I've had Damon Knight's Creating Short Fiction for a couple months now, but haven't cracked it open until today. If you don't know Knight at all, he's no relation to Michael Knight of Knight Rider fame. He's an author, primarily of sci-fi, but also a pretty important critic. Particularly in the 60's and 70's, he was a very vocal personality to raise the bar of quality in sci-fi and how we criticize it. He felt sci-fi not only could but should be criticized as heavily as any other type of writing. He passed away last spring, I believe.
Fairly close to the beginning of the book, he goes into his idea of the four stages of writers:
1 You are writing for yourself, and your stories are essentially daydreams.
2 Now you are trying to break out of your shell, trying to communicate your ideas but your stories are what editors call "trivial".
3 You are writing complete stories, but are being held back by technical problems like structure and character development.
4 You have solved these problems, at least well enough to get by. You have the skill to achieve some level of success at a professional level.
He goes on to say that there are stages after #4, but the author doesn't need help or guidance once the author reaches that point. I thought it interesting enough to blog about. Using his little guidelines, I probably fall somewhere between 3 + 4. I have had some limited professional success, but I definitely still have some problems I'm working on. Ah, perhaps someday I too can look back on stage 4 with fondness.
I'll probably pull more from this book as time goes on. It looks like it has a lot of good material and thoughts for writers. In the meantime, I need to finish my infernal income taxes.