Saturday, May 15, 2010


The other day someone called me an expert. They were referring to my writing, and though I can freely and easily acknowledge that I am a writer today -- an expert I am not. But why? I'm published. I have a publisher and an editor for my second novel Broken But Not Dead, due to be released next year. (I never get tired of saying that)

Honoured though I was by her comment, I'm not even close to being an expert. There is too much left to learn. And honestly, I don't think I want to be an expert at this stage in my life. Maybe at the end, but not now when the thought of learning more still sets my stomach to fluttering. As my career moves forward, I'm going to get better and better and better. It's exciting knowing that.

So, my question is: are you a writing expert? Does an expert have to be published? My high school English teacher wasn't, but I still think of him as one of the most knowledgeable writers I know.

And if you are an expert, how do you know you are?


  1. I don't imagine I'll ever think of myself as an expert. Sure, I've learned a TON since I started writing, but the volume of stuff still to be learned is humbling (and a little overwhelming).

  2. I'm with you, Shari. Don't want to be an expert. I think that might take all the fun out of getting better.

  3. No, Joylene, we never stop learning. I'm just completing a course in the growing field of children's literature criticism, a weird world all of its own. Having touched the fringe of it I shall be very glad to make a quick retreat. I'm no expert- it was like learning a new language!

  4. Hi Joylene,
    I'm far from being an 'expert'. In fact, I wouldn't want to be an expert on writing.
    I realise that my grammar isn't always correct. However, I do my own thing, enjoy what I'm doing and would never want to feel stifled.
    I'm not so sure anyone could be considered an expert. I celebrate the differences in writing styles.
    Enjoy your weekend, Joylene.
    With respect, Gary.

  5. I'm not an expert, and I don't think I'll ever be one. I'm with you; I think we're always learning. How does that saying go - the older I get the less I realize I know.

    I feel terribly inept sometimes, but people that know I write think I have the market cornered on good grammar and all that stuff. I'm flattered and then nervous that I miss some silly little grammatical thing...
    Have a good weekend:)

  6. @Carole, _Children Literature Criticism_ sounds nasty. I can understand the urge to retreat. Hope it comes in handy in some future endeavour.

    @Gary, I agree. Being expert would take all the fun out of it. Have a great weekend.

    @Karen, funny thing. The older I got the more I realized how smart my parents were. Stay safe.

  7. I'm not so sure there can be an 'expert' when it comes to writing. Read 3 "How To" articles, get 3 opinions.

    I recently read a book by an 'expert' (rare for me to do that by the way) & I was doin' some major head scratchin'

  8. There's a definition that says "expert" = "ex" (an unknown quantity) + "spurt" (a drip under pressure). I can relate to THAT definition, but not the dictionary one that says "somebody with specialist knowledge". Any knowledge I've gained leaves me far from the specialist category and very aware of how much I don't know!

    I think a writing expert must be someone who has significant experience working inside the industry, perhaps as an agent or editor, and who is also a published author... someone who not only knows what is required but has also successfully navigated the combat zone.

    It's a great question, Joylene. I'll be interested in what everyone else thinks.

  9. I'd say writing is so individual that no one could be a true expert. There's to many opinions. I will say that someone may master there own writing, but even masters learn new things.

  10. It's interesting that no matter how good we are at something, we're always better than someone else, and yet another person is better than us. It all depends on where you sit.

  11. @Dave, I've met a few writers who thought they were experts. Wonder how they're doing today. Some of the self-help books I read were excellent though, but not one of those authors ever professed to be an expert.

    @Carol, I agree, there has to be experts out there somewhere. Or maybe it's a collection of writing experience and commonsense.

    @Cher, I agree, and would like to add to that. There will always be those who know and those who know more.

    @Colette, yes. And it depends on where you are in your career. I might be able to help a new writer, but I can't think what I could teach Marilyn French.

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

  12. I think the word "expert" is tossed around too much these days. Still, we need to realize that we might be considered "experts" on certain topics.

    Time management and organization always came easy to me. I assumed it was that way for most people because the things I did were common sense to me. That was until I started writing articles on those topics and realized this is an area where many people struggle.

    I don't think I'll every learn all there is to know about writing, but I do believe I know a great deal about some topics, so I don't mind saying I am an expert in that area.


  13. Hi Cheryl. I was just talking to a writer about this on another list. I feel comfortable about "Deep POV", but not enough to stop learning. I'm still unsure why anyone would write a story in Omni without being part of the story.

    Thanks for the comment, Cheryl.

  14. Why is it always me that looks at the discussion a different way? Bane of my existence and of everyone else's, I'd bet.

    Expert doesn't mean the top of the field. It doesn't mean perfect. It doesn't mean there is nothing left to learn. All it means is that you are skillful, knowledgeable, and proficient at what you do.

    It means you are someone that is capable of mentoring and guiding someone who is new to the field, at least through some given question or problem. It means you are someone that people can come to for answers. Even if you don't HAVE them, you may be able to suggest where the person can find the answers he/she seeks. Sometimes knowing where to look is expetise of its own.

    That is all an expert means. I see no down side to being an expert. I don't see it as boastful to think of oneself as an expert. I don't think of an expert as stagnating and no longer learning or capable of learning.

    Do I see myself as an expert? In some things. In If anyone out there thinks he/she is expert in everything, I'd say he/she is delusional.

    And since writing is so unique to each individual, part of being an expert (IMO) is recognizing that. Any of the so-called experts that claim there is only one right way to do anything in this business is no expert. But that same variation means that you won't find someone expert in all facets of the field. See the comment above about that subject.


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  16. Hi Brenna. Being different is a good thing. Thanks for your thoughts on the matter. I appreciate those in our field who are experts. I cherish their guidance, support and willingness to mentor. For instance, I can't count how many times your comments on the list have added something special to my growing as a writer. I would be where I am today without writers like you who are so willing to share. I've also learned something very important, and that is to not take myself too seriously. But that's another discussion for another day.

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  18. I used to think an 'expert' writer was someone who has lots and lots of books. But now I don't think there's any such thing as an expert writer. It seems once you learn something new about writing, something new comes along. I don't think we'll ever know all there is to know about writing. :))

  19. Thanks for your comment, Kim.

  20. Kim,

    This is one of the reasons I laugh at people that call themselves grammar experts. Grammar and spelling are a fad...a fashion that changes once a year or so, based on new versions of M-W Dictionary or of Chicago Manual of Style. And we all know the old sayings about fashion, don't we?

    "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." Oscar Wilde


    "The fashion wears out more clothing than the man." Shakespeare

    We must make something unfahionable, so we feel we're making progress.

    The same thing goes for the fashionable "rules" like:

    "Only use said and asked." I don't, and it works for me not to.

    "Never have paragraphs of description in a book." Sometimes that's called for and even needed, but it should be at a time in the book where it works well and not shoved into a place with fast timing.

    "Always start with the explosion." Horror books often do NOT. The niggling unease and build to explosion is perfectly acceptable.

    ANY rule that says always, never, or only is pretty much a crock. It is the extreme of what the rule should rightly be...and that is not to overuse any crutch item in your writing. Too much of anything can be bad writing.


  21. Thanks for the explanations, Brenna. No wonder new writers are so often overwhelmed.


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