After twenty-five years of teaching students how to write, and teaching teachers how to teach writing, I decided it was time to begin practicing what I’d been teaching all those years. Yet, when I sat down at my computer I experienced brain freeze. All these ideas were inside my head, but nothing would come out. What was wrong with me? Doubt—I doubted that I had the talent to write a novel that would sweep people off to exotic settings, catch them up in the turmoil’s of the hero and heroine, and a write a plot that kept readers riveted to the pages until reading, “The End.”
It wasn’t until I listened to Jaclyn Collins say in an interview that, “every person has at least one good book in them.” Okay, those words resonated loud and clear, and that statement became my mantra.
I began to ask myself—what makes a writer? Why is it that one person who wants to be a writer is successful and another isn’t? One writes a book, sells it, receives an advance, and goes on to write and sell many more books while another never get published, or becomes a one-book wonder.
I’ve pondered this and think I’ve figured it out. . .perhaps. Here’s what I’ve come up with. Talent is a huge factor, of course. Some writers put words on paper in ways that make them sing in the reader’s mind while the prose of others simply plods along with nothing to add zing to the story. If I had to give you an example, it might be some novels are like eating a boiled egg without salt and pepper.
There are those who talk about writing and those who actually sit down and write. It takes energy, confidence, drive, guts and determination to stay the course. What makes a writer is the one willing to educate h/herself about the writing process, the submission process, which publisher wants what genre, keeping abreast of changing trends, and then there is the willingness to research, develop the characters, spend hours rewriting, and adding layers to their story.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that many a good manuscript died in a slush pile, and a talented writer had to wait a little longer to be discovered. So, luck and timing plays a crucial role in who becomes published. And those writers, not willing to stay the course, and who allow discouragement to befriend them, either never realize their dream or take a little longer getting there.
I don’t know where I read this excerpt, but I liked it so much that I wrote it on a poster and put it on my wall: “If you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find, and doing the best you can to understand and communicate with the reader, this will shine on paper like its own little beacon. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there SHINING!”
So in my very humble opinion, it is the same with writers. The ones who are going to succeed are willing to spend hours honing their craft, and try harder to get the attention of an editor or an agent. Those who never complete their books, or don’t follow through with all the effort it takes to make a novel the best it can be will never truly shine.