Many years ago, I attended several Saturday writer’s seminars at my local library. I can’t recall many of the seminar titles or themes, but the jest was local published authors helping want-to-be local un-published writers.
On the first Saturday, the author stood and introduced herself as the author of a series of sweet mysteries. Because I’m a person with a never-satisfied sweet tooth, I naturally when to, her main character worked in a candy shop, or the crimes’ scenes were bakeries. She went on the explain that her main characters were sweet old ladies who solved local crimes. I felt dumb.
The dumb didn’t end there. As the author spoke, she talked about the art of storytelling and how everyone had a story to tell. I agreed and nodded along. I had many stories to tell. Then she added that writing this story is a natural and easy process. I stopped nodding and looked at the occupants of the four tables next to mine. I saw everything I was thinking. What the? If it were so natural, I wouldn’t be here, lady. Oh my hell! If it’s easy, what’s wrong with me?
The sweet mystery author isn’t alone in her view. Many authors believe if words and thoughts don’t flow like the Niagara, you shouldn’t write. I don’t see it this way. If we only did what was easy, what came naturally, we wouldn’t do much of anything. I’ve often wondered why great authors never write a second book or why an author publishes books decades apart. One of the reasons could be that it’s hard. I have a quote by Ernest Hemingway on my office wall. “Write drunk. Edit sober.” The thing is, most believe he didn’t actually say this. Apparently, he did the opposite; he wrote soberly in the early mornings before he drank. The quote is said to have come from author Peter De Vries. I found this out after I hung it up. I kept the quote or saying on my wall because I never believed it to be literal. I interpreted it as; writing is hard, and creativity doesn’t always come naturally, drunk or sober, even for the greats.
Disagreeing with the sweet mystery author, I raised my hand and told her that I believed, for most, writing isn’t an easy process. Okay, I didn’t raise my hand, but I should have. Because I didn’t need her or my fellow attendees’ expressions to tell me what I already knew, writing takes practice, time, and thought. It takes courage and drive.
At the end of the two-hour seminar and subsequent seminars, I learned two things. The definition of “sweet” mystery and no two authors approach their writing or take the same path to publishing. I encourage all writers to learn from other writers. Take writing seminars and classes. Participate in online storytelling. Find an online writing buddy. Join NaNo. Join groups associated with your genre, like Romance Writers of America. Read blogs about the craft of writing. And when you do these things, and I hope more, remember you’re a want-to-be author like no other. Take from others what you can use and set aside what you can’t. And if your words flow like a river, yahoo! If not, you’re a member of the club.
Author TL Alexander
Smart, complicated, and seriously flawed heroines fill the pages of TL Alexander’s novels.
A writer of romance and mystery, TL’s characters tug at your heartstrings and kick you in the funny bone.
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