New Writers Who Can And New Writers Who Can’t: There’s A Difference

Writers, new and old, flock in groups to share stories and experiences and to get opinions on their work. The established writers will likely be surrounded by other established writers, and most of them will have something published.

Let’s not focus on them. Let’s focus on the new writer groups.

When you’re within a group of just-starting-out writers, there’s probably going to be that one guy who, for whatever reason, just doesn’t seem like they’ll ever really be a good writer. Maybe his characters are one-note and indistinguishable. Maybe her descriptions are lacking. His dialogue might be painful. Her plots might be so ripped from other sources that she’s committing multiple counts of plagiarism.

We were all them at one point, even if we don’t like to admit it.

Writing takes talent, yes, but it is also something that is learned. But there is one, sure fire way to tell if a new writer, poor as they might be, has a chance.

It’s all about how they react to hearing that their characters/prose/dialogue/plots need work.

I know a lot of people from my embarrassing fan fiction days who aren’t great writers. Some improved over years of writing fan fiction. Others freely acknowledge their shortcomings, but admit at being too lazy to fix them (these shortcomings usually involve using proper spelling, grammar and formatting, so their stuff is painful to read). Some give nothing but lip when I offer a piece of advice from my schooling or research into the publishing industry.

Lazy and Lippy will be unlikely to get anywhere as writers, no matter how big their talk.

I have one friend who struggles quite a bit with his writing. Characters development is inconsistent. He doesn’t understand how characters would react to certain things—for example, a man telling a woman he loves her and has been watching her is not charming or nonchalant, it’s fucking creepy and she would run—so his characters become angst-ridden when a girl they just met at the local bar isn’t interested in going out with them, or they are well-liked by everyone despite acting like a jerk all the time. His prose is bland. His dialogue is dull. He’s a teller, not a shower.

But he listens. Even when he doesn’t like what I’m telling him, he listens. And he asks for advice.

There have been moments when I wanted to write him off and try to gently tell him that I don’t think he has the talent for writing. I never do though, because he takes critique, and actively tries to improve. Even if I have to repeat myself several times, he still tries and asks if he’s showing improvement.

He may decide that all the work that it takes to be a writer is too much for him and keep it as a hobby. He may continue to improve and, eventually, create something worth publishing.

For now, I have hope for him, and any who are like him. Listen to what people have to say, as long as their advice isn’t vague, rude or plain mean-spirited. Chances are, they want to offer suggestions to help you improve. No one understands a writer’s dream like another writer.

Not everyone is born with the ability to write. It’s a good thing we can learn.

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Categories: On Writing, This is my life | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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