Posts Tagged ‘teaching the writing business’

No lack of writing talent, but . . .

February 11, 2016

Fellow author Crow Johnson Evans and I met with a writers’ group in Bella Vista, Arkansas yesterday, speaking to them about how we established our writing careers, and answering questions.  Following this we had the great opportunity to hear each member of the group read examples of their own writing.

WOW, we heard some wonderful things. Most striking, I thought, was a lively article about wedding practices in Syria–the author had lived in Damascus for twenty years. This was certainly a timely topic. Other pieces (mostly non-fiction, spiced by one romance author’s chapter) were also very good.

But there was a big, publication-stopping problem, or rather, several problems.  Too many words, for the main one, sentences too long, spiced with adjectives and adverbs. Telling more than was needed to make the article or story sing.  There were other problems no editor would tolerate–improper formatting, bad punctuation, and more.  I don’t know how long each of the members has been writing, but huge talent was obvious. It was, therefore, heart breaking to see most of it buried in wordiness and writing mistakes. I wondered how each author had arrived at this point without actual knowledge of the business of writing.

What to do? I wrote to the group’s organizer/director today, and sent along a list of general interest writers’ conferences in this area, some of them free. At the meeting, Crow had already suggested various classes on line. Writing like we heard yesterday is too terrific to be hidden under problems that would deny it publication, but no one in the group commented about the problems I mention, and, as guests, Crow and I were reluctant to say much.

Sad fact–I have run into terrific talent before, but too often the writer(s) lacked the ooomph to do work needed to make it ready to submit to an agent, magazine or book editor. I have worked with (for example) a very good author who rarely read publisher’s guidelines before he submitted. In one instance he sent a (very good) story manuscript that was almost double the word count the publisher’s guidelines asked for, thinking, I suspect, his work was good enough to overcome that little problem, if he even had read the guidelines. After only a few rejections, this author gave up, stopped submitting, dropped out of our critique group, and may have stopped writing completely.

Too bad. It takes more than talent. May I suggest ooomph–or maybe “fire in the belly”, and a willingness to do the down and dirty detail work?  I guess I have this. At times I feel wildly frustrated and wish I could just WRITE.  But I sit in my desk chair and turn on the computer, not to write, but to do research and so much more.

Tell me–is my frustration noted here unrealistic? How do you feel?