Wednesday, March 13, 2013

You Simply Can't Learn To Write Overnight

I love talking to new authors and when I say new, I really mean those that are just sitting down to write their first book. There is so much enthusiasm in their voices and excitement over sitting down at that computer and creating those characters that are running around in their heads. I really wish we can channel some of that energy some days. But, with all of that energy and excitement, I often see people who are truly blind to what they are doing.

There is a pretty good bet that if you ask many established authors, they too were probably at this same stage, but, they were eventually able to open their eyes and see the reality of things.

I remember one author in particular who had just finished his first book. Wow, it was like he had won the World Series. In any case, he fired off that manuscript to some editors fully expecting that all of the things he "saw" in his manuscript would be the big selling points to the editors. He fully expected that a call would be coming with an editor not just simply wanting the project, but was expecting to pay big money for the project. What did he get? A rejection. Oh, we're not talking about a run-of-the-mill form rejection. This one outlined all of the problems they saw in the project. The editors saw someone who didn't know how to use dialogue within a story, grammar issues all over the place, narration that didn't mean anything or was convoluted... I think you get the idea.

Now, here is where the story takes a twist to what we want to focus on here today. Yes, he was disappointed but he knew there was an answer. His thought was that he would just take a couple of classes and would be able to fix that manuscript and have the Great American novel. Unfortunately, this is not going to happen.

Writing is like any other profession or hobby out there. To get good at it takes time. It takes practice. There isn't a magic pill you can take to suddenly make you an amazing author. You can't expect to read a book and figure it out. You can't expect to attend a workshop or go to a conference and have the knowledge you need. It takes time.

I often equate this idea to people playing piano (something I am far from good at). When we first learn to play piano, or any other instrument, we work with learning the notes. We then have to move from looking at the sheet music, thinking, "That is an E-flat," then looking at the keyboard and finding the note. It has to become a natural movement that moves seamlessly.

We are, unfortunately, living in a world of immediate gratification. We want it and we want it now. I am sorry to say, it isn't going to work that way.

Take the time and learn your craft. You might be surprised at how things play out for you in the future.


  1. I once googled "how to add depth to writing" and then was surprised when I didn't get any good hits. O_o

  2. I wonder if bad habits start early. I am sometimes in the position of assisting middle grade students with editing their writing. It can be painful. There's the spelling, the punctuation, the capitalization and that's just for a start. I've seen classrooms with large posters listing all the ways dialogue can be tagged: responded, commented, exclaimed. Students dutifully work their way through the list. I've read narratives of a trip to Disneyland where it takes to the second page before the child has brushed their teeth in their preparation for departing that day. I know some teachers insist on an adjective in each sentence and preferably also an adverb . . . Those practices become entrenched.