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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Can Everyone Write?

Musings from Linda Thomas-Sundstrom

Hi FF&P members...

I'm Linda Thomas-Sundstrom, a paranormal romance author. You'll probably recognize my name from the loop. A really quick bio for me would list Kensington Brava, Dorchester, and Harlequin Nocturne as my publishers, and with nine projects for Silhouette and Harlequin under my belt, I'm currently under contract for more Nocturnes of the vampire and werewolf persuasion. Sheer bliss!

I've been asked to write an article on craft, but have been pondering a conversation I recently had with someone who contacted me with this question - one I seem to get all the time, as I'm sure most writers do:

"Can anyone write?"

Our standard reply is always: "Of course." Because we know that anyone can. Heck, we are!

But the conversation went deeper than that, and slightly more into the realm of reality (sorry paranormal folks - LOL) when I was asked about the "process" of getting published. This was from a person who has never set one word on paper.

Thinking this was like asking how to run a marathon without ever having gone for a jog, skipping all the training and work in between, my own musings were eye-opening for us both. I'd like to share.

Here was my reply . . .

"As for the process... well, I just don't know how to tap into the many kinds of talents people have. I have pals who are fantastic artists, and I can't draw a stick figure. Some people sing like angels. Some run like they have deer in their genes. I write because I have to. It's actually a compulsion. Words are like manna from heaven to me. I have to get words on paper and create worlds for them to live in. I've been writing one thing or another since I was eight years old! A true passion. I am driven to write, to create . . . And the compulsion gets worse as I age.

I do think that people have special gifts in some areas. I have heard over and over again that anyone can write. Yes, I believe this is true. But also, anyone can sing. Right? The difference lies in the degree to which a talent can be born and developed, added to the sheer unadulterated persistence of character, and lots of practice.

As for getting published, writing is only part of that process. The business side is not easy! Meeting deadlines and coming up with new ideas are not easy! Self-promotion is not easy! I honestly do believe that everyone can write something if they really want to . . . but if the goal is to get "published," that's a whole other matter. The statistics are that about one percent of all people who write, or want to write, ever get published by a New York publisher. Then again, at present, anyone can self-publish, or publish with an e-book company, which opens up all sorts of avenues for all of levels of writers and their personal satisfaction.

Still, writing starts with writing. Before anything else, there has to be words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, and a completed manuscript. This takes time and dedication, because the odds are also that a major percentage of people who want to write, and desire to get published, never do finish penning a single book. Or take the time to study the craft of writing."

Ah, yes. And there was another question from this person, after all that. Here it is:

"How does a person know if they are worthy to write?"

What? Oh my gosh! I wonder what YOU would reply to this one? I'm still thinking about it.

Because "worthy" might differ from person to person. Right? Does it mean self-satisfaction, or does it mean getting published? Two extremes in concept. For instance, I'd be writing if I'd never gotten published, because again, I have to write. Once I had learned the craft and developed my own voice and style, I geared my writing ideas toward specific New York publishers by making myself aware of what kind of things they wanted. With some talent (thank you mom and dad!), a lot of luck, and maybe even some mystical forces at work on my behalf... not to mention sheer dogged persistence . . . I made it into the one percent. And I'm thrilled every darn day to see my books on the shelf! I know that if people actually continue to buy my books, hopefully I'll be able to keep on publishing for quite a while. But I will write, no matter what.

I don't want to ever discourage anyone with a true desire to write. We all need encouragement and all the help and nourishment that others who have finished a manuscript can supply. I frequently send fairy dust over the air waves to friends who are just getting started, and I've offered to lend my Muse to a few. I offer hankies when needed, murmur "You can do it" to them and to myself on a regular basis, and have checked out sets of pom-poms on line in case I need to shake things up on our behalf.

The fact is that none of us know if we have real talent and fresh ideas until we try the very thing we want to do. As all of us on the FF&P site know, even if we're willing to do what it takes, and try, unless it's absolutely a labor of love...

Well, you get the picture.

So, I've shared this, and hope you might have something else to offer on the subject.

Were you encouraged to write?

Have you been writing since you were a kid, because you HAVE TO?

Did you realize how difficult - blissful writing could be?

Does writing make you so very happy, you hardly want to do anything else?

Please share, if you have a minute.

I'm here today, listening, and so are a lot of others.

We're in this crazy business together.

I love nearly every minute of it.




Linda's latest releases from Nocturne in her Vampire Moons series are: "Golden Vampire" (full book) and "Night Born," a Bite. She also has a fluffy, girly paranormal novella recent release, titled "Veronica and the Vampire."


Love and hate, vampire and slayer—opposites too closely connected for their own good?

