You Say Potato

And I say Pah-tah-to. (heeheee, not really!)

Better is niggling at me as I start a new WIP.

What does it mean when I'm told to get better? Better at craft? Better at storytelling? Who determines what better is?

I believe there is something intangible to a great story. A few posts back I wrote how I met with an editor and he encouraged me to keep getting better. Which I absolutely want to do.

The thing about better is that...well...."One man's trash is another man's treasure."

So what I think is better, someone else might think is no good.

How do you decide or know if you're "better"? How do you gauge the worth of a book?


Anonymous said…
Hi Jessica,
thanks for visiting my little corner of the blogosphere! I'm discovering so many writers it's amazing.

I think 'getting better' is scary because to get better you always have to go through a period of experimentation and failing, so probably a lot of people shy away from it and prefer to perfect where they are now than have a go at something more adventurous. I think a sense of complete terror while you write can only be a good sign :)

Good luck with getting better!
Jessica Bell said…
Can you always look at your work and feel that zing thinking that you've just written the best thing ever? If that ever goes away, then you're not getting better. If that feeling goes away, you're not surprising yourself. So yeah, gauge it from your own reaction to your work :o)
Better is when I have less and less red marks from my critique partners! :)
Heather Sunseri said…
I don't know how "good" my writing really is now, but I do know for sure, my writing has definitely improved from manuscript to manuscript. I think as long as we are learning new techniques and not making the same mistakes we've already learned to correct, we're improving.
Terri Tiffany said…
Tough question. I keep hoping I am getting better but then I might get awful feedback and it isn't even though I thought it was. hard to tell so I just keep working at the craft.
Katie Ganshert said…
That is a a deep question Jessica! One I'm not sure I know how to answer this morning.

I'm always praying for growth. That each story would be better than the last. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to measure that, though.
Sarah Forgrave said…
Oohhh, tough question! I like Jessica's answer. When we get less red marks, it's usually a good sign that we're getting better. :)
Joanne said…
It seems we get better with each manuscript, not only in the story itself, but in the whole process of writing the book. Understanding how the craft works and moves forward helps improve the stories ...
Linda Kage said…
Exactly! Amen, sistah.

Just go onto Amazon or goodreads and look up your most favorite book ever. I bet you'll find a low-star review on it, trashing it to pieces. It's all about subjectivity (is that word? oh well, it is now).

My favorite potato word is wash: I say "wahsh", my mom says "warsh!
Such deep questions on this Wed. am, what are :D

I know it when the story reads and flows with more ease. I know it when I don't want to put it down or roll my eyes w/ frustration at myself.

~ Wendy
Sandra Orchard said…
Great question, Jessica. I've found the old adage to be true that the more you learn the more you realize you don't know! I think the danger is in thinking you've arrived, because then you'll stop striving to improve. For myself, if I can come back to something I've written and haven't looked at four months and say "Wow, this is pretty good. I can't believe I wrote that. Then I'm happy." :-)
For me, reaching the 'consciously incompetent' stage was a bear! You suddenly know how much you don't know :)O
Jessica Nelson said…
Thanks Miss Overdue, for visiting. :-) I love what you're saying about fear keeping us mediocre. I think you may be on to something there.

Jessica, I LOVE that zing!! I hope it never stops. :-)

Jessica P, LOL!

Hi Terri, you're right. It IS hard. That's all we can do, is to just keep trying to improve.
Jessica Nelson said…
Katie, I think I like the word growth more than better. Nice way to put it!

Heather, that's true. I certainly don't want to repeat the same mistakes.

Sarah, or that our critters are getting immune to us. *grin*

Joanne, I've heard several times that we writing consistently is one of the best ways to grow in our writing. Good point!
Jessica Nelson said…
Hahaaa, Linda, where is your mom from?? LOL

Heeheee, Wendy. I'm capable of deep thoughts every now and then. Good point about us feeling in our gut what's good and what's not.

Sandra, that has happened to me before and it's a great feeling. :-)

LOL Sherri. I feel that way about ALOT of things!
Erica Vetsch said…
This is a very good question. I think trying to get better can take lots of forms. Better organized, better at time management, better at tightening plot, better at grammar skills, etc.

Better is sometimes in the eye of the beholder, and often, I think I can't tell until I get a verdict from someone else.
Janet, said…
I think practice makes perfect. I think I am getting better when I see less editing on my stories from my writing buddies and Know I am getting better when I bring out something old I have written and I am able to make it better with my own editing. I see what I did wrong on earlier versions and can fix it.
Those are deep questions, you know.

