Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Becoming a Writer Part 1

Lately, I've had a some folks ask me about becoming a writer. They, or someone they know has written or wants to write a novel. I get asked a lot about how to get published and the steps involved. So, I thought I'd discuss it here. Create a reference. Make a few people laugh. Make a few people cry.

One. Writing a novel is hard work

It's more than an idea, a flash of inspiration. It's more than a driving passion. More than the wrongs you want to right about your life or the life of others. Its not, please, please, please, a sermon or church lesson. It's not theology or doctrine. It's not a tract or propaganda. It's not a way to sugar coat your driving message.

It's story. It's a slice of life. A novel is taking the ordinary and making it, in some way, extraordinary. The storyteller in you has to see the hyperbole in life and assign it to your characters.

To write a novel you need quiet alone time. Not always, but some where along the way you need to dig deep and get the core layers of the story on paper.

You need "butt in chair."

You need the ability to stare at a blank page for more than a minute without quitting, going to You Tube or surfing the web. You need to write what's on your heart, letting the words flow, then have the courage to go back and change or delete half if not all of them.

You need to be teachable, to learn the craft. Let other writers read and give input on your work.

Your mother/father/sister/brother/husband/wife/children/employee/dog/cat/best friend do not count as accurate readers. Why? They know you. They hear your voice in the story. They will love it because they love you.

Outside input is a great test to your voice as a story teller. You either have it or you don't. You can learn craft. You can't learn that inner "story teller" that makes pretend people come to life.

I knew I might, just might, be able to make it as a writer when I was in Venezuela way back in '89, training typesetters at a newspaper how to use my company's computers to do their job. While they practiced one afternoon, I started writing a story. As new writers often do, I worked with a burst of inspiration which soon faded because all I had was a "what if" idea. No real story. But, it started out well and I pasted it to a display ad page (this was before PCs!) and typeset it.

I had to go back to teaching, so I left my page for later. When I went to pick it up from the typesetter, four men hovered over my story, reading it. Now remember, I'm in Venezuela. They speak Spanish. My story was in English. They smiled, told me they like my story, blah, blah. They were flirting. The probably understood some of the words but not the concept.

Two months later, I go back to the paper to work on another project. One of the typesetters stopped me in the hall and asked in his broken English. "What happened to the girl?"

"What girl?"

"In the story?"

"What story?" Ohhh... I laughed. "I don't know. I never finished it."

He frowned. "We want to know. What happens?"

So four men who didn't read or speak English well carried that 500 word piece in their hearts for ... two months? I tucked that moment away. Maybe, maybe, I could become a writer. Some day.

That's a piece of my story. What's yours? What's the reaction to things you've written? Take those tidbits of encouragement and use them as inspiration.

(... to be continued)


Dominique Peters said...

Writing IS hard work. A-MEN. It requires dedication, tenacity, guts and daring. You're constantly jumping out of a plane without a net. Sometimes the parachute opens. Sometimes you crash and burn. But when writing is in your blood. You can't NOT write. It is your soul.

Rachel Hauck said...

Great thoughts Dominque.