Dont Expect Miracles

A doctor spends five to ten years learning how to be a doctor. Why, then, do people think they can learn how to be a professional writer of fiction in a week or a month-or even a year?

The writing of fiction is very deceptive. Like riding a bicycle, it looks easy until you try it. But whereas the bicycle gives you quick and painful proof that riding it isn't quite as easy as it appeared, writing is more subtle; your very first story may look good to you-even though it's almost certainly unpublishable on later reflection.

You came to this book because writing interests you, and you're probably doing some of it. To the task you brought some language skills and a desire to tell stories. Your language skills may be quite good. (I hope so. ) You may have wonderful ideas for stories, and you type well, etc., etc.

Does any of this mean you know how to write fiction? Unfortunately, no. The writing of fiction-except in the case of that very rare genius -is a difficult job. It involves the interactive working of dozens of specific, hard-won techniques. It may become an art, but only by first being consummate craft.

Yes, if you have a modicum of talent, you can learn how to do it. But it may take you years.

But, why should that be such bad news? If the task were easy, everybody in the world would be a writer, and your achievement would mean little. Setting out on a difficult course is exciting, and the conclusion can be the triumph of a lifetime.

You may find that it takes many manuscripts... and a lot of time... to learn the ins and outs of the techniques involved in handling viewpoint, or writing developed scenes, or the like. But as you learn each bit of the craft, paying for your knowledge in hard work and the passage of time, I guarantee that you'll grow more excited about the pursuit... more awed by the beauty and logic of how fiction works.

It's worth the time. Expect no overnight miracles, but have faith. If you persevere, the chances are very good that you will achieve some success.

Conversely, if you get disgusted or discouraged, expecting overnight fame and fortune, you're certain to fail. Absolutely.

Write in your journal, or in some other permanent record, your goal as a writer five years from today. Assuming (as is true) that a writing career proceeds by small steps forward-write where you hope ideally to be as a writer four years from now. And in three years. And in two. And by next year this time.

Put that list of hopes aside somewhere safe. Get to work. Be patient, but press yourself to work hard. Make notes of your insights and learned skills as you come upon them. Then, a year from now, compare where you were (now) with where you will be by that time. You'll be surprised and pleased.

Maybe you won't be a selling writer of fiction yet. But you'll be a lot closer and able to see your own progress.

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