David Farland’s Writing Tips: You Ain’t No Shakespeare

The other day, I was talking to some students about defining yourself as a writer, making those inside changes that allow you to move forward with developing writerly habits, and a student asked, “At your level, do you ever get imposter syndrome?”

Now, you have to understand that I’ve been writing for over thirty years. I’ve trained dozens of New York Times bestsellers, and I’ve had books in the top ten on the NYT list several times. I’ve won several major awards across a broad spectrum, as a short story writer, a science fiction novelist, a historical novelist, and a young adult novelist. I’ve written over 50 books—including bestsellers on how to write. I broke the Guinness Record for the world’s largest single-author, single book signing. I’m the lead judge for the world’s largest writing contest. You would think that if anyone felt secure in calling himself a writer, it would be me.

So the answer is, “Of course I feel like an imposter sometimes.” You see, there’s this guy named William Shakespeare, and every time that I read his work, I feel humbled and have to wonder if I’m really a writer.

The answer of course is that yes, I really am a writer, and if you’re writing regularly and trying to make a career out of it, so are you.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Especially don’t compare your first works to the best works of someone like Shakespeare. Even Shakespeare didn’t start out as Shakespeare. Was “Titus Andronicus” as good as “The Tempest”? No way. In his youth, Shakespeare had a lot of excesses and often carried scenes on too long so that he could throw in bad puns, real groaners. He perfected his craft as he aged.

Now, you might not be a Shakespeare fan. You might hope to be the next Robert Jordan or Danielle Steele. You’re still going to find yourself making unfair comparisons, and you’ll hear a lot of them.

Years ago, I noticed that one literary critic in the science fiction field actually did this often. He’d review the first book by any blossoming new author and say, “Well, this was an okay first novel, but she’s not as good as Ursula K. Le Guin in The Dispossessed,” and was always comparing a new author’s first book to a towering author’s best book. I sometimes wondered if this critic was secretly trying to undermine the authors. I think he was.

You can’t help it if others compare your book to some other literary giant’s best books, but don’t do that to yourself.

You’ll grow as you write. The more you write, the more skills you develop. You’ll get better with each performance. Trust that the real you is still developing. Your best books are ahead of you—maybe just one book away.


For Apex this week, we will have bestselling young adult writer Carol
Lynch Williams speaking on Tuesday. On Saturday, #1 bestselling
science fiction author Martin Shoemaker will talk about how to imbue
your work with emotional power.

In the Apex Writers Group, you can get in on free workshops, join
writing groups and writers rings, listen to guest lecturers, and more! Learn more @ theCompleatWriter.com or email the word “Apex” to apexwriter@xmission.com

My Epic Novel Writing Workshop begins
September 5 as we study various books. In online classes we’ll be
studying epics in science fiction and fantasy, then work together to
brainstorm and plot our own epic novels.

Here is the link: http://mystorydoctor.com/live-workshops-2/

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