After her mother is nearly killed, slayer-in-waiting Danika Douglas vows to destroy the vampire she believes is responsible—Alexander Kent. An experienced vampire older than sin itself, Alexander possesses dark good looks and a strong sensual allure.

Danika knows a slayer and her target are chained together by fate, compelled to find each other. Yet she never expected them to share such a powerful attraction, leaving Danika torn between revenge and desire….


Julie Lynn Hayes said...

Interesting question.

First I'd like to say that being published doesn't mean you can write by any means. There are a lot of people who get published who can't really write very well.

I have received encouragement to write. Sadly, not from my family. But I have friends, and now children, who make up for that.

I have been writing since I was a kid because I WANTED TO - not the I have to or I'll die syndrome.

Writing makes me incredibly happy, I feel it was what I was born to do. Where my talent lies. Or one of them, anyway. I write from morning to night and don't angrily count the minutes til I can stop, like too many people with conventional jobs. I want to write until I die, whether I'm read or not. But I really want to be read.

The worst part is the promo, cause I had no idea what was involved. The publishing world is changing, publishers pay the same but expect you to do more. Agents too. I'm learning.

Finally, can everyone write? Hell no, I don't think so. At least not well. I can sing, but you'll never catch me auditioning for American Idol, cause no one wants to hear me. Trust me.

Good luck with your books, Linda! Nice to meet you!

mona karel said...

Years ago I had a class with Paul Gillette who said quite wisely - "I can teach you HOW to write, I can't teach you WHAT to write."
What he meant was we can learn the basic components of writing skill, of nouns, verbs, and modifying phrases. But there is no way anyone can teach you how to delve into your psyche and imagination to build a new world.
Absolutely we have all read published books that were not well written. But we need to move away from measuring ourselves against other writers and reach for our own goals. Otherwise we'll drive ourselves NUTS!!

Melissa Cutler said...

I love your fresh take. I write because I have to, I've always had to (since age 5), and I can't imagine ever stopping. The bliss of getting the words in my head onto a page is enough of a reward, but for sure publication is a dream I have for myself. Like so many dreams, it is the pursuit that matters most. Whether or not I ever achieve that goal, I know I've given in my everything, which is supremely satisfying. Onward!


Unknown said...

I don't remember being encouraged to write at home. In elementary school, I wrote poems that were published in the school paper and later, in high school, I wrote romantic comedy scripts as a hobby. I've been journaling most of my adult life, but mostly in developing my own philosophy (which I use now throughout my paranormal romances).

The first obsession in life was teaching science. My second obsession was mathematics. And now, it's paranormal romance. I'm continuously reading and writing in this genre.

What I like most about creative writing is storytelling. Give me a diverse set of facts and I'm compelled to weave it into a story.

I belong to several local writing groups for the bliss of entertaining their members.

Thanks, Linda.

As I've said before, your writing is inspirational and some of the best there is.


Linda Thomas-Sundstrom said...

Thanks for the wise input Julie, Susan, Mona, and Melissa. It's all so true. (Susan, I'm so glad you like my books!).

I'm lucky in the I was, early on, encouraged by my parents to do what I wanted to do... within reason. My father, a teacher, made sure that I became one, too, so that I'd have a sound basis for my more "artistic" pursuits.

So, I'm a teacher and a writer = two things I love that came out of beautiful childhood dreams.

And yes, Julie, no one explained abut promo, and the way we were to spend 90 percent of our time doing that, instead of writing. I struggle with the timing on that every single day.

But it's part of the real deal. The dream. And I so do love having dreams come true, just as Jimminy Cricket sang for Disney.

Yes. Writing is bliss.
If it isn't bliss for some of you, then I'd highly recommend teaching. LOL. The world needs good teachers, too. When was the last time you had one?


Linda Thomas-Sundstrom said...

P.S. This is a test to find the two typos in that last hastily-written response. ha.

Actually, I am teaching today, and catching up here in between classes.

I'm loving hearing from other writers on this subject.


Chris Marie Green/Christine Cody/Crystal Green said...

*Great* question, Linda. And I love your reasoning, as always.

I agree with Julie Lynn--promo is definitely the toughest part, although I do have fun writing some of the blogs for those tours. Character interviews are fun, but I suppose that's because I'm "writing," not concentrating on shilling the book!

Looking forward to reading VERONICA AND THE VAMPIRE!

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Linda! *waving*

Great to see you on the FF&P Blog!!! :)

I think anyone can write, but do they have a story to tell? That's a whole seprate story!

We all learn to read and write in school and we need to be proficient to graduate, but only some of us can use those writing skills to tell a story...

I think that's the difference.

Great blog!

Lisa :)

Sarah Gilman said...

Great post! Thanks, Linda!

