A Rant: Craft is Not Just for New Writers by Cassiel Knight

I want to state one thing up front. I have absolutely nothing against self-publishing and while my rant is based on what I hear self-published authors say, I’ve also heard this from traditionally published authors. However, right now, the source of the rant comes from self-published, and you’ll see what I mean below.


On one of the many loops I follow, I heard a recurring comment from members of RWA chapters throughout the country. I have to admit, when I first read the comment, my jaw dropped.

What I read, and others chimed in and agreed they heard, is that self-published authors are leaving local chapters because:

“they don’t need to learn craft anymore.”

Yes, that’s right. You heard me. There’s apparently this movement out there that is supposed to support the idea that because someone chooses to self-publish, it automatically means that the author’s writing is perfect. That they can’t learn anything else about craft.

Sorry folks, they are dead wrong.

I talked to a publisher about this and her jaw dropped too.  And you can go to any number of higly respected blogs like Dear Author.com and a common note in the comments is readers fear self-published books because of the poor writing.

That’s the reality, dear readers.  Choosing to self-publish or being a published author doesn’t mean you don’t need to continue to learn craft. In fact, for self-published authors, I think it means you need to work that much harder at times because you’ve chosen to go at it alone. You don’t have the luxury of an agent or editor back-up. It’s you.

You think I’m wrong? Well, here are some quotes from those you might believe:

  • Gina Ardito wrote a great blog post on this subject. She says: “A truly successful author seeks the new, the different, and dares to step to the edge of the precipice every single time. (S)he is always learning, always growing.” http://ginaardito.blogspot.com/2011/06/mid-week-rude-awakening-growth-is.html
  • Marie Andreas: “But for any author to say, “I know all there is to know about writing”- FOR any reason is insane!…We have to keep learning. This is true in darn near all fields, but especially a world like publishing. I would be horrified if the book I wrote five years ago is no different than one I just finished. As authors we have to keep pushing the envelope, learning new skills, trying new approaches – EVEN if we don’t stick with them. Try them, keep what works, then move on.” http://www.castlesandguns.com/2011/04/never-stop-learning.html
  • RITA Award winning author, Sophia Nash (http://www.sophianash.com): “I think writers grow and change, even if it is just in miniscule amounts, with each book they write. It’s only natural since the writing process is a learning experience. It’s what I like the most about the creative process. I’ll never get bored writing because I’ll never stop learning new things about the craft.”
  • Bob Mayer, Who Dares Wins Publishing (http://www.boymayer.org) – Always learn to become a better writer. 
  • James Scott Bell, bestselling suspense author and former fiction columnist for Writers Digest, says: “…never think that business knowledge and marketing can cover a multitude of writing sins. One still has to be able to consistently deliver the goods, and that means learning the craft by writing, revising, studying, getting feedback, and more writing.”
  • Robin Perini (http://www.robinperini.com) of Discovering Story Magic fame says: “I think that the most important piece of advice that I can give is to NEVER STOP LEARNING, and to BE OPEN TO GROWING and CHANGING.”
  • New York Bestselling Author Susan Mallery says: “Never Stop Learning.” She recommends that you master as much craft as you can so you don’t disappoint your readers. Figure out what you’re good at and what you’re bad at. Focus on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses. If you bring your passion and enthusiasm to a project, it will show up on the page. http://jennyhansenauthor.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/5-great-bits-of-wisdom-from-a-new-york-times-besteller/
  • Dean Wesley Smith – A self-published success story most who self-published know very well has this to say: “Learning and continuing to learn is critical. This business keeps changing and the only way to stay abreast of the changes is to go out and keep learning and talk with other writers and find advice that makes sense to you and your way. Go to workshops, conferences, conventions and anything else you can find to get bits of learning. Read everything you can find about the business. My goal on this is learn one thing new every week at least. I’ve been doing that since my early days and it has worked for me, and kept me focused on learning. Find what works for you…Keep learning. Keep practicing your art.”http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=1311

So, the point of this rant is, next time you don’t think you have anything to learn from craft workshops, think again.

I suspect you do.

BTW – isn’t that little girl up there absolutely adorable? 😀


Posted on February 15, 2012, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Great blog and I totally agree – you need to keep learning and keep improving. I am just finishing my first book and I can see just how much I’ve developed and learned since I started nearly 2 years ago.


  2. This is honestly the first I’ve heard people leaving because they don’t need to learn craft. I’ve seen a lot of writers leave RWA because they think for whatever reason they are not valued at RWA or RWA is against ePublishing or self-publishing (which is not true), but because they think they know it all when it comes to craft? I’ve never meet an artist that didn’t believe they need to continue to master their craft.


    • Hi Jen! Oh, I wish I hadn’t heard it but I have and I’ve met a few. You’ve been lucky not to encounter that.

      I’ve heard the other part too, about how RWA and while I know RWA has more to learn, I know they aren’t against epublishing or self-publishing. Just slow to adapt and I get that. For the most part. It’s not easy to turn a big ship like RWA. 😀


  3. Appreciate the mention– I’ve learned more about writing the last two years than in the first 20.


  4. Cassiel,

    Thanks so much for including my post on Susan Mallery.

    Several things stood out to me in the talk I saw her give:

    – You must envision your goals to achieve them
    – we must never, ever stop learning

    She also said the main difference between a published and a non-published author is that the pubbed author didn’t give up.

    How inspiring is that??


  5. I’m reading James Scott Bell’s book on plotting at this exact moment! (Never stop learning). The perspective I wanted to offer is that after 11 years and 8 novels and 3 agents and 15 almost-offers, my debut finally sold. Huge exhalation of relief. Big dream coming true. I figured the novel must be in pretty good shape. After all, the others had come close, but this was the one To Do It.

    My brilliant editor applied her eye to it, and we went another three drafts.

    One day, someone will call the book done, wrench it from the author’s hands, and it will be published. But till then–as you say, never stop learning.


    • Hi Jenny! Congrats on selling your debut! Have we interviewed you yet? Sounds like your journey must be quite interesting. 😀 How lucky you got to get an editor you obviously trust. This other opinion is why I love working with my houses – the invaluable second and third look at something I’ve been staring at for months.


  6. To think one knows all there is to know about any subject is insane. As a reader and pre-published writer, I can tell you I sometimes shy away from epublished books, fearful of quality issues. Let me say however, that I do know several authors that have gone that route; the correct way. They learn craft, hire editors, revise before uploading and thier work is solid. I don’t know what the solution is, but writers thinking they have arrived is not the answer and only ads to the crap shoot nature (for the would-be reader) of epublishing.


    • You are right – there is still so much worry out there about the quality of self-published books. I believe there will come a time when readers won’t be so forgiving. Right now, there are so many books, it’s like a banquet and everything looks good to the eye. But what will get people coming back is how the food tastes, and in this case, that will be quality and a good story.


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