Is writing a skill that is learned or a talent hidden deep inside?

Hand holding a pen over paper.

I read a lot of varying advice on the internet about writing, self-publishing and being an author. To be honest, I’ve been amazed and overwhelmed by the number of independent authors out there. There is an unbelievable amount of incredible writers  just waiting to be discovered.

Writing is a very diverse talent. Some people study all aspects of the English language, sentence structure, verbiage and tense and have trouble putting together a coherent thought. Others, though, never took a single creative writing class and can weave together a story that would astound Shakespeare.

Ernest Hemingway said, “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.” Though it’s hard to argue with one of the greatest writers of our time but, to me, it’s not about the sentence structure and proper grammar but the story. Oh, don’t get me wrong, bad English will take away from any good story. You need to proofread, spell check and edit anything you write. It’s about the storyteller and what they have to say.

It’s incredible to read about J.K. Rowling and how she struggled through writing the Harry Potter series until the book finally took off. Now, she’s one of the richest and, more importantly, most influential authors of our time. That is something to aspire too.

C. J. Cherryh said, “It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.” That is one of the problems with being a self-published author. You don’t always have the resources to edit your work before its published. I remember after Forever Avalon was published, I sent copies of my book to my family. After reading my book, my mother sent me two pages of grammar and spelling errors. It was quite a humbling experience and it made me work harder as a writer.

I love to write. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I remember back to my childhood when I was fascinated with comic books and superheroes. I drew cartoons all the time, sometimes creating my own characters. I was so focused on the art, I never realized the creative side of writing and storytelling that I was delving into.

I was an okay artist but I was narrow-minded, ignoring the creative side that was trying to burst out of me. I realize now that there was more of a writer in there and I just needed to cultivate and groom those talents.

That’s one of the reason I always give credit where credit is due. Dungeons and Dragons fueled my imagination, but it was the U.S. Navy that molded my creative writing through journalism. The education I received from my Navy training at the Defense Information School was top-notch. It gave me the tools I needed to become a self-published, independent author.

In no way am I comparing myself to J.K. Rowling. We all take different journeys to reach our destination. My novels may not become multi-million best sellers, even though that is my ultimate goal; but I am very happy with the work I’m doing. I see the improvement in my writing as I progress from one book to the next.

Somerset Maugham said, “If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write?” That’s true to all of us. We all have to find that inner writer, our own creativity, and pursue it as part of our dream of becoming a successful author.

Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.

Keeping the history of our world alive through literature

TARDISat60FathomsDid you ever feel like you were born in the wrong time? I get that feeling all the time. It’s probably why I am such a huge fan of Doctor Who. I could spend a thousand lifetimes travelling throughout history to see everything imaginable. I want to stare in awe at the building of the pyramids or laugh with Queen Elizabeth while watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Globe Theater; but I also want to bear witness to the horrors of humanity as well. From the Holocaust to the “Trail of Tears,” there are events we must never forget or else we may repeat them.

That’s something I hate about the “PC” world we live in today. To ensure we don’t hurt people’s “feelings” or make them feel inadequate about themselves, some people are trying to rewrite history to make it conform to popular thinking. The movie Interstellar had a great example of this when a teacher tried to explain that the moon landings were faked just so the U.S. would win the Cold War. Ridiculous!

I know they’re not teaching this in schools but, you have to admit, it’s a real possibility. There are people out there today who think events like the Holocaust and the moon landings were faked, created by the government  to control people. That’s like saying Africans weren’t thrust into slavery, they walked on those boats of their own free will.

You can’t change history, and if we try to, we are a failure as a society and as writers. We take history and make it real through our stories, myths and legends. There are books that tell the story of a generation within their pages: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath, and Gone with the Wind just to name a few.

Even by taking liberties with history, we are telling a very important story. One of my favorite authors of alternate history is Harry Turtledove. He takes one event in time and changes it, then follows it to fruition from past to present. The best example of this is in my favorite book of his, How Few Remain.

51FRPAQSB6LThe novel starts with a Confederate courier, carrying the plans laid out by General Robert E. Lee, wrapped around some cigars. In history, the courier dropped those cigars where they were picked up by a Union Soldier, revealing Lee’s plans to the Union Army, thus winning the war for the United States; but that’s where the twist comes in. If those plans were never lost, could the South have succeeded in winning the Civil War? Turtledove picks up ten years later, with a divided  country heading into another war but with England and France as allies of the Confederacy and Germany allying itself with the U.S.A. Through the next 11 books, he takes you through the Industrial Revolution, World War I, the Depression and ending at World War II, but with a very different but equally shocking Holocaust as African-Americans became the victims of a ruthless Confederate regime that acted like Nazis, sending them to gas chambers and mass graves.

Even in a twisted universe like that one, there are still lessons from our world history written into every word. This is our mission in life as writers. We cannot change the past but we can write about it so that, generations from now, people will know how we lived, laughed and loved … That is until The Time Machine is invented, but H.G. Wells timetable is way off by now!