Saturday, January 14, 2012

Courage and strength

"The courage and strength that you so desperately seek is right there within you. Close your eyes and feel it. It has been there all along…" (Cricket Walker)

A friend of mine recently asked what it was that helped me be successful writing a book: author, course, or mentor?  It's all three to a greater or lesser extent, but in the interest of providing a short answer I sent her the link to Stephen King's On Writing.  Through all the books I've read and the course I took and everything else, that was probably the key resource.   Writing is a rather challenging craft to learn, and there are tons of resources out there on various aspects of it.  For instance, I have a book, somewhere, on how to create good dialog, and another on how to keep action in the scenes.  It's all useful stuff, but here's the deal: if you don't approach it with the right attitude, you won't get it.

That's what the book On Writing is best for.  King starts by talking about how he got into the craft in the first place, and details the struggles he had in the early years.  Then he rips into the basics of writing with the starchiness of that grouchy English teacher that we all ought to have had sometime in high school.  Along the way he sets readers' expectations pretty low in terms of the likelihood of us making it at all in the noveling business, much less becoming millionaires.

My friend also asked me if I'd heard of a couple of authors whose webinar she would be watching soon.  Nope, hadn't.  I looked them up, though.  They're self-help folks.

Now, I got nuthin' against self-help authors.  Really, I don't.  Yes, I can't see or hear the word "self-help" (the word, or the words?  I'm not sure and I'm on too much of a roll to look it up) without seeing Stuart Smalley in my mind's eye: "I'm good enough, and I'm smart enough, and doggonnit, people like me."  I guess that's what growing up in the glory years of SNL was all about.  But I don't have anything against them; I even have a few of their books.  Heck, some day I plan to write one.  My point, though, is that if you're going out to write a novel, self-help isn't what you need.  Instead, what you need is to sit down at a computer in front of a blank document and stare at it and/or type on it till blood comes out of your forehead or you finish telling the story, whichever comes last.

What does it take, other than a blank document?  Well, it takes courage and strength, two qualities my friend Cricket mentioned in the quote at the top of this post.  It takes courage because at several points through the process your inner voice is going to tell you that you can't really write something as immense as a novel, or that you don't know enough to carry it off, or that your story idea isn't good enough, and you have to keep on plugging through all that to finish.  It takes strength because a novel really is a mammoth undertaking, to be completed in a number of hours numbering at least in the hundreds--and that's only the first draft.

Later, it takes the courage to send this wonderful little baby of a draft out to other people to get their opinions on it, and the strength to take their criticism, smile, and go back to the manuscript to improve it rather than to just rip it to shreds and forget about it.

Like Cricket said, though, both courage and strength are two qualities found within us all, which is why I started with her quote.


PS--Stay tuned.  I got somethin' special coming tomorrow.  As part of my buddy Kai's Great Indie Reads blog hop, I interviewed a really cool guy and author, Dr. Jerry Last, who has an amazing scientific background and writes mysteries based in some of the exotic locations where he's lived.  I don't want to give too much away, but make sure you visit tomorrow!


  1. You are so incredible! Keep on blogging because I love watching the process....

    1. You're right - what's amazing is not only your writing, Stephen, but the amount of heart you pour out writing about writing. Your inner voice comment reminds me of a poster I saw recently -

    2. Thank you both for your kind words. It's a wonderful feeling to be told that something I enjoy doing is also something I do very well.

  2. I'm so glad you made this a topic for your blog! For once I inspired YOU!