Most anyone can string together words to make coherent sentences and build up paragraphs. That doesn’t mean it will be a great, compelling work.
When I tell people I’m an author they immediately launch into a story idea they have had for a long time. Some may even try and convince me to write it for them. I encourage them to put pen to paper and actually start writing.
My journey started in a similar way.
My wife started night school and after I got the kids to bed had several hours with nothing to do. I had a story bouncing around in my head since high school. So I figured, what the heck, and wrote the story and printed it out. Holding it in my hand, my pride faded as I recognized it for the trash it was. Having read enough good Scifi I recognize bad scifi.
Five or six times it was rewritten but it never got any better. I was lucky, I could recognize that my writing was terrible. Many aspiring authors don’t realize this and think that editors “just don’t get them.”
I reached out to Writer’s Digest Schools. If one was to take correspondence course, it might as well be about writing. It was fitting. With four separate classes and three instructors my writing improved. I still recommend them for a basic beginner.
Next, I found other writing resources, weekend intensives, and the like. One that is great is Odyssey, www.odysseyworkshop.org. They have online courses and a 6 week summer class with college credits. It is run by Jeanne Cavelos, an ex-NASA scientist, ex-editor from Bantam Doubleday Dell and winner of the world fantasy award. You can read or listen to our interview of Jeanne in the archives.
The other thing to assist is writing groups. I’ve been a part of three or four groups all with their strengths and weaknesses. Quantum Muse sprung from the best and longest lasting of these groups. There is also the online writing group that underlies Quantum Muse. If you are an aspiring author, sign up and start submitting.
The advantage of writing groups is that we get to read and critique other people’s work which develops the editor’s eye. We can turn the eye on to our own work and see our shortcomings in what we have written and hopefully how to fix them. A good writing group is also blunt but supportive. Family and friends are supportive but not blunt and, in fact, don’t usually have the skills to give a good critique. At best they say they love it, at worst they say they lover us anyway.
My journey has been long and sometimes slow but I have moved from where I started and can see the road ahead with hope.