The only way I can gague I'm getting better is when I read older work and groan at the juvenile writing, then think of ten ways to fix it.

Or if a savvy writing buddy tells me I've improved. That's always fun!
Loree Huebner said…
Good question.

I think we get better if we are always open and willing to learn.

If we think we know it all...our mind is already shut.
Jessica Nelson said…
I'm the same way, Erica.

Janet and Jeanette, it is really nice to improve. :-)
Tamika Eason said…
Better is subjective. I want to always strive to give God more of me.

That is what better looks like in my book.
Brandi Boddie said…
For me, it means to keep studying the craft of writing, read, read, read, and get involved with writers groups and critiques.
Stacy Henrie said…
Great questions! For me better is more a time thing. Last year I worked on a manuscript and got as good as I could RIGHT THEN. This year I'm working on the same manuscript, but it's much better. Time away as helped and some direction from an editor has made a difference too. These were things I couldn't see last year.
If I can get lost in the pages, forget the world around me for a little bit, and LOVE the characters as if they were my own dear friends, THAT'S a good book to me. :)

And guess what? Your books do that! So ... just keep writing them and you'll automatically get better. Practice makes perfect, right?

BTW, I owe you an email! BAD ME. LOL
Jessica Nelson said…
You are so sweet, Anita, for saying that. *blushing* And you're not bad!!! I know you'll send it when you're able to. :-)

Good point, Tamika!

Brandi, yep, those things def. help.

Stacie, what a great observation! That's what I tell myself. That the book I'm writing is the best I can do write now, at this point. And I'm content with that.
Jessie Oliveros said…
That's a good question. I suppose that's why it is best to stick with a crit partner who knows you...someone who knows what your "better" is. I hope my "better" is not another man's trash:)
Keli Gwyn said…
I like to think I'm getting better. I push myself to learn more, do more, and take more risks. The truth, though, is probably more evident to others than it is to me.
It's like a race against yourself. Swimmers and runners try to better their time. Maybe their "best time" isn't that impressive, but compared to their FORMER best time, it's AMAZING!!!

Keep trying to be amazing--outdo what you've just done!
Jessica Nelson said…
Cheryl, what a wonderful, wonderful way to put it! I think you're absolutely right!

Keli, that's probably true. :-)

LOL Jessie. True.
Anonymous said…
Yes, that is a tough question. And, yes, someone's trash is another's treasure! It is not very scientific, but my 'gut' lets me know if I my writing is better, or my photography. I used to need the letter grade "A" to know if it was any good, but now I am trying to be my own self-critic so my writing stays true to me.
Jennie Allen said…
I get this. I just turned in my first book and I even feel it could be better and yet it will go out anyway after a million edits- it was my best and yet I am haunted by "better". What is it? Can you find out what better is and let us know!
Jessica, you worry too much, girl!! With your dedication to the craft you can't help but keep getting better!

I know it's going to be great!
Nancy said…
I think you just have to keep writing and sending out. The posts I think are my best often get less good words than the simplest ones I do. You just never know what people will like. I'd say, improve what you know to improve and write what you like. Then at least you will please yourself
Warren Baldwin said…
Fiction? I don't know. I think non-fiction is easier in that regard. Either case, I think feedback and critique is tremendously helpful. wb
I take on board what my critique partner states in her feedback. I then try to find ways of improving via short writing courses.

If a book grabs me and holds me all the way through, any typo errors are forgiven. It is a book worth reading not ripping apart. :)
Jessica Nelson said…
Lynn, writing is often unscientific, though we all try to seem to come up with formulas to make it better. I guess that's the craft part, you know?

LOL Jennie! Yes, that's very close to what I'm feeling.

Eileen, you just made me smile. Thank you, sweet friend!
Jessica Nelson said…
Good advice, Nancy! I like it. :-)

Warren, yep, feedback is always helpful in some way.

Glynis, what a wonderful way to put it, that some books are not worth ripping apart because they're so good. Nice!
I think the only way to get better is to keep writing. But yes, there will always be some who love our work and others who loathe. My goal is to write to the best of my God-given ability.

Karen Lange said…
Very good questions! I think if we keep learning we can always improve. I know I am, and I trust my critique partners to help in this journey. :)
Angie Muresan said…
I don't know. But I do know when I read no good, or better.

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