We’ve all been there. English class 101 where the teacher drones on and on about “i” before ‘e” except after ‘c”. Where the spelling lesson has now become redundant thanks to spell check. Where the difference between a noun and pronoun has you scratching your head. Where you are asked to take everything you’ve learned thus far, given a general story line and are asked to write a short story. Full stop. Unless you are sitting in Mr. Keating’s classroom, a character made famous by the late, great, Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, you may as well throw your pen away.
Writing can’t be taught. What the aspiring author needs is confidence. We’ve all seen them: those sponsored advertisements on Facebook or some other social media platform promoting the merits of an “online writer’s course” that promises to help you write the next best seller. I’ll tell you right now that those are genius marketing ploys to make someone very rich. Please don’t fall for them.
What you need, is to find your “happy place”. Pour the coffee or tea, unplug social media and silence your cell phone and simply write. Write from the heart. Listen to it. Don’t dwell too long on “just the right word.” The words should come to you. Don’t fight them. There. Done. You just received your lesson in how to write.
Too often I hear frustrated first-time authors cry that they will never get it “just right.” What exactly is “right”? According to who? The greatest mistake a writer makes is that in trying to mimic another writer’s style. There will only ever be one Stephen King. Cherish who you are and what makes you unique. Another mistake I see far too often is that of trying to wrap up a rotten banana in 14k gold paper. I.e., those who work far harder on making the cover of their book “perfect” and neglect what’s inside. You may sell books, thanks to the hunky lad that graces your cover, but readers won’t come back for more if your dialogue is boring, stilted and the plot is typical and unadventurous.
The key element a writer needs is passion and the confidence to act upon that passion. Some of my fellow author friends use a Beta Reader which is “a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting.” (Wiki). I say hog-wash. What is interesting to Joe, may not be interesting to Lucy. What are you going to do? Re-write your book a hundred times? Write for you. Be confident in yourself. If you’ve got the knack, you won’t need the pat on the back. The words are what matter as well as the emotions that your words will produce in your readers.
Yet another aspiring young author approached me with the question, “How will I know it’s good enough?” My answer to her was: “Do you get shivers up your spine when you read it? Does it make you teary-eyed? Is it something you would love to read if someone else were the author? Yes? Then it’s good enough.”
This may all sound too simple to you. My grade school English teacher may have an angry word or two for me – but words are meant to be weaved, colourized and strung together like the beautiful lyrics of a song. That’s not something you can learn in any class.
Just don’t forget to use spell-check.
Barbara Avon is a multi-genre Author. She has written since she was young, pursuing her dreams and vowing to write for as long as she can. She has worked at several different media publications and will continue to publish novels until “her pen runs dry”. In 2018 she won FACES Magazine’s “Best of Ottawa” award for female Author and Spillwords “Author of the Month”. She believes in paying it forward and you can read about this belief as the theme is given voice in most of her books. Avon lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, Danny, their tarantula, Betsy, and their houseplant, Romeo.