Jennifer's Journal


Monday, March 27, 2006

What Makes a Writer?

Why is it that one person who wants to be a writer is successful and another is not?  One writes a book, sells it, get a nice advance, signs a multi-book contract, and goes on to become a national and international best seller.  Another just down the street writes book after book that wind up in the back of some closet, unseen, unsung.  Several qualities come into play, I think.  Talent is a huge factor, of course; some writers put words on paper in ways that make them sing in the reader's mind while the prose of others simply plods along with nothing to lift their stories above the common level.  Some, usually those who love reading and have been addicted to books for years, have an instinctive sense of story that is missing from the work of the unpublished; they "get it" without having to be told what makes readers turn pages.  Some writers have the luxury of time to perfect their craft; they aren't locked into a job that takes all their time and most of their available energy.  And then there's the question of confidence, drive, guts, determination--whatever you want to call it.  To my mind, this last is arguably the most crucial.
Let me tell you a story I came across while researching the backgrounds for the sword masters in my current historical series.  There was a young man who wanted desperately to be a champion fencer.  One day, he approached his fencing teacher.  "Maitre," he said, "do you think I can ever be first rate?  Will I ever win the grand championship?"  The teacher looked at him, rubbed his chin, then said, "No, my son.  You must look around you for another career, for you'll never be the best."  Well, the young man was crushed.  He stopped fencing, took a job in business, and became a rich and successful entrepreneur.  One day many years later, he came across his old fencing master.  After they greeted each other, he said, "Tell me something, Maitre.  How did you know I would never be a great fencer?"  "Oh, I didn't," the master said.  "That's what I told all my students who asked about their prospects.  The ones who had greatness inside them tried harder, because they were determined to prove me wrong.  The ones who would never be great stopped trying."
So it is with writers, I think.  The ones who are going to succeed try harder in order to prove critics and nay-sayers wrong.  The ones who aren't never complete their books or don't follow through with all the effort it takes to get them published.  Which are you?


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2:48 PM  
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9:00 AM  
Blogger Mariad said...

Hi Jennifer,
Thank you for the insight into what makes a writer.

I love to do both, read and write. I wanted to mention this, also, because I feel it is important but then again I'm still learning. LOL I joined a few critique groups and people really have a hard time with taking critiques of their works.

After working hard on a story and thinking everything is perfect they submit the story for critique... Accepting advice from others is a hard pill to swallow for a lot of novices. But it is good to have other people's insight to become a better writer. Some people take the time to really point out what worked and what didn't for them.

I think submitting is the scariest part of writing . It takes tons of courage and even more courage when its rejected to turn around and submit again.

I did submit once to an epress. I love e-books and read tons of them, I also love paper books too. :) but I can't say with any certainty that I would have had courage on my own, and if I did, it probably would have taken me a lot longer to do so. Anyway, I'm glad they were there for support and I support them when they submit there works.

Anyway, the little epress did accept my story. I'm anxious for it to come out in August of this year. I know that there's controversy about epresses. For me I purchase books from a lot of different places along with epresses. Sometimes there are some really fantastic gems to be found at a small epress. Maybe rougher than going the traditional route but still very enjoyable reads.

What do you think of writing contests? This I have been mulling over for a while. Normally I'm not much of a contest person but I thought it would be interesting to do, along with a learning experience.


5:14 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Blake said...

Congratulations, Maria, on your acceptance by an epress. Many of these are viewed as viable enterprises by writer's organizations as they are able to satisfy the same criteria (numbers of books sold, monies paid to authors) as print publishers. Most of the major publishing houses are now providing e-copies of their print works, so this alternate method of publishing is gaining in respectability every day. Some 25 of my older, officially out-of-print titles are available as e-books from, so I certainly believe in the technology. It's possible that 20 years from now it will be the only game in town. As for selling original work to them at present, I'm of the opinion that any acceptance is a good acceptance if it encourages a writer to keep putting words on paper. You just need to make certain the epress you choose is a viable business, not an electronic cousin to a "vanity" publisher that will require you to pay for the privilege of being e-published.

Contests? I'm of two minds on this question. I don't see a lot of benefit in those judged by an organization's members, published or unpublished. It might be a confidence builder to win first or second place in such a contest--you might even get interesting feedback--but it's unlikely to advance your career. Contests wherein final entries are judged by editors or agents are different in that they can lead to requests to look at the full manuscript so possible publication. It all depends on what you want or need at the point where you are in your publication quest. To me, the effort and money (most contests require a fee) might be better spent sending work out directly to agents and editors or, possibly, attending conferences where you are able to pitch your story directly. Just my $.02.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Mariad said...

Thank you for taking the time to answer.

I didn't have to pay anything to the place I submitted. I wouldn't have done it if I had to pay because it just would cut against my pride. LOL Plus I'm cheap and would rather spend the money on more writing and grammar courses.

I noticed a lot of your books are in e-book format. I recently read Sweet Piracy. I purchased it at: I really like this e-book sight because it has a reward system and I don't have to pay like at fictionwise to be in a club in order to have discounts. When purchasing ebooks, I also like to make sure that the e-store has a my library and allows me to download the books again in case something happens to my computer and I lose the books on my hard-drive.

I'm so glad that authors are having their books in e-book formats. I live an hour away from any book stores so it's really convient to just order it online. I got a Ipaq (pocket PC) just to read ebooks. That way I can go anywhere instead of being planted in front of my desk-top.

I really loved Sweet Piracy it was very romantic. I also liked how it was only in Caroline's POV. Loved the character's to pieces. :)


12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm working hard to overcome fears that keep me in the latter catagory. *G*


11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH, BTW, how is it going down to New Orleans to research for a novel?

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