will mean fewer revisions, which will mean faster completion times—without sacrificing quality.

So that is one objective way you can measure if you are improving your craft—if you find that the writing books you use are telling you things that you have already done.

How do you measure growth as a writer?

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