Where Are You on The Writing Growth Curve?


by Allison Maruska

My son has always been above average on the growth curve. Now, having just turned twelve, he’s caught up to his grandmother. He’s tall. And she’s . . . less than tall…The boy is tall, and the mom is short.

And yet, they’re the same height.

The observations are accurate because the boy is still growing. For his age, he is tall. And he’ll continue along the growth curve, leveling out somewhat, until he reaches his full height. His doctor thinks that will be around 6’1″.

How does this apply to writing? I’m so glad you asked!

Consider how the growth curve looks.

Notice a sharp increase starting in infancy, then a slight leveling out starting around age 2, then a significant leveling out around age 15. No matter where a newborn starts, height-wise, the pattern applies.

There is a growth curve with writing, and I think it would look similar to the physical growth curve, if such a convenient visual representation existed. Everyone starts writing as a brand-new writer. Stephen King wasn’t The Great Stephen King at first. He started at the beginning and had to practice and improve.

After working in a critique group for going on three years, I would say that the most profound growth a writer experiences is at the beginning of their writing life – with a big if (which I’ll get to in a minute). Unless you studied writing in college (and maybe not even then), you just don’t know what you don’t know until someone tells you. And if you’re like me, it’s a lot.

When I started in the critique group, I learned I was making several novice writing mistakes, including but not limited to: filtering, not anchoring the character in the setting, using echoes, being redundant, and overusing dialogue tags.
After I had all that straightened out, I learned other things, like how to show emotion and how to avoid adverbs by using strong verbs.

You could say the number of things I had to learn dropped as I put what was taught to me into practice. Eventually, like the physical growth curve, I leveled off because there isn’t as much to learn. But here’s where the comparison ends – unlike physical growth, which eventually stops, writing growth can potentially always occur, no matter how long you’ve been doing it. The line always slopes slightly upwards.

Now, let’s get back to that big if.

Sometimes, I work with writers who, for lack of a better description, refuse to improve. I’m not sure why they’re in the critique group. Maybe it’s to get their egos stroked. If you saw one of these writers, you’d see how week after week, suggestions, even to obvious errors, aren’t applied.

Now, it could be they’re waiting until all chapters are through the site to make revisions, but sometimes, I get this…

This is how I write. It’s my voice.

Which is when I part ways with said writer. I’m there to improve and to help others improve, not to stroke egos. I’m not interested in working with perfect writers (and for anyone in the critique group with a similar mindset, don’t worry; I’ll never be a member of the perfect writers club.)

So if you’re just starting out and find the curve a bit daunting, take heart – you’re at the beginning of the curve. And if you’re past the initial slope and are starting to level out, realize there is always something new to learn around the next corner.




Guest post contributed by Allison Maruska. Allison likes to post in line with her humor blog roots, but she also includes posts about teaching and writing specifically. Check out her website for more of her work.

20 thoughts on “Where Are You on The Writing Growth Curve?

  1. “You just don’t know what you don’t know until someone tells you.” Such a powerful, and often overlooked piece of insight. I think my favorite example is how often people who don’t do something assume that it should be quick and easy. Whether it’s fixing a computer or writing a story, lots of people like to assume it’s easy because they don’t know otherwise.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It does add a funny variable. For some it creates two different versions of “writing” and “writer”. I actually had someone recently say to me “I write, but I don’t really write.”
        It also means that unlike some artistic interests like music or sculpture, everyone has years, really a lifetime of experience practicing and working with words, which can either create the illusion that there is very little left to learn, and/or raise the bar that much higher.
        But that’s all academic, really. I think we’ve all chosen to pursue writing regardless of the difficulty or the misconceptions that surround it.
        We have stories to tell.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m 40 years into my writing life and still think I need improvement. I like the phrase “I’m still learning” because you should never stop–both growing and learning when it come to anything in life. (BTW: I’m not old; I just started writing officially at 4) 😋 Still remember that poem.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I have some people like that in my writer’s group too. No matter what suggestions someone makes, they have to argue that their way is the right way, that every word has to stay the way it is. It drives me a little crazy. Good to know I’m not alone! And good reminder that I need to check how I take criticism.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. The key is being able to adapt, change, and grow. A lot of us who took writing courses many years ago, and participated in critique groups, did not have today’s restrictions–such as avoiding filter words or dialogue tags. The former was acceptable, the latter chalked up to “style.” But as I mentioned in my first sentence, techniques change with the times, and what may have been considered good writing in prior decades is now out of vogue. As Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” True words!


  5. I want to join a critique group but because I seem to be living in a town where no one writes, I am stuck with online critique groups. Additionally, I am poor so any fee is out of the question for me. The third concern is I have switched from fiction to non-fiction. Do you have any suggestions for me?


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