A few times in the past week, people have asked 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 that question.
1) It presupposes that there even is an answer.
2) Is 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. Yesterday I sent out a kick that talked about roughly 60-70 things to consider when looking at your story—and it doesn’t go through them all.
Seven years ago, I started my blog in preparation for writing a book, The Fine Art of Storytelling. Since then, I’ve written well over three thousand pages of advice. (You can get 380 of those pages of advice free if you download my free book “Inspirations” at www.mystorydoctor.com). 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 make learn how to craft your own silver bullets.
We have a NaNoWriMo special going on for my writing workshops at www.mystorydoctor.com. Use code "nanowrimo" to get 20% off any of my workshops this month.