Author Steven Lake
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An Explanation of Writing Progression and Growth as an Author
Saturday, August 29th, 2020 1:46pm
Keywords: Writing, Good, Bad, Author, Explanations, Demonstrations, Definitions

One of the things that a LOT of people don't understand when it comes to writers is there's two basic groups of them.  There's those who think they're great, but really aren't, and those who don't think they're great, but in actuality they are.  Or if they're not, and they know they're not, they understand that they need to get better, to always grow, always get better, always challenge themselves.  Writers don't just come into this world as NYT best sellers.  Every good writer started out as an unbelievably horrible hack.  Anyone who tells you differently is lying.  We all sucked at writing at one time.  If you don't think so, ask your teachers. ^_^

What defines good authors from bad authors, therefore, is the good authors know they will never perfect their art, that it's a perishable skill, and as such, in order to make their writing the best it can be, they need to practice constantly, push relentlessly, challenge themselves, stretch their boundaries, and so much more.  Those who think they've "arrived" are merely deceiving themselves.  You never "arrive" as a writer.  There's ALWAYS room for improvement.  I mean, look at how far I've come as a writer and I know that I still have a LONG ways to go before I'm ever "there".  Just take a look at the books I have if you want to see my growth.

Take Earthfleet for example.  The Oort Perimeter, while not my very first novel (there were others before that, just never good enough to publish), was the first I felt (and quite a few friends did as well, hence why I was pushed to publish it) ready to release.  Destiny's Mission, which followed it, was slightly better, and so on, continuing to improve as I went alone.  Land of the Lions was another one that was actually an experiment that became a published series.  The idea behind Earthfleet was to create a Sci-fi "superworld" type universe with episodic (ie, in story per book rather than one story across multiple books) stories spread out across sagas (the first four books were my attempt at a saga, and the rest as expanded universe novels), whereas Land of the Lions was my attempt at an allegorical novel series (ala CS Lewis) using the already well established "Saga/Episodic" methodology of the Earthfleet saga.

The Dreamland Articles (now defunct) was my attempt at doing a short story, mixed genre anthology across multiple books.  That, um, yeah, that didn't go so well.  Hence why I pulled the series.  I later rebooted it with the Storyland Chronicles, which went better, but still not good enough in my humble opinion.  Out of all of my most recent projects, it's the only one I'd consider a failure.  Even so, I may revisit the idea at a later time and try my hand at it again to see if I can succeed the second time.  Well, technically the third time, as Storyland Chronicles is my 2nd attempt. ^_^;;  But, as a good author, I know I can do better, and I'm not gonna quit until I get it right.

Now, as for writing, experimentation, etc, my Christian pocket guides that I did are somewhat of a divergence from that growth pattern and attempts to get better.  Those I wrote as a way to help my church, and to help people who were hurting and in need.  My first attempt in that effort was "The Great Commission", which didn't turn out quite as well as I'd hoped.  However, it was a learning experience that set the groundwork for later novels.  The only one that was an actual experiment of the five books I created was "Jenna's Journey", which was meant as both an experiment (I tried out split story writing, where a single story is told from multiple viewpoints via numerous short stories, which proved to be REALLY difficult), and a means to demonstrate God's provision of our needs (ie, a practical expansion on my "Manna" pocket guide) through all types of events in our lives, some of which are obvious, and some not so much.

The latest attempt at doing something new, namely the "Offworld Chronicles", is to take all of what I've learned so far and attempt a super series (ie, a single story spread across multiple books), but without a "super world" like Earthfleet had.  I learned early on that super worlds are great if you're keeping to an episodic writing scheme, but once you get into a super series, it's too much.  So I kept the world very narrow and defined in order to make it possible to write.  Even then it's proving to be the biggest, most difficult, most challenging effort I've ever undertaken, and I love it.  I probably will never repeat it, but that doesn't mean I won't love it. :)  After this I have two paths of growth I'm looking at attempting next.  The first is a series of kids books.  Those will take everything I've learned about character design, world building, and more, and stretch them in far different ways than I've already gone.  Plus, I have to kinda step down from my world of the adult, with adult themes (not pornographic, but rather day to day, slice of life, adult things.  Ie, jobs, relationships, money issues, laundry.  IE, grown up stuff, as I don't do porn. :)  I prefer my stuff family friendly, even if the themes are above what most kids would think of or deal with daily), and step down into the world of being a kid again, and the things they cared about.

