Master of Horror

Is Being a Writer Good Enough?

In this day and age, when there are many, many people trying to get their stories or novels published, is it good enough just to be a writer?

I’d say no: a writer, really, is any person who can write: a six-year old child who is able to write a letter to Granma is a writer.

Then how about an author? An author is someone who knows enough about one of the arts (usually) to create something, be it good or bad. again, the answer is no.

Today, we must aim to be more than a writer, far more than an author. What we must aim for is to become a grammarian.

A grammarian is ‘one who is expert in the written use of a given language,’ as one of the more popular and respected dictionaries puts it. We must know where we can use a semi-colon, and where it must become a colon, and the difference between the two. We must know what a word means, and which other words we can use in place of it that means the same but prevents us from repetitively using the same tired old word. We must know the difference between a dependent clause and an independent clause. And we must know where our language originated from, because knowing the origins of words often gives us a clue to finding words that are not in common use but can be used to describe an action or scene in a way that helps us to create our own descriptions, and avoid using the same old clichés, such as ‘white-coated figures’ when we mean doctors.

We must also be skilled at creating scenes that can evoke the desired emotions or reactions from the reader we are seeking. For when we write – in my case, anyway – we are actually describing scenes that are taking place in our minds but which can often appear as a movie film: we can clearly see each character; we can clearly see each movement, hear each word, note how that word is pronounced by a Bulgarian or a German or a Frenchman, and recognize how they differ from the various pronunciations of the English version.

And we must be prepared to be ruthless with our own work: when we go back to do the final edit and find something that can be improved or made clearer by deleting entire sentences or paragraphs, we must be prepared to do it, no matter how much it may hurt. For every word we write almost becomes our child, and ‘deleting’ one’s own child is a ruthless and painful experience indeed. But we must do it for the sake of the story, for the sake of the reader, for the sake of the publisher, and finally for our own sakes.

If we are not prepared to go this far, become a grammarian, a walking textbook on our own written language, then we should not even consider becoming a writer of entertainment, for after all, isn’t that what a story or a novel is – entertainment?

So go to it, ye writers: become a grammarian, learn to care about your writing, learn to care about the effect you are having on the reader, and you will succeed.

This is, perhaps, the best advice I can give you. It’s hard, I admit; but didn’t someone once say ‘success never comes easy’?

                                                                                         Adrian Scott     

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