I think one of the most common problems the new writer faces is the lack of patience. I’ve said, and a lot of you have heard or said, many times, “Writing is a craft more than it is an art.” It’s a skill and the more you hone it, the more you do it, the better you get.
But that doesn’t mean you can just write, you must also read. Read to see how other writers adapt their stories to novels, short stories or screenplays. Learn how they turn a phrase; how they capture a feeling, a moment that defines a character or the impact an event has on a character. Read to learn how other writers pull their readers into the story, into alternate world of imagination.
Whether you are reading the past masters or the new rage on the reading lists, keep a close eye on how they structure the story. It is important, especially when writing screenplays or for T.V., that you understand and use proper structure. I’m sure this statement raised some hackles of those who say strict formatting leads to formulaic writing and destroys innovation. And, I will agree with them but with this caveat: You first have to learn to write before you can write innovatively. Sure there are writers who break the rules and get away with it—Kerouac, of the beat generation, Hunter S. Thompson, of Gonzo Journalism fame, immediately comes to mind. But Kerouac and Thompson spent many years writing before they became famous for their innovative styles. Many of our great “Rock” musicians have a back ground in classical music. The gist of all of this is “foundation.” To build a good structure you need a strong foundation. To be a good writer, you need to understand structure and practice turning a phrase—picking the right words. Oh, and did I mention, hours and hours of practice.
Practice and patience are two factors that allow a person to excel in a discipline; whether it be athletic or artistic. Certainly there are prodigies, those born with a natural talent, but even they must be mentored and coached; even they must spend hours on the practice field, honing their skills to the level of excellence, necessary to compete.
As a writer, you must practice writing, you must learn all you can about writing, you must find and define your voice; you must write and write until you achieve a level of excellence.
In this day and age of e-publishing and self-publishing, anyone can get published. But if you want to be read, and reread, and read some more, you need to practice and have the patience to wait until you get it right.