How to be a Great Writer

All things I write on this blog are important, most likely, only to me. I have this in mind every time I publish a new post or copy-paste another great Author’s wisdom, which I just read on yet another book about Creative Writing.

All these things I write are advices I give to myself, carved on this bits-and-bytes stone called internet, which allows me to cherish specific paragraphs of my own thinking with my future-self.

This is the mindset that works best for me while writing – to write the first draft for myself, fully disregarding if there’s an audience or not. And believe me when I say, I’m a very demanding Reader, often too demanding for a free-writing first draft, time when Editing should not happen… at all.

So the problem that holds me down at times is not the fear of that potential audience – who will read my books one day? who will like them? – I don’t even dream about being a bestseller, I just want to write and be able to pay my bills with whatever money I can get from it.

No, my problem was never related to what comes after writing the book. My problem came from the Place that exists inside all of us; the Place where we slip to every time we have to make a life-changing choice.

What if ?

I call it “What-If “.
My problem got stuck on that What-If Place during those first years of age when we are learning about ourselves and because we are so new at it, we react instead of act in our own fate.

Or maybe it came from that first time I believed in What-If and made a wish that didn’t come true. Or maybe it did come true but someone I trusted told me it didn’t and I walked the other way. Either way, the time has passed to blame other people. When we grow up blaming others only adds as crutches. My problem is me.

If you, as me, have all these doubts about that What-If magic Place, reading books on Creative Writing helps. A lot.

You see, all these quirks I have that made me think I’m possibly a freak in disguise or a depressed anti-social fooling everyone around who still thinks I’m extremely outgoing and fun (breathe…), are the same things I’m always spotting on other Author’s writing “confessions”.

Let me correct that: not Authors – Writers.

Like Elizabeth George explains in her book “Write Away”, there’s a difference between wanting to be an Author and wanting to be a Writer.

The Writer in you

If you dream about becoming an Author, that means basically you want to be famous for your writing – whether it’s any good or not, – if you want to be a Writer you want, purely, to write!

Writers don’t aspire to be famous; they dream about having their books on a Bookstore’s shelf. The aspiring Writer would be delighted just by the possibility of earning enough income to pay all her bills. She would be very happy if she ever had a bestseller, but the true Writer doesn’t dream about being famous.

Some don’t even want to. I really don’t because fame just looks too overwhelming for me and too intrusive – I want to be a Writer.

The Reader in you

So if to become a Writer we just have to write, aren’t we all writers? I believe it’s not that easy.

From all I’ve been studying about this subject, I’ve reached a simple conclusion – to become a Writer we have to satisfy one core need: an on-going special connection between Writer and Reader.

The positive about this is that our first and most loyal Reader can be ourself. The negative about this is our first and most loyal Reader can be ourself. No, that was not a typo.

So if we are the Writer and the Reader at the same time, at least there’s one part of our Writer’s Job that should come easy – knowing what our number 1 Reader likes to read!

To please our inner-Reader we must:
remember which are our favourite books – we can do that.

read them all again – that sounds fun!

make a list of all the things that made us fall in love with those stories – to write about what we love was never a problem.

apply those same concepts to our writing – and we already have that wonderful list to inspire us at all stages of the process, (the Muse is a bullet-point list after all !).

Consistency.

There’s another thing that we, as Readers, care deeply about:
Consistency.

Everyone who ever read a book they loved is expecting to find another book by the same author anytime soon and written with the same voice*.

Maybe we can read other authors while we are waiting for our favourite author’s book, but if it takes more than a year for that next great book to come out, in-between we may have discovered another author to be passionate about, and that ‘love-at-first-sight’ is not our favourite anymore.

Maybe, while we were waiting, we discovered it wasn’t good writing after all or we realised that first author is always telling the same story and calling it different things just to hide his lack of creativity.

As aspiring Writers we can avoid this problem by being both Writer and Reader of this relationship. We can be a good Writer by aiming to keep the Reader in us hooked on our writing at all times. How? We write for that number 1 Reader every-single-day. Genuinely simple, agree?

It may sound ridiculously simple – or simplistically ridiculous, – but at the end of the day, if you want to be a Writer (and not just an Author), it works!

Respect.

Now that we know how to hook our number 1 Reader forever, how can we motivate the Writer in us to never break the flow? How can we make the Writer in us really write every-single-day?

Several professional Writers say that the date on their Contract motivates them enough; if they get lazy there goes the lovely Contract and their dream careers. But what about the ones that don’t have a contract yet?

After studying about how several of other Writers focused to finish that first novel I’m led to conclude that to write every day we have to respect the Writer in us.

Respect. That single word that rewards every relationship with so much.

I can only write on this blog about the things I know. The things I know are simply the things I discovered on my daily journey to become my biggest fan. The things that truly work for me. But some things are the same for all of us, respect is one them.

Writing is such a lonely Job that if we don’t acknowledge it as a Job from the start, it will never fully materialize over blank pages.
The blank will eventually win over you.

Respect means:

–          Acknowledge that being a Writer is a job worth all the un-paid hours spent on it – days, months and years.

–          Push ourselves until the task is finished – even if some days all that comes out reads like crap;

–          Be honest with our Editing – delete if not relevant;

–          Send it around to agents accepting that no one has to actually agree to represent you, for your novel to represent good writing, already;

–           Start another novel or short story and deal with the struggle all over again, even if not yet published.

I can’t imagine any of that working long without self-respect. (Another opinion on this same subject: Elizabeth George says that for all of this the common factor needed is Discipline).

When I don’t respect that I’m a real Writer, how can anyone else believe in me? Respect is what makes me continue reading books on Creative Writing, even though I already read so many; there’s always something I improve with each one of them. Respect is what makes me continue reading other author’s fictional stories, even though some days I feel I don’t have time, or my eyes hurt; I care about myself enough to know I need inspiration every day and this journey is less lonely when I read. Respect is what makes me open my on-going Novel and keep searching for my Process – things that I can do to write better and faster – even though it makes me feel lost and I’m slower than expected.

Today was better than yesterday

At the end of each day is that respect for the Writer in me and my own loyal number 1 Reader that keeps me going. And the best part is, each step I take in this relationship makes it stronger.

That’s why I believe the biggest wall you will ever face when becoming a Writer – be it a first time Writer or not – is yourself.

To become a successful Writer try to transform that fact into a positive!

– – –

* “Each word, each sentence, each chapter should be aimed at your target audience. The ‘voice’ of the story should not only be appropriate for the story you’re telling, but should also be in harmony with the readers’ expectations.”   — By Peter Rubie, in How to Tell a Story.

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4 thoughts on “How to be a Great Writer

  1. Hi there!

    Yeah, but you’re probably right… there are so many kinds of writers out there that a realistic approach on the matter shouldn’t be so black-and-white.

    Talking about these things is so abstract that’s almost as difficult as trying to define love.

    Thanks for dropping by Jones.

  2. At a certain point, I think most artists ask themselves, Am I the real deal? Unfortunately, there’s no online quiz or blood test that can tell you. Thus, lines like the What-Do-You-Fantasize-About line are drawn. The artist is either bolstered (or crippled) by their response, and either continue or don’t with the up hill battle that is the life of the (fill in the blank). I wrote a post dedicated to this idea this week. http://inconvenientbody.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/the-sordid-fantasy-life-of-a-writer/ Thanks for the thought food. I’ve been chewing on it for weeks!

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