Someone asked a complex question online the other day: A character in my book loses his eye. Can he regain the eye or should I just keep the eye lost? Interesting. Here's how I responded.
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I can answer this question for you—absolutely and without a doubt. Here's my suggestion:
Quit writing. Go into politics or get a plumbing apprenticeship or become a veterinarian or sell cat litter in a pet shop. I'm dead serious here. I've been writing for half a century and have 250 conventionally published books, both fiction and nonfiction, and tens of thousands of published shorter pieces to my credit. I've taught Creative Writing Workshop at the college level in Chicago and elsewhere. And I've worked as a professional book, newspaper, and magazine editor and run my own Websites for decades. My point is, I know what I'm talking about. And what I'm talking about is this:
Anyone who is floundering to the point of not knowing a basic premise of the novel he or she proposes to write and must instead ask a group of total strangers for advice is nowhere near ready to write a book. Period.
My only question to you is this: What on earth ever made you think you could? What internal or external influences led you to that decision? And why would you possibly want to charge ahead with that decision? It's only going to lead to disappointment and heartache.
Novel writing, like any form of writing, is an amazingly complicated art and science. It takes years of study and practice to perfect your skills to the point where you're even remotely capable of attempting such a project. I know what I'm talking about. I was in your shoes when I began writing my first novel at the age of fourteen. I failed miserably.
BUT I went on to enroll in journalism and creative writing courses in college, took numerous jobs as a reporter and a stringer for various newspapers, wrote feature articles for numerous magazines and newspapers, and taught writing, grammar, and syntax at the college level for years before I ever sold my very first book. Since then, I've never looked back.
So, let me ask you this: Are you willing to put in the same hard work? Do you have the same burning zeal to become a published writer? Will you invest the time and energy in trying and failing—and then doing the same thing over and over again until you succeed? If so, congratulations. I'm betting you'll make it.
But not by asking ridiculously simplistic questions from people who, mostly, haven't a clue what to tell you but won't hesitate to take a shot at an answer anyway. This is, after all, their fifteen minutes of fame. Sadly, it's also your literary future on the line.
Hope this makes sense, and I hope it helps. If you need more specific information or personal advice, feel free to contact me at my Website at www.djherda.org, and I'll get back to you as quickly as possible. Free of charge.
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D. J. Herda is author of the new e-Book series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. His blogs appear on his Website at www.djherda.org. You can also check out his columns, "The Author-Ethicist" and "Fury and the Beast," at Substack. They're free; they're entertaining; they're informative, and they run weekly. Well, almost weekly. Occasionally weekly. Sometimes weekly. (Hey, he does his best!)