The Writer’s Skill Tree

You writers know the milestones in the writing life: the first idea you have that doesn’t suck, the first time you close the door on your demanding family, the first time you print out your giant doorstop of a manuscript. You learn and grow as time passes, and you make choices about the ways you’d like to develop, then start putting effort into making the changes you want to see.

It’s a difficult and heartrending process… which, naturally, is best reduced to video game metaphors.

When I received an offer of representation, the husband and I naturally had a mini-party to celebrate, and we got to talking about how I’ve now leveled up. Whereas before I was merely master of writing query letters and short synopses for long works, I’ve now moved to the ability to compose pitches for books I’ve not yet written and the power to summon an agent-hero to protect me. And the bosses now? Whoa. They’re terrifying.

So Drew and I cooked up THE WRITER’S SKILL TREE. (Okay, FINE, Drew made it. But I wrote most of the text!)

agented (1)

Why, yes, that’s a picture of me holding my contract!

You can add points to each level, discover what new skill traits open up, and see all the new paths that open with the completion of each level. You can create a writer character that mimics your favorite author, and then share it here with the rest of us!

Disclaimer: You can do these things if you use Chrome, that is. For the moment, the tree will ONLY work in Google Chrome… and if you’re using another browser, you should probably stop that shit anyway, because fast is better than slow.

So if you’re a weirdo who is still using a sub-par browser, you can look at the writer levels and special skills as text below. What levels would you add? Where do you fit into the skill tree? Where do you need to add points? How does your favorite author rank?

I, for example, have achieved the found an agent ranking, but I probably need to put some more points into DIY publishing (aka this blog) and Social Media Darling (aka Twitter).

Without further ado, the levels…

Wannabe – You’ve got an idea, but you aren’t sure how to start up your word processor.
1. Can whine with the best of them.
2. Ability to guilt friends into reading your unfinished manuscript.
3. You should never reach this level: move on to hobbyist at least!

Serious writer – You turn down better jobs to keep writing and then cry yourself to sleep at night.
1. Ability to close the door.
2. Ability to say no to family members.
3. Willingness to give up free Saturdays to write.

Hobbyist – You lurk in coffee shops and use writing to escape real life.
1. Super latte-pounding powers.
2. Can find wi-fi from the ether.
3. First-name basis with pizza delivery guy.

Actually wrote a novel – You’ll know this level when you get there.
1. Smug attitude.
2. Can lecture knowingly online.
3. Sudden discovery of revision skills.

DIY – Who needs editors, cover artists, and publishers, anyway?
1. Blog with the best of them.
2. Talk about your Amazon ranking.
3. Understanding of iTunes bookstore mechanics.

Social Media Darling – People start quoting you… when you were only kidding.
1. Army of 1000 friends you’ve never met.
2. Ability to co-opt a sensationalist topic with a straight face.
3. Urge blithely suggest college is for the narrow-minded.

Find an agent – You realize you can hire a minion to do some of the work for you.
1. Mass email sending powers.
2. Ability to sense a (1) before it arrives.
3. Maximum strength rejection shields.

Hardcore Author – You find your book at Barnes and Noble.
1. Pay a bill with your earnings.
2. Cultivate a scrawling signature.
3. Have someone recognize you in public.

Sage – Your knowledge overflows until you start lecturing to your cats about writing.
1. You get hired to give graduation speeches.
2. Actually impart knowledge — teach a class.
3. Get honorary degrees for sneezing.

Mogul – The whole point of this was for the money, right?
1. Summon a cute assistant at will.
2. Sell your own writing book.
3. Spielberg is on speed-dial.

Isolation – You renounce all distractions from your art, such as TV and other people.
1. Accelerated facial hair growth.
2. Magical remote cabin purchasing power.
3. Drastically increased paranoia.

Artiste – People will beg and/or kill you for your art.
1. Guest essays in The New Yorker.
2. Inclusion on public school reading lists.
3. Both Fatwas and Nobel Peace Prizes.

Recluse – They’re all out to get you and your art.
1. Rumor miasma surrounds you.
2. Inability to recognize your own face
3. Ability to wipe the memory of your face from mankind.


4 thoughts on “The Writer’s Skill Tree

  1. I love the writer’s skill tree and can only look forward to bated breath my climb up the branches – or should I say devolve down the branches and into the dirt – hard to say which way I’ll climb. Great post!

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