I have come across so many articles lately with titles like 15 Steps to Writing A Bestseller, 7 Steps Guide to Becoming a Writer, etc. both on the internet and in magazines.
I don’t for a second believe that writing a novel, an article, a memoir or a play, is simply a matter of arranging words into a set formula which instantly turns one into a writer.
Will these articles turn a clueless person into a literary star in seven, or maybe fifteen, simple steps? I think not. Even though Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, claims that we are all equally creative and we are all artists, I believe that raw talent is a gift. It’s this unique voice that only belongs to you. And if in any way you are passionate about it and committed to make the most of it, then you have all it takes to create.
Talent isn’t something anyone can teach you. No one can teach you how to write. What these articles can do perhaps is provide a little structure and guidance based on certain writing perceptions and views that have proven successful for countless authors. The same goes for writing schools and workshops. They can teach grammar, and rules on how to correctly use words to form sentences.
There was a phase in my life when I used to be enrolled in numerous writing courses all simultaneously. I don’t do that anymore. While it’s true that these courses provide some kind of support, at the same time they unconsciously hinder the hard work of actually writing and putting words on paper.
What has helped me most, however, is reading about famous writers and learning how they have done it. Tips for improving and bits of wisdom from them gained over the course of their writing career. Tips for writing and submitting and writing again. Because they were all beginners once.
Reading their biographies I have learned a lot about new possibilities. Sometimes I have come across a sentence or a comment that has stirred my imagination. At other times I have found their advice contradictory. For example, some say to plan or write a detailed outline of your story and characters before starting to write while others say just start writing the story.
But such differences only prove yet again that there is no “one right way” to literary success. And the one and only thing that all these writers agree on is that you must write.
I don’t remember who said that if you want to learn how to write a novel, read the classics.
I reread East Lynne by Ellen Wood this week. It was published 1860-1, and it had everything a successful novel should have even nowadays. The characters, the setting, the plot, the surprise element, the suspense and the ending. Every single character in the book changed with the story, the events moved in such a way and I found the book more readable and interesting than most of the novels published recently. (Some of which I started but unfortunately couldn’t finish because there was nothing in the story to keep me hooked and reading.)
A tutor once told me, don’t waste valuable time and energy talking about writing, studying writing, attending writers’ meetings, at the expense of actual writing. And whatever you do don’t make a habit of moving from one writer’s circle to another, from one writing course to another, too busy being a “writer” that you have no time to write. Instead read and write.
I took his advice to heart and I learned by reading and writing more than from workshops and courses. And any day spent reading and writing even for an hour is a happy day for me.
Henry Ford once said:
“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”
Hope you have happy days doing whatever it is you like to do!