Once I finally had the opportunity to sit down and write, I just went to it. I wrote the novel that had been bouncing around in my head for years. I had the characters, I had the world, I also had a great deal of the plot. Lying in bed one night, unable to sleep, I even came up with the antagonists.
So I wrote. I sat down, opened up a blank Word document and typed (center justified) the word “Prologue”.
I then followed it with another 175K. When I was done, I knew I had a great story. I knew I had characters people would love and love to hate. I knew I had a world that could draw in even the casual fantasy fan. I even felt that I had said something important about humanity, about race, about the trials of life that EVERYONE faces.
But what I hadn’t done was learn to write. Learn what “Show v. Tell” was all about or how strict POV really needs to be — which adverbs to cut, and what a “strong verb” really is.
I kept submitting the manuscript, getting the rejection letters that everyone tells you to expect, no matter how good your writing is. I had friends who were fans of the genre read — most telling me how they loved it without having the skills, or maybe the hard hearts, to tell me what was wrong.
I even had an agent pick it up — evidently just happy that I knew how to structure a paragraph in this genre. After she got rejections everywhere, she dropped me — with little more advice than “Keep at it.”
Eventually, a publisher that had been perusing the manuscript for some time contacted me. Their words, in effect were, “We love your characters. We love your world. We love much of the plot you have created here. We think there is a great novel here screaming to get out into the world. 100 pages are really great. 300 need to be thrown out. Now, here is how you write.”
And I finally “got” it with the help of a great teacher, Maxwell Alexander Drake.
Now it is almost finished (or ready for the editors, which is NOT finished), and it is SO much better.
I am lucky. It is tough to get any real feedback out there in the slaughterhouse of modern publishing, much less real help. So I suggest you help yourself first.
Take a creative writing course, especially if you’ve never written before. Read some basic rules on the web. You can use that famous search engine. Never put down your thesaurus and always read the masters. And read them with a critical eye. Don’t just let yourself get lost in the story, figure out WHY you are lost in the story. Notice how they put their sentences together — how they put you inside the POV character.
It sounds simple, but I know it is tough, especially if you are a fan. Try to take something technical (or crafty vs. artistic) away from your reading.
Always remember though, that no matter how much of the craft you learn, there is still a spark of creativity and imagination that you have to bring to your writing. That is where you make it yours — that is where you make it your art.