Now, I'm making no claims that I am anywhere near that, but I do know my writing is getting better. I have some concrete evidence:
- My writing tutors from the Open University, Open College of the Arts and the MA all say so.
- I'm getting longlisted and shortlisted in competitions.
- Now, an agent thinks so. That's not necessarily going to lead to publication, but she thinks it's worth a punt.
- And I think so. I can see the weaknesses and the strengths.
Only the agent seems to be interested in how good the story is. I've never had much difficulty coming up with stories, but I was thrilled when someone from the competition recently described my book as 'weird. Really weird.' Because that's what I was going for, and it was lovely to play around with creepy atmospheres, strange history, Elizabethan sorcery and the semi-dead.
So my advice to new writers is get yourself on a course to develop your skills (the OCA is by far the cheapest and I found, incredibly helpful) but keep pushing the boundaries of those stories. Because, if a book is going to be good, it needs a fantastic one, competently written, not, in my opinion, a competent story fantastically written.
The advice I was given from the agent (for more experienced writers) was take the story up a gear, more atmosphere, more warmth, more emotional engagement. And I'm happy with where it's taken me so far.