Holly asked: How do you know if you have talent or are just wasting your time?
My knee jerk reaction to this question was this: So long as you love what you’re doing it’s never a waste of time. But, I’m sure Holly meant waste of time to get published.
This is one of those gray area topics. IMHO there are two schools of thought on; do you have what it takes to sell. The first thought and most people believe this, and it does have serious merit, is that you must have some talent. Like on American Idol those people who came in and auditioned who were tone deaf? Sorry, no can sing, never will either. Sayonara.
However, those who made it to Hollywood? (and I don’t mean the top 12, I mean all of those who got the gold ticket) The ones who needed a voice coach and someone to guide them and work hard with them? Some of them are recording.
So does the same apply with writing? Lot’s of people think so. Me? Not so sure. I truly believe you can learn to be a good writer. A spectacular writer? Not so much. Why? Because to be spectacular, you need god given talent. But how many actual spectacular writers are there? As opposed to how many good writers? I do think you need one of two things to ultimately be successful. Either voice or the ability to tell a story. The writing? You can suck the big one and learn and hone that aspect. I’m a perfect example. I still have a long way to go, but by sheer will and practice, practice and more practice (as in writing nearly 2 million words in the last five or six years) you do tend to catch on. Pacing is hard to master, plot and characterization? Again imho an evolution.
I also think it’s important to write what you know, and I’m not necessarily talking about writing what you do for a living or studied in college, I’m talking about what you know inside your heart, your soul, who you are. I write passionate characters. I live with a passionate husband, my children are passionate, it’s who we are. We live, love and play hard. But I digress.
So how do you find out if you suck the big one and should read books instead of write them? Put it out to the universe for feedback. And I suggest the universe you chose be top heavy with industry professionals. If you win a read or a crit from an agent, editor or multi published author they have the experience and the eye to be brutally honest. But always keep in mind this business is extremely subjective. While an agent may think you stink, an editor may see gems in your writing. I had a contest judge tell me my entry gave her a migraine and she could not read past the third page. I could read between the lines, she was telling me not to quit my day job. And I didn’t. Then. What I did was, I hunkered down and practiced some more. I found a couple of CP’s, I worked harder. Had I been told by numerous people I was wasting my time, I would have flipped them off and kept writing. I kept writing because I love to write. I kept writing because I knew in the back of my mind if I kept at it long enough, I would get good enough to sell. But I’m stubborn that way.
So, imho, I think, to know if you have what it takes to get published, you need to get your work under the nose of people who know raw talent when they see it, and go from there. But my caveat to that is; don’t let anyone dissuade you. This kind of brings me around to a question that is often asked on the blogs: If you knew you would never sell would you still write? I think, for writers who are just starting out that is an unfair question. We all write for different reasons, so I think one must really step back and ask why they write, and secondly, if its for publication ask yourself, are you prepared to work your ass off and face regular rejection until you achieve your goal?
I hope that answers your question, Holly. If anyone has anything to add, feel free to chime in!
And I am very happy to report the questions are pouring in. So as long as they do, I’ll keep blathering!
Oh, and I won’t be around much today, I’m off with my two daughters to look at wedding gowns! Not for me, for number two daughter! But chat away. I’ll be back.