One of the most frustrating things I’ve seen in my life is people who figure that writing is simple – after all, all you do is put words down on the page and then people pay for it. What’s the problem?
Well… a lot.
First, I’ve met way too many enthusiastic writers who fail to grasp that this is, in fact, a skill that must be honed and sharpened. Even if your first-grade story won an award and you still have the ribbon on your bulletin board, you need to always be working to improve yourself.
But how, you say… how can I become a better writer? Why would I, since my every word is golden and I *KNOW* that I’ve got the Gift?
Well, first – flock with eagles, not turkeys as per my previous blog entry. Next, get thee hence to the library and pick up good books on writing and grammar including a copy of the Writers’ Market if you can and if nothing else current copies of “The Writer” and “Writer’s Digest”. Better yet, subscribe to them along with any other specialized magazine dealing with your genre. There’s a plethora of information in there that you’re not going to pick up by just staring at the bookshelves and waiting for it to seep into your bones.
And, of course, READ. If you can’t afford new books, get to the library and get a card. Join swap clubs such as http://www.paperbackswap.com and trade your old books for other old books in and out of your chosen genre. Get a book going in every room of your house.
I cannot, for the life of me, understand when I see some authors claim that they “don’t read much” or “don’t go into bookstores”. To me, that’s as bad as a doctor stating that they don’t pick up medical journals or attempt to keep up with the current techniques. Would you want some quack offering you leeches when you need a good dose of antibiotics?
I think not. And yet I’m constantly inundated with writers who claim that while they haven’t read much, don’t subscribe to any writing magazines and avoid bookstores like the plague, they’re the next Great Thing. Folks, writing is as much of a skill as carpentry and mechanics and television repair. You wouldn’t think much of a carpenter who didn’t use a level or the right hammer or even good nails to put together a table. Why would anyone think that they could construct a good story without the right tools or practicing on how to fit the pieces together?
Fortunately or unfortunately, these authors soon wander off into the black pool of self-publishing or worse – end up with scam presses like PublishAmerica, bragging that they’re just “ahead of their time” and that their genius would be realized if only… well, if only people would settle for unedited, badly-written tomes. The sad thing is that so many of these writers could and probably are great writers – just trapped in their own egos and not willing to admit that writing is a skill that not only needs to be learnt in the first place, but over and over again. If you can look at a piece you wrote a year or two ago and find nothing to change, then you’re in trouble.