Friday, May 3, 2013

Can Anybody Write?

Can anybody write? This is a question that I have seen circulating in the writing community for a few years now. I know for a fact that many writers ask themselves this question and I know many avid readers who proclaim that "not everyone can write."

I asked a question similar to the very basic one mentioned above over on Facebook and Google+. I learned my lesson as far as asking broad questions, but I also received a load of excellent responses. Due to those responses, I considered summarizing several of the different viewpoints put forth and then setting them down here for you all to consider, but I have decided against that for this post and I may do it for my next.

This post, however, is about what I feel a writer is and whether or not anybody can write. I know some people will agree with my definition. I know some will not. But is that not the true beauty of the thing we call the internet? (By true beauty, I am not denying the greatness of cats and rainbows.)  We can read the opinions of others and decide whether we agree or disagree without feeling pressured to make a decision right off?

To keep things simple and direct, here is my working definition of a writer: A writer is an artist whose constant use and mastery of words goes beyond what is commonly taught, whose life is devoted to quality writing, and who consistently writes because it is simply what they do.

To back up this working definition I have three things and accompanying question that allow me to know if someone truly is a writer.

1. Passion
Do they have a passion for their work and continuously seek to improve the quality of their work?

2. Talent
Do they have the ability to create work that is enjoyable, as an art-form, to readers?

3. Perseverance
Do they push on with consistent writing despite disappointments or rejections? 

Before  I answer the question of "can anybody write," I would like to clarify something. By consistent writing/consistently writes I mean that the person writes something worthwhile at least every week. There are seven days in a week, this should not be too hard to do. I do it with articles for my church newsletter or with short story prompt websites.
Also, honestly, a declaration of talent should come from someone other than one's mother or loved one.

So, can anybody write?


Individuals have varying talents, that is what makes them individuals. Writers are talented with being able to write well, but they also possess passion and perseverance. There have been posts and discussions about the difference between the hobby writer and the professional writer. I would say my thought of a real writer would fall under the professional category due to the perseverance aspect. A hobby writer fails qualification due to the sporadic occasions that they actually write.

In my mind, an individual must possess all three, Passion, Talent, and Perseverance to be a real writer.

There you have it. I have left out a bunch of word definitions and qualifying arguments, seeking to give you the simplest view of my answer to the question as possible. I believe I have succeeded.

Joshua A. Spotts

Here are some websites with prompts to help with writing something every week.

Cleverfiction is the site I use. It is a good community and has some interesting prompts.
Poets and Writers is a well-known and respected website for writers.
If you have a twitter, I am sure there are some good twitter accounts to follow for prompts as well. The internet is a marvelous place and resources for helping writers abound.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Three Things to do Before Editing your Novel

1. Write the novel.
As important as writing the novel is, I'm just joking here. But can a writer edit a novel without writing one? Of course! It just wouldn't be the writer's novel, it would have to be some other writer's novel. The title of this post dictates, however, that these are three things to do before editing your novel. Thus we can determine that these things should be applied to a novel you have already written.

Okay, here we go.

These things come from my own observations, or more aptly put, my own regrets. But I think they are good ideas in general.

1. Create a chapter-by-chapter outline of your entire novel.

I am no outline writer. Indeed, when I get an idea the flesh is put on it as I write. But I know that a precise, though brief, outline of what each chapter is about in my novel would be very helpful. That way, if I have a question about a certain event I can reference the chapter outlines and go directly to the chapter in which the event was supposed to happen. I have spent a lot of time flipping back through my novel when it would have been faster to look at my chapter outlines. I know I have written one of these lists, but the file is buried in my many files within several folders. Thus, in conclusion of this section I would advise not only writing a chapter-by-chapter outline, but printing it out too so that you don't forget you have it.

2. Create a list of characters.

This list allows you to keep track of your characters. It should contain the rudimentary descriptions of your characters as well as the primary occurrences in their lives. It would also be helpful to note which characters, usually minor, die and when or when they leave actual influence to the plot-line. I lost track of one of my characters that I had early on. I forgot about him. If I had created this list I would have been  noticed his unexplained disappearance earlier instead of getting halfway through the edits and then saying, "hey, what happened to so-and-so?"

3. Create a list of the major events.

When I saw major events, I mean major, plot twisting events. This meshes with number one certainly and probably even number two, but it will allow you to see individually every major event. This will help you spot plot holes, I know it would help me. I have a mental list, but I still have to flip back through pages to reassure myself that a certain event has already happened.

There you go. I intend to put these three things into practice for myself this afternoon. I regret not having done it earlier, considering I am halfway through my final edit, but they should be useful things even for the second half. If you think it will be hard to compile these lists, you're thinking rubbish. At this stage you know your novel better than anyone else, so compile those lists and edit that killer novel of yours!

Joshua A. Spotts

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why You Should Enjoy Editing Your Novel

     As I said in my last post, I have been editing the final draft of my novel. I have been learning many things through this process, chief of which is the necessity of enjoying the editing process. Why is it important to enjoy editing one’s own novel? This is a question I have pondered for several days now. 

     Editing a novel is a very long process and can be, at certain times, painful. It is painful because we, as writers, love our work. You may tell yourself that you hate your work, that you want it to be better, but while that is a good mindset, it is a lie. We are inherently biased toward the work of our hands, which in the writing profession is the work of our hearts. The marks of a red pen tearing apart your carefully worded sentences is a painful thing, there is no denying this.  
     Writers must naturally develop a tough skin. This tough skin helps with editing and those dreaded rejection letters. In short, fellow writers, you just need to deal with the pain. It doesn’t go away, but it can be dulled by understanding the necessity of editing. Disregarding the pain, dulled by your tough skin, it is important for you to enjoy the editing process which is necessary for your novel to reach excellence. 

     The importance of enjoying the process can be broken down into four basic elements: Perspective, entertainment, lesson, and choice. 

     You may now be wondering what these four, seemingly random, words have to do with enjoying the editing process. Well, my friends, I shall tell you from my own speculations. 

1.      Perspective: This is important because we must always have the proper perspective when editing. We edit to make our work better. This is the core of the editing perspective, but there are other elements, one such being audience. When editing your novel you must remember your target element and take the perspective of what they expect/enjoy while editing your novel.

2.      Entertainment: Novels are, at their basest level, a form of entertainment. And entertainment by its very nature is something we enjoy. This is why entertainment is an important element to enjoying the editing process. If you do not enjoy the process of making your novel better, how can you know that your reader will enjoy your final product?

3.      Lesson: Memorable novels are those which have some lesson in them, disguised or obvious. Novels which present lessons to their readers are novels that are remembered because they caused the reader to take something away, to ponder something even after they were done reading. These novels are also enjoyed more and, oftentimes, are read more than once. This is why making sure your novel has some lesson to be learned is important to enjoying the process. It is the same logic as #2, if you do not enjoy putting in the lesson, how will the reader enjoy learning the lesson? My geography professor is a perfect example of this. She does not enjoy teaching us. She does not put any passion in her lessons, and therefore I do not enjoy her lessons.

4.      Choice: This element is far more important than all the others, because only you can choose to enjoy the long process of editing your novel. Take enjoyment in working to give your readers a better piece of work. Choose to enjoy the process which gives them something worth enjoying.

     Well, I shall stop rambling now, but I implore you to remember that if you do not enjoy editing your novel, it is likely your readers will not enjoy reading it.

            Joshua A. Spotts

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