One of my favorite things to say is that writing fiction is hard, and writing good fiction is that much harder. It takes a LOT out of you, demands a lot from you, and causes you all kinds of trouble.
Still, it’s worth it. I would never tell someone who has doubts about writing, or is wondering whether he or she should write, not to try. That’s because, regardless of what you do with you work, writing will teach you that you have these qualities. If you don’t have them, you’ll develop them.
That is, an ability to take risks and try new things. Perhaps this isn’t true of all writer, but if I waited to start writing a novel until I had all the kinks worked out and I felt comfortable with the story–if I waited until I felt “ready” to write–I’d never write at all.
A novel is just too big to pin down entirely ahead of time. You’ll have surprises, shocks, and dilemmas crop up seemingly out of nowhere along the way, no matter how much you plan. Personally, I think that’s one of the best things about fiction.
Creative writing takes a willingness and an ability to accept one’s limitations. First drafts are rarely good, even readable. At least, I feel that way about my own. A writer has to be humble enough to recognize her weaknesses and to accept constructive criticism in order to improve.
This is obvious. Writers face rejection constantly, and we need to be willing to write, rewrite, and rewrite some more. We need to be able to keep plugging and to pull ourselves up off the ground to try again after “failure.”
Tenacity is needed just as much as humility. While we need to be humble enough to recognize our flaws, we need to be tenacious enough not to give up in disillusionment. It’s not an easy balancing act.
Every writer has to be able to step into a character’s mind: to feel how they are feeling, to understand how and why they make the choices they do. This isn’t always easy…. In fact, it can be downright disconcerting when the character isn’t all that likeable. But I think, all things considered, this quality brings positive results. It helps us not to feel a false sense of superiority when we consider real people who have made some bad choices. It keeps pride and complacency in check.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. I don’t think I want to insult you guys breaking it down.
7. A SENSE OF HUMOR.
Mainly, a willingness to laugh at yourself and take yourself lightly. I know some of my early drafts have some pretty bad, cliche scenes and poor writing. It’s bad enough that it’s downright laughable. So I laugh at it and take it lightly, rather than letting it make me feel like a talentless hack.
So, what qualities do you think a writer needs? What did I overlook? What skills took you longest to develop? For me, I think, it’s tenacity. How do you push through and fight your weaknesses?
Victoria Grefer is the author the Herezoth trilogy, which begins with “The Crimson League” and has new editions coming out this Fall. She also has a writer’s handbook out, titled “Writing for You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction.”
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