Friday, June 7, 2013

Please welcome our guest Anne Barton

Where Do Good Writers Come From?

by Anne Barton

            A writing friend and I recently debated an interesting question: are good writers born or made? In other words, is writing an innate or learned talent?

            If you’re a writer, I’ll bet you have a gut reaction to the question—nature, nurture, maybe somewhere in between. Where you stand on the issue probably influences the way you approach your craft, and that makes it important.

            So, what do you think?

            It seems like a simple question—but let’s dig deeper.

            What makes somebody a good writer? The ability to put subjects and verbs together in a coherent way is only a small part of it. A good writer is a storyteller and a creator of worlds. She helps us see everyday things in a new ways and evokes emotion—real feelings—with mere words. A really good writer is invisible—so much so, that we forget we’re reading at all.

            Some might argue that you can’t learn these kinds of things from a class. They may be right. But I say they can be learned—through reading, life experiences, and most importantly, writing.

            If we want to become good—heck, we might as well go for great—great writers, we need to write. Lots of words. Lots of stories. And we need to finish those stories. And then move on to new stories.

            I’m not a super-fast writer, more of a slow and steady, tortoise type. In the seven years since I started writing, I’ve written seven stories. Most aren’t published and probably won’t be, but I don’t regret the hours and sweat I poured into them—not for a minute—because I’ve learned something valuable from every one. Here’s a quick breakdown of what each story taught me.

            Story #1 – the sheer joy of writing

            Story #2 – how to hook readers with a strong beginning

            Story #3 – the power of deep point of view

            Story #4 – the importance of story structure and how to write tight

            Story #5 – how to push the limits and write without fear

            Story #6 – how to use inner conflict as a way to transform characters

            Story #7 – how to balance playfulness, conflict, and emotion

           I’m sure I could have taken classes on most of these topics, but I don’t think they would have been as effective. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of writing classes and craft books and how-to blog posts. In fact, I might be a little addicted. But it was only through writing that I learned the lessons I needed to learn at the time I needed to learn them. And if you’ve been writing for a while, you know just what I’m talking about.

            Sometimes, when people ask me why I write, I say, “Because I can’t sing.” I’m not just being flippant (okay, maybe a little sassy), because I truly believe that if I could belt out songs that made people dance and laugh and cry, that would be pretty darn fulfilling. Unfortunately, singing is more of a nature thing, and alas, I wasn’t born with Carrie Underwood’s voice. (Or her legs, and that’s really not fair.) I could sing my little heart out every day from now till I’m ninety-two and never make it past the first round of American Idol.

            But writing is different. We can learn and grow as writers. All we have to do is WRITE.

            I can’t wait to find out what my next story will teach me.

            How about you?

·         Where do you stand on the writing nature/nurture debate?

·         What have your stories taught you? Please share!

One random commenter will win a $10 gift card to Amazon or B & N (winner’s choice)!

Anne’s debut novel, WHEN SHE WAS WICKED, won the Golden Heart Award for Regency Historical romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband and three children, who try valiantly not to roll their eyes whenever she quotes Jane Austen. Her weaknesses include reality TV, cute-but-impractical shoes, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

Visit her at

You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.



Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome back to Seekerville, Anne Barton!

Intriguing question.

I believe there are a few gifted people who are born with the whole package and sell their first book unedited.

But the value of going through writer 101 is that you learn how to handle the position of writer. If you don't learn it when you sell your first book I believe you will be kicked to the ground by the other facets of writing and have to go through writer 101 anyhow.

Being a neurosurgeon is a pretty amazing thing. Those guys are geniuses. Imagine a guy who puts a port for chemo therapy in a person's brain.

But do we think any less of him because he did 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school an internship, and a residency? No.

But somehow there is this stigma of born with writer ability and learning from books makes you less of a writer.

I disagree. I think it enhances the God given gift in you.

Okay. Now I need a beverage.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Do I make sense? The stigma is that you would have to read a craft book at all.

