Monday, September 7, 2009

Do Great Writers Intimidate You?

Have you ever read a book that you thought was really great and said to yourself, I couldn't do that? I'm not that good of a writer.

If you said no, I can see your nose growing.

I recently read "Dead Sleep" by Greg Iles and said exactly that. His characters were deep and emotional. The plot and story were great. I felt completely intimidated after I finished the story, because I knew I couldn't have written it as well.

But I can write other stories. My stories may not be as good as his right now, but with some practice, maybe they can be. If not, I have heard from my readers that they are entertaining, and isn't that what we are after all? Entertainers?

I'm working on my characters. I'm working on my pacing. I'm working on creating an emotional response in my readers. When I get good at it, my stories will probably be good. I can't say that they will be great, but I'll be happy with good.

So, are you ever intimidated? What are you trying to improve?


  1. I don't think I'm intimidated, but I am in awe. After I read a particularly good book I leave it wanting to be able to carry the reader away like it happened for me. I am working on depth of character and pacing. I've been told I move through the story too fast.

  2. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay - if I could write like that . . . woo-hoo. I can't. I'm jealous. I also know that I can write, and have faith in those abilities. There's a great book, possibly many books, inside of me just waiting for their opportunity to burst forth into the publishing world.

    I admire great writers. I'm inspired by them and strive my best to one day have someone say the same thing about me.


  3. Oh, definitely! I'd even stopped writing for awhile after reading a book in the line I was targeting. I felt it was way beyond my ability. I'm working on layering in more internal conflict.

  4. I think stirring up an emotional response in readers is key. That makes for some good reading. Good luck!

  5. Yes, I'll admit to that. Dean Koontz has a short story in the NYT which was a stunner. I found it pretty intimidating - how am I supposed to measure up to that?

    Then I remembered... I don't have to be better than, or even as good as Koontz. I just have to be better than I am now.

  6. I try not to use other writers as my yardstick. Instead I look at their writing for advice and purely for entertainment. I also look for those authors that give me the I could write this story better than that moments.

  7. I aspire to their writing, but I really try not to compare myself to them. Reading a fantastic book makes me say, "I can do that!"

    Maybe I'm just too full of myself ;)

  8. Franzen's The Corrections intimidates the hell out of me. The SCOPE of the story! The truth of the characters! The authentic portrayal of men AND women AND the old AND the young! The way it all comes back to center at the end!

    Someday maybe I'll have as ambitious a tale to tell. For now, I'm trying to do the best I can with something a bit smaller.

  9. What I find interesting about this question is that right now I am taking a bit of a break from writing and focusing more on my work. That doesn't mean I'm not thinking about a writing project though. Here's the point. I believe that when you are focused on what great authors are doing and how you can improve, and you are actually making progress, you are in the realm of making things happen. It is easy to loose track of that when you are in the middle of the battle, but when you are focused more on other things (like me right now, these last couple of weeks) and you run into a thought like this it is striking how much of a difference there is between going for it and not.

    I wish that I was so into the pursuit of my writing goal that I was intimidated by a great writer. I am reading a memoir right now, and I am working on a memoir, but I don't have the energy to be intimidated. There is just work, play, rest, and (when inpiration strikes) write.

    Best of luck and keep up the good fight!

  10. I never think someone can write better than me. It's not about that. We all write different and have our own style. I WILL say, some people can't write at all--like, geez, how do these people get published?? But do I think I'm better? Nah. Just more schooled in the technical crap--possibly have a better editor...


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