Writing has made me happy since long before I even considered attempting to get published. I had stories to tell, so I joined critique groups and took criticism with open arms to develop my craft. Learning the craft is a life-long process; I'm still actively taking online classes and sharing my WIPs with betas. I continue to learn and write because I believe that yes--everyone can write, if they really want to. Every book has an audience, even if some people don't like the story or think the writing is poor. Our business is a subjective one.


Joyce Henderson said...

Can anyone write? Many do, and shouldn't. :) The only thing I disagreed with, Linda, was that anyone can get published by an epublisher. If that's what you really meant...? I've had friends rejected just recently by a couple different epublishers. Self-publishing is another kettle of fish entirely. If I ever get around to putting up my back list, those will have been professionally edited. And I think it would be well worth the money to pay a freelance editor to epublish original work, as well.

I enjoyed your well thoughtout article

Locksley said...

Today, I woke up with the sniffles and still have them, had to get my car to the shop (and back), entertain my two grandchildren for a while, watch Project Runway (the artist in me and love of beauty), swim a mile and write a scene to be read at tomorrow's critique group. You might think now's the time for the excuse of having a cold and trying to write being incompatible. Okay maybe it won't be my best work tomorrow, but they all know I struggle. Writing here forces me to do as promised.

I answer that question with a question. "Have you ever been driven to do something, and stay at it?" It comes down to practice, practice, practice. A certain fire in your belly (Working Girl-Melanie Griffith).

In Midnight in Paris, the Hemmingway character tells a screen writer wanting to be a novelist to face his rhinoceros.

Pamela Moran said...


Thought provoking for sure! But then, you usually do get our minds twisting in different directions ....

On the worthiness question, is it worthy as in self-worth? Do we deserve to even be writing – like it’s something for only those rare few individuals who are tapped on the shoulder and deemed special enough?

Brings to mind the gods of ancient times, playing with people’s lives and directing them based on some metaphysical chessboard known only to the gods.

Or is worthy as in having something to say that anyone else would want to hear/read? As in what makes any of us special enough to be in that one percent of New York published authors?

Worthiness from within our own souls or worthy from an outside viewpoint?

I, too, have been writing since I was big enough to hold a pencil and put the stories that have always been in my head on paper. Now, the dream of publication has turned into a full fledged goal that I am diligently pursuing.

Talent, skill, self-confidence (okay - that's the one that's hard and ties right into the worthiness thing), perseverance are all part of the package.

Am I worthy? In every way that matters! At least to me...and I tell myself that every single day.

Pam S. ;o)

Locksley said...

Oh, I forgot to say. Walk my two furry family members everyday including today.

Cori Conrad said...

I love how you likened writing to singing, and I totally agree. Yes, most people can write, but very few will ever learn to write well.

Although it may be true that even some published authors aren't stellar writers, what's important is telling a compelling story that draws in readers.

At the end of the day, writing is subjective and if we have a group of people who believe in us, what more can we ask for?

Marie Andreas said...

Great blog Linda!

I write because I love to- and the books I want to read aren't writen yet ;).

I agree, I think anyone can write- but write well? maybe not. I've heard the saying if you aren't sure if you can write, you probably shouldn't start. Becuase the only one who can really answer the "am I worthy to write" question is the person. If they don't think so, sure as heck no one else will :).

Joy Taylor Jaeger said...

Linda, getting to know more about you is fun. Your stories don't reveal the "true you", but do showcase your talents and resilience to the hilt. I never had an interest in writing until a few years ago, and finding RWASD has been a Godsent for me. Hopefully my stories will be published some day. If not, it's been a fun ride all the way, especially interacting with great authores, such as yourself. Best, Joy

Linda Thomas-Sundstrom said...

Well... really thought-provoking replies, one and all. Thank you.I suppose as writers we will always encounter these questions from others, and sometimes voice them ourselves.

How about this?
I am worthy, because I "do."

We do what we have to do, long to do, want to do... and we hone our craft, find our voice, and then we are writers.

There was a saying by Yoda that I used to love. Anyone know how it really goes? Something about...

There is no try. Only do.

So true.

Linda Thomas-Sundstrom said...

From Tami, who can't post here:

Wow that article made me think. I don't know how I'd answer the question about being worthy. That just blew my mind. I do know I write because even my little pickings as they are make me happy and as long as one other person enjoys them, then I've accomplished something. I have to think of it that way in order to keep going forward otherwise I think I'd curl up in the fetal position and rock myself. Hmm maybe be a tortured artist. No, not me, but I bet that thought made you smile.

Tami V

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a great article. I think a lot of people think they can write, but as soon as there is opposition or it gets difficult is when you find out if they can "really" write. You know?

It's hard work writing for publication. It's not for everyone.