Monday, November 28, 2016

Can everyone write a good story/novel?

The prompts are still here! Well over a thousand. I'm posting occasionally about writing to prevent the ads from taking over  less active blogs.

Can everyone write a good story/novel?

No. Some find writing a sentence more pain inducing than pulling out their own teeth. They won’t ever write a novel let alone a good one.

Can everyone who wants to write a good story/novel write one?

No. Some people are more in love with having written a book than they are in writing one.

Can everyone who enjoys writing and wants to write a good story/novel write one?

No. First, what do you mean by “good”. Good is a vague fill-in-the-blank word. Do you mean best seller? Literary? A book that will stand the test of time? Good enough for a publisher to publish? A book that people finish and say, “That was a good book”?

Second, there are several skills a writer must master to write stuff that other people enjoy reading. Stand-the-test-of-time writers master them all. Writers who get their books published may be stronger at some than others.

Good writers know grammar. They know punctuation and their [they’re, there] homophones. Their grammar doesn’t need to be perfect with every comma in place. It does, though, need to be good enough to be invisible.

Good writers write clearly. They can picture how readers might interpret their wording. As with your question’s wording, vague words won’t paint the same picture for everyone. A good writer can imagine their wording outside of their own context. They can ask, “What other ways could this sentence be interpreted? What other pictures does it paint?”

Good writers can tell a good story. This is the most important one. Much can be forgiven if someone can tell an engaging tale. They can create characters readers care about. They can create situations readers want to see resolved.

James Talbot, an editor who has written several books on writing, said writing is hard because it’s antisocial. That is in life we strive to decrease conflict. We want to say and do what makes our life easier. But in writing a story that pulls the reader along, the characters must make their situations worse. Characters must be pulled in two or more directions such that a solution that’s right for one problem creates another problem. For instance helping someone from an oppressed group puts their own family in danger. Pursuing a life-long dream means abandoning obligations. To create a tale that pulls the reader along characters must choose to create conflict as they pursue their goals.

Good writers know the difference between writing about a character and writing a story about a character. Someone said a story is about the worst time in a character’s life. They’re in a situation that forces them to question what they believe, forces them to make choices they would have avoided.

But some writers want to bring a character to life then experience life through that character. They create a tragic past then let life buffet the character. The character wants to be happy but doesn’t work towards that. They feel helpless against what life throws at them.

Such writing will never become a story and such writers will never become authors.

Good writers can paint pictures with their words. Some have a natural affinity for poetic writing. They make you feel and see and taste and experience. It will read effortlessly but a great deal of work will go into it. They both enjoy creating it and have an ear for it.

Anyone can get better at that with practice. Find books specifically on expression.

But it’s like running. Some don’t like it so won’t ever be good at it. Some enjoy it, will work at it but never be great because they lack the genes. Some enjoy it and with work will be Olympic athlete caliber.

In running rewards come for going far, fast, and efficiently without ever getting anywhere. Not so for a writer. If a writer wants others to read what they write, they must take the reader on a journey that leads somewhere. They need to tell a story that pulls the reader along, not just fill pages with pretty images.

Good writers have something they want to express through writing. It needn’t be deep but they crave putting a piece of themselves into words. They enjoy putting ideas into words.

Good writers get enough out of the process of writing in order to write. Writing can be painful. There are best selling authors who have said they don’t enjoy writing. But they have a novel in them that wants to get out so badly that they put up with the process of writing it.

“You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.” — Red Smith

Note: Wanting to have written a novel is different from having a novel inside you that wants out. Just as there’s a difference between wanting a child and having a baby inside of you working its painful way out of you.

Good writers can find a balance between expressing themselves and writing for others. Good writers know there aren’t only two choices. Good writers know that if they want others to read what they write, they should write what they want to write AND keep the reader in mind. Writing a story without an awareness of what readers need to keep reading is like building a house with no windows or doors.

Good writers know the difference between a rough draft and a final manuscript. Even best selling and stand-the-test-of-time writers will write crappy first drafts. They know the first draft is a combination of notes and exploring an idea. A first draft is virtually unreadable. Good writers want to find the story hiding in the first draft. They want to rework it to make it something other people want to read.

What about creativity? It’s the least important aspect of writing a good story. The majority of stories don’t break any new ground. Only a tiny fraction have new twists and clever endings. The majority of stories are old with new characters, characters the reader cares about which makes the story feel fresh. Even Shakespeare reworked old stories. He brought a fresh perspective through his characters.

Can you master all that by continuing to write? A good writer wants to improve. But what a good — and bad — writer wants most is to write. The want to express what’s inside of themselves through writing whether it makes it into a bookstore or not. A painter needs to paint whether they sell anything or not. A runner needs to run whether they win medals or not. And writer needs to write.