3633– Tuesday, May 21, 2019 – How Does One Become a Great Writer?

Three things are said to be needed for a great story:  Interesting characters, a compelling plot and a narrative arc that keeps the reader interested.  I learned this formula from a Great Course on writing.  Karen (my wife) and I were discussing some problems with writing yesterday when I remembered these concepts.  We were talking about both Karen’s daughter Megan and my sister Jeanine.  Megan became interested in writing a few years ago.  She joined a writer’s group and read all she could about writing novels.  She published her first novel on Amazon and is now writing two more novels.  She had called to tell her Mom about a friend who was in her writing class.  This friend had just published her first novel with a major publishing company and had received a fifteen-thousand-dollar advance.  This event had caused Megan to rethink her idea about continuing to self-publish her own novels.  There are no doubt pro’s and con’s to self-publishing.  Making a great deal of money is perhaps not one of them.


My sister Jeanine has recently decided to write a blog on her adventures and adjustments to her new life change.  Jeanine and her husband John have just sold their house where they lived for nearly fifty years and moved into a “mothers-in-law” apartment with their daughter Jennifer and Jennifer’s husband Jason.  This change comes on the heels of Jeanine being retired for the past few years and her husband taking a new job.  Jeanine had thought the plan was for John and her to sell the old house, pay off the mortgage and John to find some part-time work.  Moving in with their daughter would involve quite a bit of downsizing but would also enable them to have a great deal more discretionary income and to be free of any major debts.  John would also be free to find part-time work and to retire.

I suggested to Jeanine that such a life change might make an interesting blog.  For myself, I cannot fathom the thought of moving in with anyone else, much less one of our children.  It is not the size of the home that matters to me as much as having my own freedom and not having other people constantly around.  Nevertheless, our current culture is finding more and more families going back to the old “extended family” model where grandparents, children and parents all live together or live in various combinations of extendedness.  I suppose that is great for some people, but not for me.

Getting back to the subject of writing and as they say “The cobbler’s kids always need shoes” I suddenly wondered if or whether I should apply these concepts to my blog.  I asked myself:  Do I have or create interesting characters?  I would probably answer no.  Do I have or create interesting plots with each blog?  I think my themes about greed, war and passion are interesting and even if they are not plots, they do provide some focus to keep a reader interested.  However, I cannot say I have a continuous plot that runs through all my “dated” blogs.  Finally, as concerns a “narrative arc,” my arc is the arc of the perhaps last ten years of my life (as ordained by actuarial tables).  While this arc might not really interest everyone, it is very interesting to me.  Furthermore, how many people have described the last ten years of their life in a daily or weekly blog?  My wife Karen thinks the idea is morbid and might in fact be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I have assured her; I will not hasten my end to match expectations.

My weak point as a writer, (I welcome comments and criticisms) seems to be my cast of characters.  In future blogs, I will try to put more flesh on these people so that you will know the people in my life and who they are.  This is not to say that I cannot improve in other areas.  In fact, my writing class starts in about two weeks and I will be able to get feedback from my instructor and other participants to see how they feel about this blog.  I love the challenge that writing provides to make it ever more interesting and sometimes informative for my readers.  If you have read any of my other blogs, you might see that I have always tried to take complex ideas and put them into common sense language, so that they are more understandable.  There are too many good ideas written in obscure academic language that no one can read or comprehend.  As an old writing instructor told me “Never say, ‘Up the proverbial estuary without means of locomotion,’ if you can say, ‘Up shit creek without a paddle.'”

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”  — Ernest Hemingway

“We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. … Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.”  — John Updike, WD

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” — Samuel Johnson



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