Helen Gray said...

We have to have some basic language skills. Then we build from there. Right?

Okay, let's ponder it over a cup of coffee. The pot is brewing.


Mary Connealy said...

I am fond of saying there are TWO skills to being an author.
1. Craft ... that is an endless process, hard work and it has filled most of the pages of Seekerville for nearly six years.
2. The ability to sit alone, hour upon hour makin' stuff up.

I think anyone with enough hard work can learn the first. You're born with the second. You either have that personality type or you don't.

Just my theory.

Walt Mussell said...

Hi, Anne. Glad to see you here.

If writing couldn't be taught, I wouldn't be here now. The story comes from nature. The craft comes from nurture.

Melissa Jagears said...

I think there are writing geniuses, prodigies, that are born. Like Mozart, there is something innate about a genius that is unaccountable. Like poets such as Dickinson and Keats. But that doesn't mean they didn't slave over their symphonies or sonnets--look how many of them were recluses, hid their work until they died, took drugs to deal with the depression of not being able to get things perfect--I think the geniuses may actually work harder at the craft than anyone.

So, I think, unless we are born writing prodigies, we'll probably not become "classics" especially in the present day when publishing is "easy" and simply having a book published isn't out of the ordinary like it was back in Beowulf's era. You'll have to be a storytelling genius to still be read a hundred years from now.

So that means 95% (give or take) of us writers can really only aspire for goodness to greatness--not genius. I do think there is inborn talent/aptitude necessary to get a writer from good to great. All writers have to nurture/work to achieve "good"/publishable quality but those that have an inborn aptitude for storytelling, if they do the work, can achieve greatness.

That's my theory anyway. Same goes for any art.

Like in ballet, there are only a handful of genius Rudolf Nureyevs, some make a living in prestigious ballet companies because they are great dancers, more are considered good dancers who are pleasing to watch, then there are all the rest of us who floundered around in ballet classes as children and realized we should just stop.

Cindy W. said...

I'm a newbie, just starting out so I am definitely trying to learn how to get all the stories and characters running amok in my head to the programs in my computer. I know some people are naturals at getting the stories down and I can get the story down but then I have to go back and layer and build and pretty up the basic story and well,for me I'm trying to learn in baby steps.

Thank you for your post today. I love learning.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

Debra E. Marvin said...

What an excellent question!

One thing I'd add is that as a Christian I feel that God gave me a nudge in the direction of what I can do and how I can use it for my good and to help others.

or another way to look at it, is that I learn a lot about people and myself, and I grow in my Christian walk by writing.

The lessons my characters must learn often teach me something as well. I don't think that's coincidence. For the person I am, writing has been the best way for me to "grow".

I'll say BOTH Nature and Nurture.
We wouldn't be writing if we weren't driven to it (having a life would be so nice!) but we go from A to Z by the daily, (yearly) WORK of learning and studying and just writing.

Jill Weatherholt said...

Since I was little, I loved making up stories, so I guess I was born with the love of writing. Having the discipline to be a writer, at least for me, comes from hard work and tough skin. Great question, Anne!

Jackie said...

Hi Anne, welcome to Seekerville!

I've got stories in me dying to get out. I've even created a file with seeds of stories.

Even though I have all these stories, I've got to learn how to effectively tell the story. So I think it's a combination of nature and nurture.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I think both nurture and nature most often.

I think the inner talent or desire is born in us even if it's not evident early on...

But I think there are many roads to publication. Like Tina said, studying craft isn't a bad thing, it's a bonus... but I think there are lots of ways of studying craft. I don't do how-to books, my pea-sized brain doesn't want to sit still long enough to go from start to finish. But I will read other authors and then see if I can add their dimensions to my work. And I read magazine articles from smart people if they happen to find their way onto my lap. So studying may vary, but the Writing 101 of actually just producing work is the meat and potatoes for me.