That's going to be a whole new challenge for me after 20+ years of doing everything else. :)  But, this is why I love writing.  I love the escape, I love the challenges, I love the characters, escaping reality for another world, and so much more.  The second possible route I may go, depending on what direction things go after I finish Offworld Chronicles.  That one involves a follow-on series that takes the MC's from the original series, and put them in a colony building exercise where they need to land on a foreign planet, establish a colony, and then struggle to build it up in time to safely and properly absorb an influx of 10 million refugees, and do all of this in the impossible timeframe of just 150 years.  This series won't be world building like many of my other books are (some of that will occur, but most of the world it'll be operating in has already been established), but rather colony/colonial/society building, which is far harder to do, even though it would seem to be along the same lines as world building.

Which, in all truthfulness, it is.  However, in this world they're starting out with the most basic of technology and building up all the resources, systems and everything else needed to save their fellow humans from almost certain extinction on their home planet.  And no, the home planet I'm talking about isn't Earth.  The home planet is Offworld.  However, I'll explain that more at a later time, assuming the series ever gets off the ground.  But anyways, that's just a brief explanation and demonstration of growth as an author using my own books and series as a demonstration of my own growth as an author.  I also hope it explains some of the reasons behind the various books and series I've written, my goals and attempts, and more.  Also, I've only touched on a small portion of all the things I set out to acomplish in each of these works I've done.  However, I pray that it has shown you what I mean when I describe the differences between good and bad authors.

And that's not to toot my own horn, or call myself a "great" author, or even a good one.  That title is for others to bestow, and not myself.  But that doesn't mean I can't show you, using myself as an example, of what a good author would look like, were such a title given to myself or anyone else.  Now lastly, I provide you with one final example, and this time of a "bad" author.  And this comes from a friend of mine who was a publisher.  He had a lady come into his business who was a PHD.  (That's short for "piled higher and deeper", lol)  She wrote a kid's book called "The Snow Wish."  It was absolute, total garbage.  There were broken sentences, misspellings, bad grammar, and worse.  And she was a PHD.  Yet, every time someone advised her how to fix her book, or make it better, etc, she would flat out reject those efforts, and sometimes even cuss you out, saying "I'm a PHD!  I know what I'm doing!  My book is perfect!  In fact, it's so perfect, Disney will be kicking my door down just to buy up the movie rights!"

Needless to say, her book never sold one copy.  Not one.  Everyone who picked it up couldn't stand to read it.  Yet she felt she was the greatest writer ever.  That is the quintessential definition, not just of narcissist, but also of a bad writer.  They think they've "arrived", and can never get better.  Anyone who thinks they have no room for improvement, and are already their best, and don't need to get better, those are the ones classified as bad authors, and ultimately prove to be failures as writers.  A few somehow make it into mainline publishing and get a huge following (don't ask me how, as their books are absolute garbage), but the majority we are thankfully spared of.  And I'm not being derogatory towards authors who are trying and not succeeding.  I mean, I started writing in earnest in 1992, but didn't get to a point where I was publishing ready until 2009 if that gives you any idea how long I worked at this.  Trying and falling is part of living and learning.  You can't get better unless you fail at least sometimes.  Because you learn more from failure than success.

The real issue comes from those who are failures and are too conceited or self deluded to realize it.  I have more respect for a writer who's horrible at what they do and know they are, and want to get better, than I do for someone who's horrible, and thinks they're good.  Why?  Because the writer who knows they're bad, and is willing to work until they become good, is someone I will encourage and applaud.  The one who is bad and refuses to admit it, or do anything to improve, those are the kind best thrown in a dumpster and forgotten about.  But anyhow, I digress.  In the end, through all that I've laid out to you, I hope you understand what I'm getting at with the differences between good and bad authors, and what makes each of them what they are.  And, if I've failed at doing that, then well, I guess I need to work harder at explaining myself better, and improving my prose so that I'm easily understood, as any good author should do. :)

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