Monday, November 14, 2011
Don't Fool Yourself
I've counseled people who've decided to do an about-face and write. They've decided to do what they love for a change. My concern is, have they been writing all along and just now took it serious? Or have they decided they like the idea of writing and want to take up the craft?
Either is admirable. However, writing becomes worthy, improves, and grows only with use, critique and study. It doesn't just happen. A writer isn't an actress discovered beside a dime store soda fountain by a Hollywood director. A writer earns his way, starting at the bottom and working up. These days many decide that when they are going to write, that means publish. Who wants to write and not publish? However, writing isn't synonymous with publishing. Publishing is what you do once you've learned how to write.
With practice, study, review and repetition, a voice takes root. You aren't born with voice. It evolves with each word you pen. You don't look for it. You don't develop a plan and create it. It comes with the confidence of telling a story, after many attempts and a lot of backing up and starting over.
I'm often asked in conferences or online chats, "If you could give one piece of advice to writers, what would it be?" Without a doubt, it would be to write more and publish slowly. I've seen too many people hurt by doing the opposite.
When someone asks for a consult with me, I always ask for their educational, publishing and writing background. Some have never published, yet are writing a book they think is the next King, Rowling, Clancy or Patterson. I admire their determination. But then I wonder how many realize that they are talking about a multi-year venture? Most don't. I can usually tell which ones are deceiving themselves. I always pray I'm wrong.
I want you to succeed. I want to see your name on the top 100 lists, the top 10 lists, the bestseller lists. Who doesn't love seeing people they know rise to the top? But it pains me to see people sabotage their writing future by writing one piece then decide it can be published without an editor, without rewrites, without critique.
Coca Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken didn't become household names using the first formulas they tried. It wasn't until after following countless tests that they found a flavor the public loved. Cologne, clothes, cars, recipes and architecture are all the same. The first, second, or even third drafts are just steps in a journey. That way the end result is more predictable, more likely to win consumer approval.
Practice makes perfect.