I love sitting in the chair and writing, so like Mary said, if that part drives you crazy, it's a tough, tough biz. I would rather write than eat. I would rather write than sleep. Although I do like to sleep!!! :) But I love writing so much that it's a pleasure, even when I have to rip out seams (scenes) and re-stitch.

I love it.

It felt like I waited forever to be able to do this, so maybe that's it? Or maybe it's just finally reaching the hem of the garment?

Ann, great and wonderful question. Right now I'm hearing Natalie Grant singing "Hurricane" on K-Love and I think that song adds a dimension to our thoughts, writing and lives... Is it too late?


Don't be afraid. Ever.

We'll always be found, traceable, loved no matter where the writing journey leads.

Donna said...

I think the stories we have in our head just come naturally. I'm not sure that part can be taught.

But the skill to translate those stories coherently and interestingly takes a lot of skill.
That skill can be learned, but some are fortunate enough to be able to learn just by reading well written books in there genre.

Annie Rains said...

I say it's 50/50. Half talent, half skill that you develop over time. The same is true with any talent, I think. A singer needs to work on their breathing and pitch and a writer needs to learn the craft of writing.

There may a third element, too. Perserverance. You can have talent and learn the skill, but if you can't hang in there long enough to see the fruit of your work...

Happy Friday everyone!

Jackie Smith said...

MMMM would love some of Helen's coffee.....but have to fast. Headed to hospital for facet injections for HOPEFUL pain relief!
Prayers appreciated!
And love your post, Anne!
Count me in for the A. card!

Courtney Faith said...

I really like this topic:) I only write for fun sometimes, but even then I see personal improvements from time to time. And I'm not a fantastic singer either. Ha!

Courtney Faith said...

Oh, and add me to the drawing-- clp1777(at)aol(dot)com

Karen Kirst said...

Good morning, Anne,
I enjoyed your post. I think it's both. Even if a person is born with the desire to write and a knack for it, he or she will still need to educate themselves about the craft. And then start writing and don't stop! I wrote my first three manuscripts without taking time to learn how to craft a story and ended up being very frustrated. So before I started the fourth, I read the how-to books and blogs. That's the one that sold. :) I don't think I'll ever stop learning and growing as a writer.

Cindy Regnier said...

Born with it or not - still gotta pay your dues. And if you really love paying those dues -learning, practicing and learning some more, then you're probably a true writer. My opinion, you need it innate to love it, not necessarily to be good at it.

Sherri Shackelford said...

What a fascinating topic, Anne!

I agree with many of the comments--I believe it's definitely a mix. And as Mary C. so aptly noted, the learning part has to be combined with an incredible work ethic.

For most of us, like Anne, there are stacks and stacks of pages which will never see the light of day.

I think most of us reach this point (black moment) when it feels as though the book isn't working, or the career isn't working, or the talent ins't there.

That's when I hear the wise words of Cheryl St.John ringing in my head: When nobody else believes in you, you have to believe in yourself. And that's hard--it's a leap of faith.

I think talent is what propels hard-working writers into best sellers. And talent is rare. Most of us will always be midlist--which is fine by me. I'm happy to be doing what I love.

Mary Connealy said...

I read Anne's book and it is so funny, so well done, I absolutely loved it and am DYING for book #2. I'm a big Regency Romance junkie so I really consider myself to know the genre and Anne's book is fantastic.

kaybee said...

