Not Everyone Can Write!

It’s true! Not everyone can write. Just like not everyone can hop in an airplane and pilot hundreds of people safely from one side of the world to the other. And not everyone can sing. Like me. My voice is terrible!

To be a writer, you need one thing not everyone has: the ability to imagine anything you want to imagine. Fictional story telling is all about making it all up. But that is just the start. You then need to plan out the story. Then write it. And write it well.

The Three Little Pigs would suck if it started with the brick house standing up to the wolf’s breath and the rest of the story was all just flashbacks by PTSD pigs who survived their straw and stick houses being terrorised by the Big Bad Wolf. A new sort of BBW. Heh. There’s a story there… A BBW goes from house to house blowing these three piggish men… See!?

The way to avoid this is to pay close attention to those novels you read. I firmly believe that writers must be readers first. I read EVERY DAY. I finish about 2-3 novels a week on average. Thank goodness for KDP Unlimited. But what I am talking about is recognising there’s a flow to a really good story. A flashback at an opportune time. A cut away to a non-protagonist who reveals some critical detail. Additionally, there are terrific stories being told on television and the big screens. They have a flow to them as well. I mean, you can study things like “The Hero’s Journey” and other writing templates. But me? I favour good old experience.

Mind you, I’m far from being a child now. I remember as a kid desperately wanting to write a novel. I struggled to find story ideas. I really did. Nothing would ever come of it. Truth was, I was trying too hard. Now I am inundated constantly with story ideas. I can barely make it through a grocery shopping trip without coming up with something new. I came up with something just writing this stupid blog post.

It’s about ‘what ifs‘. At least for me. What if a guy could use magic, but only when pleasuring himself? What if a really rich guy could make a difference in the world despite being an asshole? What if a tomboy stood up and fought against injustice? It starts there and then your imagination is the only limit. For me, I need to see the ending first. Then I just go back and fill in everything that had to have happened before.

I CAN write. Maybe not very well. But I have written and have published many novels as Lana Ocean or as the real me. The technical part of writing is now intrinsic to me in how I do my business. I don’t need to hang out at Starbucks with my MacBook with it looking all “So Super Iconic, Wow, That Person Uses Apple and Must be a Famous Writer“, while I put on a smug look and scowl at people as I type feverishly away, a scarf wrapped fashionably around my neck, a steaming Vanilla Latte perched close by. It being the only drink I will consume over the next four hours, as I take up the best seat in the room and stare mournfully out the window at the people free to roam around and do nothing all day while I suffer in my craft! I am the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in the flesh! I have CREATIVITY to pursue but only through my suffering! Word counts to reach! I have a paper cut on my ring finger and every time I press a key on my keyboard it HURTS A LITTLE!

I met a young man many years ago who was very proud of his writing. He asked me to look at it and provide comment. I tried to be nice. I really did. How can you tell someone that their writing is abysmal without tearing out their heart like Mola Ram in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? You can’t. I sucked at it. Poor man. I still cringe inside, remembering that exchange.

The technical part of writing is simple. You write a book and need between 70k-120k words as a rough target. You break the book down into chapters. Each chapter has scenes. Each scene represents one or more critical themes, turning points, knowledge dump, clue, whatever. They must have purpose. Scene follows scene. Stick to ONE point of view. TRUST that the reader will automatically fill in the imagery surrounding your characters. You don’t need to describe the car they are in. Simply say they were in a red Honda Civic Hatchback. The reader will fill in the rest.

Now my greatest secret: DIALOGUE!

Dialogue IS the story. We are humans who thrive on communication. The verbal word. Fill your story with dialogue and move the story along with it. Please. It’s rare to find an author who can paint a story like Tolkien or Brandon Sanderson. Hell, The Martian, by Andy Weir, was one big interiour monologue, with the protagonist talking directly to YOU. It worked. And was funny. And it flowed. Stephen King is a master of dialogue, IMHO. Each character you write must have their own flavour, smell, and taste that stays true to them throughout the novel. Your readers should know who is speaking by the way they speak.

Lose most of the adverbs. Show don’t tell (sort of – this is a long discussion, I suggest you research it, just remember telling is okay, there’s just a time and place for it). Do something BAD to your protagonist. They need to grow and painful things help this. Don’t make them perfect. Make them cause grief or do something really stupid just like we all do in real life.

So back to the poor young man who had me review his work in progress (WIP). His use of English was forced and he tried to put a smattering of archaic words in it to drive home the fantasy world he had created. Problem was, it didn’t let you read it in comfort. Plus he had almost zero dialogue. His sentence structure was off the charts in weirdness. He jumped around from person to person. Folks, this was only one chapter. I tried to explain this to him. He got very upset. So he tore into my submission in retaliation. Heh. I actually won an award for that novel.

Summarizing: Not Everyone Can Write. But everyone can learn to write better. Like any art form, it just takes practice. It depends on how much you can willingly learn and then apply. For example, I’ve played the piano for my entire life (since Grade 4). I can play okay. Truth is, I suck at it. But I enjoy it and keep doing it. I do it for me.

There’s a moral there somewhere. If you can be a writer, you’ll see it, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: