Before I give you any answer to that question, I want you guys to decide it for yourselves. What do you think defines a writer as… well, a writer? What skills might you need in order to make that first book / short story / poem / essay / any other literary art successful?
After you’ve jotted down some ideas (whether on a writing processor by your computer or a piece of paper in hand–maybe even your diary; it doesn’t really matter), some of your ideas may or may not be along these 3 basic skills that writers should possess:
Research (Skill # 1)
- (If you think-up a story idea, a character, setting, etc., it is wise to search keywords through web browsers of what stories may already exist out there. What if you think of a half-horse, half-smartphone creature with the ability to print papers from his nostrils while giving rides to I.T. employees–only if they feed him his favorite, digitized hay? While this idea might come off to you as original, the fact stands that some other writer out there–or even a movie or TV show producer–could have the same idea. Researching even the most unique keyword combinations for your story–“digitized hay”, “half-horse”, “half-smartphone”, etc.–could still return results on, say, “Google”, “Yahoo!”, “Dogpile!”, etc.
One plagiarism case I discovered a year ago is proof-positive that lawsuits can be more trouble than they’re worth –even if the judge rules that you’re not guilty.
DON’T Worry About the Rules (Skill # 2)
(If you’ve browsed the web for critic reviews / websites that give you those “writing tips” / taken classes in creative writing / then you probably learned about all of those “rules” to follow in making your writing “believable” or making your characters “well-rounded”; keeping your story from “falling flat”, knowing your “plot”, etc. Let me just say that there are stories out there that have bent the rules before and still became blockbusters. One article I found says the same, and you should too. You could spend all day, or months, or years–or even more (but I would hope you don’t)–critiquing your work and saying, “This isn’t good enough” or “This isn’t something that will sell.” But the truth is that if you never give your manuscript a chance, it won’t have the chance to prove you wrong. You could have a best-selling novel write before you in that 100,000 word story, but never know it. With writing comes risk–and the sooner you take that risk, the sooner you learn where you stand. Even if your work is rejected, don’t give up. If you believe your story is awesome and the editor doesn’t see that, try other means of getting it out there. Self-publish if you must. When no one else does, you are the only person who can believe in your story.
Know Your Audience (Skill # 3)
(What purpose does your story serve? What message are you trying to convey to others, and why? Whether it’s an autobiography, or a piece of fiction with a protagonist completely different from yourself, you know deep down that you’re writing is based on some kind of personal experience you’ve had–at least that’s what it should be; unless you are the kind of person who is insanely fascinated with the life of someone else–which is fine if you are; don’t stop writing that kind of story just because of my “insanely fascinated” bit. Even in those pieces, some portion of your own beliefs will show at some point–and you should bear no shame. But know what those beliefs are trying to convey to your audience–and think about how you will draw-in your audience’s attention with that information. “How can we relate to your story?,” is one question you may find your audience asking you. But let your writing answer that. If you have to answer it yourself, you may want to re-read your story and discover whether or not its message was clearly conveyed; whether or not it fulfilled that purpose you intended for it. Remember, we all want to see your story from your eyes–and yes, all eyes are on you.
But outside of research skills, breaking rules, and knowing your audience, there is still so much more–and I mean much more–that could define you as a writer. (Even the thoughts you wrote down about the skills you believed writers possess could be true–because there are so many skills a writer needs beyond writing; you need to know how to relate with others, know the market of your genre or the type of book you’re writing, know the income–and yes, that is very important–that will help you make your love for writing a career. (We will dive-in to some of these topics in future posts.)
I research a lot on creative writing tips. One item I came across just last night (using Google+’s What’s Hot feature) was a video by the YouTube channel “Writer’s Relief”. Aside from the tips I’ve already given you, they state 10 qualities that could pertain to you as a writer. (And again, any 10 of these could be what you wrote down.) Their video isn’t too long and definitely provides you with some insight into the world of creative writers.
Keep both the points of the “Writer’s Relief” video (and my points as well) in mind as a writer. More so, keep the points / skills that you jotted down in mind as well. Again, writers are very well-rounded and the living model of the kinds of characters that your story should present (whether or not you choose to break the rules); they know how to creatively write, but also know how to research marketing trends / works that could be similar to their own (and a good knowledge of the law when it comes to issues such as “fair use” or “copyright infringement”, “plagiarism”, etc.). They also have families and friends–and they make sure not to forget those people who never stopped believing in them.
One exercise that I would encourage you to do is this:
- Come up with a plot for a story
- Research (whether online or your local library) the kinds of literary works that used similar plots before. Is yours too similar to any of theirs? If so…
- Revamp your idea. Think about what could make it original; what could make it your own.
- Write an opening for the story that somehow introduces us to the conflict and the main protagonist who wants to (somehow) resolve it. (This can either be expressed through dialogue or a summary that tells us whatever is going on; it’s your call.)
- Spend some time with your friends and family today. Remember, they want you to succeed as a writer. They’re the ones who will keep you going and help you to never give-up.