RUTHY, that was a deep and thoughtful response. Not a "Stinkin'" or "Youse" in sight so I know it came from DEEP within. (Not that I mind the "stinkin'" or "youse" catchphrases, but I could tell you were really serious about this one.)
MELISSA, I love the ballet analogy. Some people like Nuryev are born with an innate talent. But they all have to work hard -- my daughter took pointe, and I could not believe what it took to get her on her toes, let alone good at it.
I also compare it to the pastoral ministry, an analogy I end up using a lot. When my husband pastored his first church in a remote area of Wisconsin, the "prevailing wind" in that area and at that time was if you opened your mouth, the Lord would tell you what to say. Including senior pastors. The group he pastored didn't, for lack of a better word, put "a lot of stock in book learnin'." That church is now closed, for whatever reason. When Dave was in Bible college someone told the students, "A call to service is a call to PREPARE for service." I think this is important for Christian writers. There may be some who get it right "out of the chute," but that's God's prerogative to give them the talent. The rest of us work. And pray. And blog with Seekers.
Melissa, did you have your baby yet?
MARY, I appreciated your ACFW blog earlier this week. It is a partnership with God, the only way it is ever going to work.
If I'D gotten it right right out of the chute, I would never have known my crit partner, other writers from various groups, or the Seekers, so there's something to be said for that.
We can't all be Dan Brown, who got his first novel published because he Knew Someone, but I bet we have more fun than Dan Brown.
Kathy Bailey
Pre-pubbed in New Hampshire

Mary Hicks said...

Oh, I'm so pumped!!!! Thank you Anne! I agree with every word you posted. I love the process of learning, and I've been able to see progress after much time at my keyboard. (still a way to go!)

I too, believe writing is a 'learnable' craft.

Tools of the trade: The want to, creative thinking, determination, tough skin, and miles and miles of words strung together. :-)

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Anne! Fun to see what you learned with each of your seven books. Writing a manuscript is like taking a college course, assuming we are teachable and don't keep making the same mistakes.

I suspect storytellers are born with that certain spark, that flair for putting words on the page that can't be taught. Not sure I can define what I mean, but when you read a story that draws you, that makes you settle back eager to make the journey, you've found a storyteller. I sense this early on, within the first paragraph or page. I sound like an editor. LOL

Storytellers still need to study and practice craft. That's where writers see what they're made of, if we have the tenacity to see the project to the end.


Mary Hicks said...

Want to say too, I believe in studying other good/great writers, and taking advantage of the writer resources available to those who are determined to learn the art of storytelling.

Oil painting was my passion ( I thought) for over thirty years—I started when I was five :-). I didn't know what passion was until I decided to give in to the desire to write. Something I'd always wanted to do, but was afraid to try. Go figure.

For the first time in my adult life, I don't have the neatest house in town—who wants to clean house when 'my people' are waiting for me? :-)
Thanks again, Anne.


Julie Lessman said...

Very provocative question, Anne, and VERY nteresting post!!

I think writers are born with the passion and compulsion to write and even extra gifts such as imagination and a natural way with words.

But I do think that most anybody can learn to write well with enough desire and learning behind them. It just comes more easily to those with the natural gifts. Like dancers who are born with a natural rhythm, I believe some writers are too, but basically anyone can learn to dance with enough drive and teaching. They may never rise to the level of a Fred Astaire (dating myself here), but they will still look fairly good on the dance floor at weddings. :)


Tina Radcliffe said...

I hate the word midlist.

Maybe because it reminds me of middle age. Or midriff bulge, or middle Earth.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Mary Hicks. I salute you!!!

Clean houses are for people without passion.

CatMom said...

Welcome Anne! Great, thought-inspiring post today--and I've also enjoyed reading all the comments that have been left so far.

I think there are a rare few who are born gifted writers--a God-given talent.
But as others have also commented--I think the writing craft can certainly be learned--but that extra creative *spark* won't be there unless the writer works super hard. And KEEPS writing!

Thanks again for being with us today, and Congrats on your writing success!
Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Anne and welcome back to Seekerville.

Great question. I agree with so many of the comments, but especially your observation. Learning comes from doing. Writing writing writing. And reading reading reading. I think good writers started out as terrific readers. Otherwise you wouldn't have that sense of story within.

Mary Connealy also nailed it when she said you have to have the motivation to sit long enough to actually write and finish. Motivation is key. What are you writing for? That is important.

Let's face it. You aren't going to sit for hours constructing that manuscript unless you see a purpose.

Thanks for sharing. Have fun today.

Marianne Barkman said...

I think I'm easy to please. Coffee? Yes! Well-written novel in my genres? Yes! As a reader, I don't care if it's nature or nurture!

