What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure. (Samuel Johnson)
Many people say they like to write, and many say they want to write a book. For those who actually sit down to give it a try, they find that writing can be a lot harder than it looks. And good writing – especially good fiction writing – can be one of the hardest things of all.
I’ve been writing all my life, so Journalism was a good fit for me in college (after two semi-disastrous quarters as a business major, but I’ll spare you those gory details). Once I graduated I became one of those rare people who actually went into the field I majored in. I started in the world of hospital public relations, worked with non-profit publications, and began my freelance writing and editing business in 1999. I can honestly say that I have a lot of experience as a writer.
But a lot of that experience didn’t count for much when I began writing fiction. Sure, knowing how to write a decent sentence and use correct grammar helped, but that didn’t mean I knew how to write fiction or that I had the wherewithal to complete a novel-length project. Fiction writers – especially those just starting out – have a whole new set of rules to learn about story structure, points of view, dialogue, and a host of other things.
Some people accept the challenge and work to learn the rules and incorporate them into their writing. Other people just want to write because they enjoy it and don’t bother with following the rules.
Is one perspective right and the other wrong? I think it depends partly on why you write and what you hope might come of it. I write fiction because I enjoy it, but also because I feel like God has planted all these little idea seeds in my mind and it’s my job to tend them. I don’t know if my fiction will ever be published or if I’ll ever even finish a manuscript. But if I do finish and if it does get published, I don’t want someone to read it and think, “Why in the world did this woman get published?” Instead, I want readers to love the characters, get lost in the story, and enjoy every word along the way.
Stories like that don’t just happen. As Mr. Johnson said, you have to put effort into the writing before someone reads it with pleasure. If that’s what it takes for someone to enjoy what I write, I’m all for it. How about you?