Writing isn’t something you can sit down and do without training. It only looks that way.
I’ve noticed, of late, various posts and comments around the blog-o-sphere along the lines of ‘my book is good, because I got positive comments on Good Reads (or Amazon, or Smashwords), so why did an agent say it was terrible?’
Or ‘I got positive comments on Good Reads, but the agent said the book needed this-and-this-and-this…’
Why? There’s no soft way to say this. Fact is that neither writer nor on-line reviewer actually knew what constituted a good book – meaning not just an abstract measure of quality and authorial competence, but what’s required for a specific market.
Agents do. So do commissioning editors.
What’s happened is that the aspiring writer’s sat down and thought ‘I want to be a writer’ – usually, meaning ‘novellist’. They’ve then churned out a novel. Which is, of course, an absolutely wonderful achievement and ambition; and all power to their writing arm. But writing, like every skill, has to be learned – and the four stages of competence apply, absolutely, to writing. I’ve said it before, but it deserves repeating:
1. Unconscious incompetence – you don’t know enough to realise you don’t know what you’re doing.
2. Conscious incompetence – you realise how much there is to learn.
3. Conscious competence – you know what you have to do, but it’s a conscious effort, mechanical.
4. Unconscious competence – it’s become part of your soul and your writing soars.
Going from start to finish takes a million words and about 10,000 hours. There are no short cuts.
Yes, some authors have an aptitude for it – but what this means is that they start off as a talented ‘unconscious incompetent’.
Does that mean giving up? Au contraire, my friends. It’s a challenge; and it’s a challenge that can – must – and will be met.
Training helps. So do writing groups. But the real progress comes from the doing – the hard yards; and the reality is that, until you’ve accomplished at least a sizeable fraction of that million word/10,000 hour learning curve, all writing will be just that – a learning curve.
Equally, it doesn’t mean stuff written along the curve is unpublishable. Quite the contrary – but I guarantee you’ll look back on it later and know you can do better today.
That always happens anyway – learning never stops, even when you’ve become unconsciously competent and writing has become part of your soul.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014
Also available on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/nz/book/bateman-illustrated-history/id835233637?mt=11
Nook coming soon.
Buy the print edition here: http://www.batemanpublishing.co.nz/ProductDetail?CategoryId=96&ProductId=1410