Jeanne T said...

Anne, welcome! It was interesting to read your thoughts. And before I forget, I think I'm in the "addicted to how-to" blogs camp too. Especially when it's a blog showing me "how-to" grow in my writing skills.

I would come down on the side of the "both" camp. From what I've observed having a desire to write is a crucial first step. I've got friends who say, "I can't write!" The thought of writing a blog post, much less a book, overwhelms them. If someone has the desire to write, they must be willing to learn the craft. And apply it. So there's the nature aspect which shows itself and the nurture which shows itself through application of craft.

Okay, this was longer than I'd intended. Thanks for making me think today! :o)

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Anne,
So good to see your beautiful, smiling face this morning!

I can so relate to the singing thing...I don't have a voice. Always thought if God had given me that gift, I would have used it to lead church music. :)

What he DID give me was the desire to write, a love of words and an active imagination to turn "what ifs" into stories. But I had to work long and hard to take whatever the raw gift was and turn it into something applicable to today's market. The journey from "raw" to "refined" is lifelong IMHO.

So...nurture and nature. Adding hard work and determination to the mix as well.

I just completed a manuscript. Felt that I had improved in building suspense and paring away some of the unnecessary transitional action.

Mary Connealy said...

I like the Nature AND Nurture idea.
It's smoother than mine. (shocker!)

It's out nature but we must nurture.

How about that?
Writing-a nature we nurture
It's our nature to write it's our nurture that makes it right.

(I'm trying to be CATCHY here)
Nurture your writing nature.

Someone make a poster!!!!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jackie, praying! So sorry for the pain, honey...

And look at me, bein' nice and neighborly. Obviously my mood meds have kicked in!!! :)

Cindi, yes... I think you're wicked smart. I see so many people rushing to self-pub or small-press pub when they're so stinkin' close to being WONDERFUL and seem to be stopping just short of that goal.

And I understand it because oh my stars it seems like you stand knocking at the door FOR A VERY LONG TIME... but then I worry that folks don't see the big picture: You only get one time to make a good first impression.

And that's a tough thing to waste on a not-quite-there book.

Does that sound harsh? I don't mean it to, I mean it to sound... thoughtful. Sometimes my thoughtful comes through as Sword-wielding HARSH.

I blame Mary.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kathy Bailey!!!! You've figured me out, LOL!!!!

Extra cookies for you, dear woman.

Okay, I love what you said, "A call to service is a call to "prepare" for service..."

Yes, that's it exactly!!!!! Oh my stars, I love that.

There's a blurb ad on K-Love these days about a young minister wanting to start a revival and he asks the old pastor how to get one going in their town and the pastor draws a circle on the floor in chalk and says "The revival starts with you on your knees."

And that is so true, the prep time of ourselves is crucial. Not to success... but to letting the Spirit work within us.

Kathy Bailey, I love you.

kaybee said...

Ruthy, hope to meet you someday.
Did not mean to dump on your catchphrases, I love them, it's just that you use them when you're in a lighter mood and I sensed that this was not a light mood.

kaybee said...

RUTHY, you sounded more like your usual self in that last posting!
You go girl, funny OR serious!

kaybee said...

Right now I'd settle for midlist, but whatever, I know that the journey doesn't get easier just because you're pubbed.

kaybee said...

My crit partner and I are really focused right now. The people in our craft group are going to write a sci-fi together just for fun, and we both said that's not where we need to be "write" now. There's too much at stake. She has an agent, and I'm getting good buzz on some of my stuff -- we need to focus on "our" writing. But it's still about the journey, and we'll help the other writers any way we can.
Kathy Bailey is wordy today...Putting off other things I have to do. Boring.

Jan Drexler said...

I'm in the nurture AND nature camp.

If you don't have the nature, you won't want to nurture it. And if you don't nurture it, nature by itself won't get you anywhere.

