Thursday, November 14, 2013

More fun than the movies?

by Jen Black 
Alba Series, Vol. 1

Finlay was the recognized heir to the throne of 11th Century Alba. When the king began a plot to install his grandson, Duncan. Finlay finds his girl is married off to his cousin, his best friend joins the opposing side, and Duncan plans to start a war. Life becomes especially difficult when Thorfinn of Orkney and his sister take a hand in the game.

Question from the e-mail: How do I know if I am a writer? Maybe I'm just kidding myself. I don't have any unique experiences or special talents...

Answer: A writer is "One who writes." Sit down in the chair and write something.  BINGO! You are a writer.

Being a good writer only takes one more thing than that.  NO, it's not talent! It's regular practice. Yes, a beginning writer needs to do more than sit in a chair once. He or she needs to do it regularly. Every day is good, but even every Saturday afternoon, is "regularly."

Don't worry if you can't find time to do that --  then you have an answer to your question. If you are a writer, you will find your joy in that chair and be unwilling to give it up.

With practice and study you can learn techniques that will improve your writing. I have been writing a long time (I taught writing for more than 25 years) and I am STILL learning new techniques.  But no matter how many magazine articles, or writing blogs, you read on how to improve your writing, nothing will replace the practice. This is why those NFL guys don't only show up on Sunday.

I have it on good authority that anyone can do it. I once paid an obscene amount of money to attend a conference where Jean Auel (Clan of the Cave Bear, etc. ) was scheduled to speak. She said, "I can't teach you how to write. The way to become a good writer was to keep on writing. There is no substitute for practice." She told us that she read a book about cave people, wondered what it would be like to live in their culture, then sat down at her dining room table and wrote a nine page story, that turned out to be the outline for her series of books. From the first nine pages, to the hundreds of thousands of words in those books was a lot of practice.

"Writing is hard work, but the more you do it, the easier it gets." Then Ms. Auel sat down and proved research was important, too, by knapping a perfect Folsom point out of a piece of  flint.

I agree with her about practice. There's no real substitute for doing the work.

But I do think that study, and tips from professionals can help speed the work along. And as for having no experience...the author of the book at the top of this page, Jen Black, has never lived in the 11th Century. But as a reader, she showed it to me so thoroughly that I felt as if I had been there.  When I looked up from her book, I was surprised to see the TV across the room.

So here's the way to tell  if you are a "real" writer. When folks ask, "What makes you think you're a writer?" or "Why would anybody want to read that?" or "Wouldn't you rather go to the movies tonight?" You know in your heart that (even though it can be the hardest work in the Universe), that spending the evening writing, will be more fun than the movies.

So when people ask me why I still write, I just smile and say, "Because I can't help it, and it's fun."

Now here's a question for all of you?  Why do you write?

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