Please excuse the poor grammar in this title, but I wanted to grab your attention. For anyone who wants to become a published novelist, this is a very important concept to grasp.
Let me ask you as question. Do you marvel as you sit in a concert hall and listen to a concert violinist make a Vivaldi concerto spring to life? Do you sit transfixed in front of the TV as an Olympic gymnast, or perhaps an ice skater, finishes a flawless performance? Do you gasp as the NBA star sinks the winning basket just as the buzzer sounds?
Now think about this. Do you really believe the concert violinist never made a squawk at the worst moment? Did the gymnast or the skater never take a bad fall? Did the NBA star ever miss a few baskets and maybe lost the game?
Of course, you know the answer.
They were all willing to perform less-than-perfectly (over and over and over again), before they became star performers. Could writing well demand less?
Is Novel Writing any Different?
In the years of my writing career, I’m often asked the question, “How many books have you written?” My answer is always: “How many books have I written, or how many books have I had published? Because I have written many more than have ever been published.”
Interpreted, that says, I was willing to write really bad stuff (which languishes either in my bulging file cabinets, or deep in the bowels of my computer), in order to learn how to write well!
It is amazing to me how beginning writers look at the talent of becoming a novelist differently than other skills. The idea seems to be that if you have a good novel in mind, then all that needs to be done is simply transfer it from your head onto the paper. (Or the computer – whichever!)
Throughout my writing career, I’ve had many (read that MANY) people ask the question, “How do you get a book published?”
However, I can recall very few who asked, “How do I learn to write a high-quality, professional novel that is worthy of publication?” Sadly, few people think in those terms.
Writing is a talent. It requires a certain set of skills. It’s a talent that can be honed and developed. It is a set of skills that can be learned. But if you’re truly set on becoming a novelist, you must be willing to “write a lot of bad to get good.”
Read, Read, Read; Write, Write, Write
If you have a heart to write, then write. And write. And write some more. The age-old admonition still holds true: “Read, read, read and write, write, write.” Steep yourself in the type of literature in which you long to excel. Also read the classics. Read the King James Bible (nowhere will you find more beautiful prose than in the KJV). Love novels? Read novels. (Preferably quality, well-written novels.) Read what you love. But read. This is how you learn to hear the rhythms and patterns of words in your inner ear. (Your mind’s ear, if you will.)
Develop a sincere fascination with words. Learn to love how they are arranged. How they can be rearranged. How they can stop and go, and ebb and flow. How sentences can be short and long. How tones can be soft and hard. If this is a joy to you, you are well on your way to becoming a great “novice/intern” novelist! From this point, your growth and development WILL happen.
Now make this your writing lifestyle and you will be a novelist!
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