Sometimes people ask me questions such as, “If there were just one thing that I needed to know to become a great writer, what would it be?” Or, I might get asked, “If there were just one writing course that I should take, which one would it be?”
I often feel that those writers are looking for a “silver bullet,” a magical weapon to kill a werewolf.
There are several problems with such questions.
1) It presupposes that there even is an answer.
2) It presupposes that I know you well enough to figure out the answer.
There’s a lot that goes into writing. As you begin writing, you move from one plateau to another. You might start out as a rank amateur, move quickly up to nearly publishable, go on to become a bestseller or an award-winner, and hopefully even write a novel in the “landmark” category, one that is considered an all-time great.
But there are literally dozens of skills that you might need to develop to move from one level to another.
11 years ago, I started my blog in preparation for writing a book I had in mind that was going to be called The Fine Art of Storytelling. Since then, I’ve written well over four thousand pages of advice. I’ve answered a lot of questions over the years, and to my way of thinking, there isn’t a single silver bullet in all those thousands of pages.
Instead, it’s more like an arsenal of weapons. I’ve got a few tanks, some bazookas, some anti-aircraft missiles, some fuel-air bombs, some machine guns, a few swords and daggers, and boxes of bullets—but nothing alone that will take out a werewolf.
There isn’t a single piece of information, or even a single course, that will turn anyone into a great writer. There’s just too much to know.
That’s why I recommend that if you’re going to study writing, you study with a lot of people. Each teacher has a slightly different set of weapons and strategies.
Then of course, one has to wonder, “Is there even a single piece of advice that will propel you to the next level?”
Well, there might be. A lot of people develop some great skills, and if I look at their work, sometimes I will find a single thing that they need to work on.
But the question presupposes that even if I study their work for days, I can find that information. Telling a story beautifully often requires an author to understand dozens of principles, and then to invent and develop a tale in a way that no one else can.
In other words, you bring to the writing game your own unique inspiration, insights, and gifts. Ideally, as an editor and writer, I can help you get where you need to go, but there is always a bit more to learn.
In other words, hopefully, I can help you learn how to craft your own silver bullets.