I want to be a writer.
How many people have uttered those words? Off-hand, I'd say thousands upon thousands. And why wouldn't they? Writing is easy… or is it?
Yes, anyone can write a novel. Will it be good? Who knows? Trust me, every beautiful rose has its hidden thorns.
Here are some realities and myth-busters.
- Writing is not easy.
- Family histories and/or biographies are boring to most people.
- Okay, the caveat — to the immediate family it is exciting!
- A truly well-written book takes years to write — NOT!
- A truly well-written book can be written in 30 days or less — probably not.
- My book is going to be a blockbuster — NOT!
- I can do this as a living, full-time — probably not!
- If you don't read, don't attempt to write. IOW, know your stuff!
- Rejections are for poor writers - NOT!
So, exactly what does all that above crap mean? Yeah, I called it crap. Why? Simple.
- Writing is easy if you know how. It takes time to learn the craft. It is not an overnight talent. Some can learn it faster than others, but expect to receive a lot of rejections before you finally get published. Of course, you can 'push your way through' by self-publishing, but if you write trite crap, it won't sell. Sure, you're published but if you're not selling, can you really consider yourself a writer?
- Family histories and biographies are exciting to two types of people. One, the immediate family - a given; and two, famous people who others want to learn about. In other words, the story of great-aunt Maria coming to America will probably only be interesting to the immediate family and a few friends too polite to not buy a copy of the book. Now, if your great-aunt Maria is Maria von Trapp, then yes, possibly you have a book that will sell, and sell well.
- A well-written book takes the amount of time needed to write a book, be it 30 days or 30 years. Some writers can put down their thoughts in clear, concise sentences which need very little editing. Others, meaning most, need a lot of professional help in editing the book to polish it for publishing.
- Writing a blockbuster is a coin-toss with 99% of the time coming up "tails" when you call "heads." There are some writers who get lucky. Just remember, for each 'lucky' writer, there are probably close to nine hundred ninety-nine unlucky writers who just received a rejection.
- Out of 1,000 writers, only about 1 of them actually make a living as a full-time writer. Even free-lance writers struggle to make ends meet. Those authors who sell millions of copies of their books and have movie and international rights bought - they are rarer than snail's teeth. I'd suggest keeping the day job until you know you can regularly bring in bread and not have to buy day-old bread to subsidize.
- Any author worth their royalties will tell you, read. Why? Again, simple. You have to know the market to write for the market. If Celtic fantasies were selling like hotcakes last year, don't start to write your epic, hoping to cash in on the surge in another two years. A good writer will keep their fingers on the pulse of the writing world to know what is becoming the new hot cult to read.
- Rejection. EVERYONE gets rejected at one time or another. Stephen King received over 30 rejections for Carrie alone before it sold. Don't expect to write "The Next Great American Novel" in 30 days and have it accepted immediately. For that to happen, trust me, the planets must all be in proper alignment and probably the best and most appropriate incantation spoken during a virgin sacrifice on either a full or dark moon. Uh, your call on which moon phase would be correct.
Please don't get the idea that writing is impossible. It's not… BUT, writing is not a simple matter of sitting at a laptop (or typewriter) and simply typing a story from start to end. One must learn the craft. Yes, writing is a craft. Some may consider it a hobby, but a real writer considers the talent to write an engaging story a skill. A person doesn't stroll into the barn and know how to blacksmith and shoe a horse. That person must first learn to be an intern. Don't expect to sit at a keyboard and know how to compose a story.
By the way, did I mention research? Almost every story will involve research. Today's readers are intelligent people who have access to many obscure pieces of information via the internet. In 1930, even 1950, a writer could 'blue-sky' their way to completion of a tale, creating their own science. Today? No way. Even young adults know when somebody is trying to pull the wool over their eyes when reading a story.
So, in final retrospect, know your audience, know your story, know your facts, know your skill. It is a combination of all those aspects that will allow you to write.
Smell the roses, beware the thorns. Happy writing.