Monday, November 14, 2011

Don't Fool Yourself

Writing talent isn't something you're born with. You might like it more than the person next to you, but you weren't birthed ready to pen a bestselling tome. Writing is work. There's nothing accidental about it, and the sooner you understand that, the sooner you'll tackle a realistic writing venture - with less disappointment.

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.


Diva Jefferson said...

Hope, your words will make any true writer (who has procrastinated recently) straighten their backbone and start working harder. After 10 years of writing practice, I'm able to place my foot in the river of publishing possibilities, but I know that where there is a river, there is much work to travel toward an ocean of dreams not far away.

You are such a great inspiration, Hope. Writing is a part of life's journey. Embrace it!

Be the best you can be at what you love to do!

-Diva J.

Carol J. Alexander said...

Thank you, Hope, for another inspiring and motivating post. I've had this nagging voice in the back of my head that I need polishing, that my writing needs polishing, that I need a class of some sort. Not like I've been taking in the past two years on submitting and writing queries and building a platform, but on how to choose just the right words, how to put rhythm in those chosen words, how to make those words sing. Now, it's on my 'to do' list for 2012.


A few years ago, while in the throes of my first, second or hundredth revision I remember thinking, sheesh this is hard work. And being a perfectionist didn't help. Well maybe it did. :) Since then I've read more from other writers and understand that I'm not alone. Writing is one of those things that LOOKS easy, until you dive in and try to do it. And you're right in that it takes many drafts to develop your voice. I think the true writer is one who enjoys every step of the, long, painstaking process and wouldn't have it any other way.