Writing, like many professions, is a delicate craft. Like a concert pianist or an Olympic athlete, writers must also approach their work with the same diligence and practice. You wouldn’t expect to be able to play a Chopin nocturne after 2 hours of learning piano, nor would you expect to win the Gold Medal in the 100-meter dash if you take a jog outside every now and then. Why is writing any different?
I believe writing is one of those skills that look deceiving. Just because everyone can technically do it, doesn’t mean that they will actually do it or do it well. The act of writing physically requires a person to sit in a chair or a couch or the floor and start writing. Put down words, sentences, paragraphs, dialogue, etc…
Then actually finishing the story. Typing “THE END”. And then re-writing it again. And again. The fifteen pages that Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote may look simple, but what you didn’t see is the 500 pages he may have written before it, trashed it, and then rewrote again.
It took me two and a half years to write my first historical novel, (which was quicker than I thought it would take me), and at first it was very hard to get into the habit of writing. But after the first few months, I hit my stride, and most evening and weekends, I would be chained by my desk, hands glued to the keyboard, locked in my office, where everyone knew NOT to disturb me. After awhile, a novel emerged.
And even once the first draft was complete, it was hard to take some space and time away from it to marinate, but I did. I then got a few trusted friends and family members to read it through and after that, paid my writing teacher to get the manuscript professionally evaluated. Money well spent. Following a round of substantial rewrites, I then got my poor family & friends (the ones who actually agreed) to read it for a second time. I rewrote again. (I think you get the picture…)
Eventually, after many drafts (in fact, 2 boxes full of manuscripts), debating if I should remove a comma, only to put it back again, only to remove it again – my book was finally ready for the world. It’s a process I have thoroughly enjoyed and it’s a state I would rather be in than doing anything else.
As Thorton Wilder said to Timothy Findley:
A writer – however good he may be intrinsically – cannot communicate without a sense of craft. In writing – the craft is all.
Here are some books I found very helpful in the craft of writing (especially the first one). Dufresne’s book spoke straight to my heart and got me off my butt to actually start writing:
- “The Lie That Tells the Truth” – John Dufresne
- “On Writing” – Stephen King
- “Elements of Style” – Shrunk & White