Can anyone really learn to write a book or screenplay, Really?
To borrow a phrase from the donkey in Shrek, “Really, really.” I believe writing is a craft that like most crafts starts with baby steps towards your goal. With persistence, patience with yourself and your own failures (it’s going to happen more than once) and inspiration, you can teach yourself to write coherent and sometimes moving stories.
What you can’t do is beg, borrow or steal the ability. You have to earn it with endless hours of writing, reading, editing and asking for people’s opinions. I honestly cannot say which of these aspects of being a writer is hardest. I think it varies with the individual – or perhaps the work in question. My work on Freefall, my latest novel, brought forth a real excitement and a kind of boisterous joy nearly every time I sat down to write. I couldn’t wait to sketch in the details of what would happen next from the thoughts in my head.
But then, halfway through the Freefall manuscript I began to doubt the truthfulness of my assessment. I was having so much fun writing Freefall, I convinced myself it couldn’t be any good. I decided I needed a second opinion. Please remember my advice to writers – be careful who you let influence your writing. I was very hesitant to show half of a rough novel to just anyone. So I took a leap of faith and looked up an editor friend from 25 years in my past to ask her opinion. She was very clear that she didn’t read Science Fiction and had no basis for an opinion of my work. But… she knew someone who might help.
With her help, I contacted another writer and pleaded my case. I was so very lucky in that she said she would be happy to read what I had so far. Now, I remind all beginning writers this is a very dicey undertaking. IF the verdict is negative, will you immediately stop any further effort on the piece? If changes are suggested that really go against the flow of what you’re doing, will you drop the piece rather than do the work? A writer’s forward momentum is so very, very fragile. It’s so much better to write to the end, do some of your own editing and then ask for opinions…. But this was not my first novel, and I was so buoyant as I wrote it that I just had to see if anyone else was feeling the vibe too.
Fortunately, the piece was judged not perfect by a long shot – but well worth finishing. That’s all I wanted to know – that I really was not delusional about my work!
I hope this helps you move forward on your writing journey!