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Do you REALLY challenge yourself?

"Do you call yourself an author, Twinkle Toes?"

There are a variety of challenges – finding time to write, making daily word counts, keeping up with the promos for your books, staying alive on social media networks, and a hundred more which could be listed…But I’m not talking about any of these.

Let’s fast forward ahead in life and say you already have a couple of novels under your belt. They received good reviews and you feel you’re on the road to churning out more literary greats. The challenge I’m referring to here is: “Have you really given your best writing to your readers?”

Writing is a creative process and a tough one to boot. Possibly you only remain within one genre or like me crossover into several…but regardless of the genre, your novel needs to be compelling. The dialogue must have sufficient meat to it for a reader to chew on for days. The action must course a reader’s veins with the force of a raging adrenaline rush. And when the last page arrives, the reader must be addicted to your words and direly in need of more, so much in fact they go in search of your next novel.

At any moment in time there are hundreds of free eBooks you can download to fill your Kindle, Nook, or iPad. As any writer should, I read a variety of these works. I’ve found diamonds in the rough with these free eBooks, and I’ve discovered a lot of junk promoted as “5 Star Reviewed” books. I found the common denominator in the “5 Star” junk was quantity and quality: the author appeared to have been writing solely to accomplish some daily quota of word quantity rather than write for daily quality.  There was evidently no personal challenge to push the author. The author seemed to be rushing to make parts fit, rushing to get to the end, and definitely rushing to get their book released.

The authors did not challenge themselves.  The writing was bland or mindless. It didn’t make the reader pause and think about the passage just read. And of course, the poor writing was another nail in the proverbial indie-author coffin.

  To challenge yourself as a writer means to create to the fullest extent of your mind’s abilities. Do your readers feel your book as they read? Have you given them something that truly sticks in their minds? Good books do that. Good books are not written based upon fads of the day.  They withstand the test of time and make their readers return another day to read them once more.

I’ve repeatedly read “The Assyrian” by Nicholas Guild and “The Wolf’s Hour” by Robert McCammon. With Guild’s books I always wondered if he mentally burned himself out with that book because of the strength and depth of his dialogue, and the thought processes he put into their creation. McCammon’s book was intense from beginning to end and maintaining such an energy level throughout the entire book must have drained him as well.

Challenge yourself to write a novel that is not your normal genre. You would be amazed at what you will learn about yourself and your ability to write. 

I read an article by McCammon about how horror novels had moved away from being what ‘true’ horror novels should be. In brief, he stated they had become nothing more than blood and gore spectacles because that was an easy way out for the writers. His complaint was that writers were failing to invoke the mental terror aspect which should be ever present. Failure to do so only left a ‘rubber-stamped’ bloodletting which was the easy way to write…. When the writers couldn’t think of good storyline to invoke fear in a reader, they simply had some nutcase run around slashing throats.  As I read McCammon’s article it struck me: the authors had not challenged themselves to create the best story possible.

Take some time to examine your work.  Look at your recent writings and be brutally honest with yourself about it overall. What separates your novel from a great writer in the genre you’ve chosen? What is missing within your writings? If you look hard enough, you may find it is the level of creativity – the challenge to produce a better work than the last.

10 comments on “Do you REALLY challenge yourself?

  1. Great post, Glenn. It’s always a challenge for those who are impatient, but as with all things in life, rushing through something is never the way to get it right. Also, I would want to (if I ever wrote anything), make sure that I was 100% satisfied with what I put out. If not, I’d rather never publish anything.

    • Glenn on said:

      Thanks, Sandra… There is one problem though – a true author will never be satisfied and always feel “one more thing” could be done to improve their work! That is the eternal pursuit for perfection… But, challenging ourselves to be better than we are, and make the next novel better than the last, should be our goal.. Thanks for the input… I still think you should be writing novels….:-)

  2. Very well said. I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten more experienced, I’ve become a slower writer, and it’s not due to a lack of ideas or drive; it’s just what you’ve said here – I want to take my time and really craft what’s coming out, rather than trying to hit that daily word count. Okay, there may be some element of laziness here, too. It just takes so much more editing work to fix something that I rush through rather than really focusing on each sentence as I write them. It’s a fine balance, and it can be grueling work just to get through a few pages, but I really think my work has benefited.

    • Appreciate your comments, Jonathan… All you have stated shows me the mark of a great author, one who takes his time and works with words as a sculptor works with clay — a true artist.
      Good luck in your endeavors. Glenn

  3. I totally agree with you on this, Glenn. An author must always challenge themselves and be able to take an honest look at their work to see where they are lacking. Great post!

    • Thank you, Natasha. I appreciate your comments and review of the post. Considering your superb talents as a writer (I’ve read reviews of your work – EXCELLENT), you well understand the need to push yourself to the maximum for the benefit of your readers. All the best to you….

  4. My latest challenge is to stop trying so hard to improve to the point of perfection that I never finish or release anything. I agree 100% with you, but of course the endless pursuit of perfection without any output is the far opposite extreme of what you’re talking about. I need to find a balance between the two.

  5. Excellent blog. Some writers excel at the challenge and are quite successful. My hat is off to these authors. Thanks Mr. Starkey.

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