On the other hand, if you have the nature - the innate talent and desire - and you're willing to never stop learning more, you're on your way to being an excellent writer.

We need to make Mary's comment into a t-shirt!

Please put me in for the drawing :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hey, I'm still working on the I Survived a Ruthy Critique" T-Shirts!!!!

Snickerdoodles for everyone.

Kathy, I hear ya'. And I was serious, oh my stars, you caught me!!! :)

Good on ya'. (Aussie talk, I found McLeod's Daughters on Netflix, oh my stars, I might have to just watch all 200 episodes!!!)

Myra Johnson said...

Anne, what an interesting discussion you've generated! In addition to the nature/nurture aspects, I'd like to throw GIFT and CALLING into the mix.

The ability to sit alone for hours helping the characters and situations living inside my head find their way to the page--definitely a gift.

The ability to comprehend how to string coherent sentences together and to grasp the basics of good storytelling technique--a gift.

The ability to survive the roller-coaster ride of disappointment and success that's so much a part of a writer's career--oh, yeah, a gift.

The innate and overpowering desire to create characters that resonate and plots with depth and meaning--I think that's where calling comes into play. If we can't NOT write, as is true of so many of us here, then I can only believe this desire is from God and HE will bring it to fruition according to His plan for each of us.

Melissa Jagears said...

Kaybee - Nope no baby yet, he's due in September, smack dab between my novella and debut novel being released....I have a relaxing fall planned. ;P

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Good morning, Anne.

Provocative topic and wawzah, provocative title. Devising excellent titles is such a craft also. Is this your own? If not, may I ask, what was your working title?

As far as your question for the day-
Definitely a mix of both. Unless you're a Mozart-type, it takes a lot of work.

I was relating to your progression in stories 1-7. We learn more from each one we craft. And with Seekerville to review lessons we must remember, our work continues to improve.

Thanks for being here today! :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

-I have a relaxing fall planned.-

LOL. Fell out of my chair laughing.

Amy C said...

I believe everyone are born with some kind of talent. Including being a writer.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Anne! Good to see you here!

I believe in both. Some are born with the talent, some need a lot of learning!

For example, my daughter inherited her father's LACK of writing ability. My son is an amazing writer - without having read a lot. He does not sound like a 16 year old boy in the essays her writes. Definitely got my language skills!


No need to enter me in the draw. I have your book in my TBR pile!


Tina Radcliffe said...

Actually, Susan Anne Mason the prize is a giftcard.

Anne writes Regency Historical for the ABA market and we know many of our readers prefer inspy only.

However, that said. I own her book and as soon as payday hits will get or preorder her next one. Very good regency writing and to top it off, sassy!! I love a sassy book.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Wondering about great and good... readable and being read 100 years from now... living through edits and critiques or handing off a book to a reader...

I think there might be a moment to consider between angst of being great or WONDERFUL or published or self-published. That moment is the connection to the reader.

I'm a reader at heart. Always have been. I've written the books I wanted to read and when a reader contacts me to say how much he/she LOVED the book, that makes it worthwhile.

So, I'm not so worried about greatness or legacy or how-to books or number of books I can produce before I die. I do want to make my books worth the reading and give some entertainment to the people who pick them up.

If a craft book tells me how to give that emotional moment a bigger punch, I'm there. If someone points me in the direction of how to make a reader weep over a person that is entirely fictional, I'm going. If an article can show me how to weave a story of hope into a story of grief, I'll read it.

I'm not so worried about nature or nurture, but I do think of the reader and want (with everything I have) to read them in a meaningful way.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Ruthy's mood meds?

That explains a whole lot.

Julie Hilton Steele said...

It has to be both. I come from a four generation writing family but that doesn't mean I knew how to write fiction!

And well said, Virginia!

Put me in for the drawing,

Peace, Julie

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

*waves to Julie*

And we made an amazing BBQ with the 'Bone Sucking Sauce' last night.

Truly delicious!!

Anne Barton said...

Hello! Sorry to be so late showing up. I just got home from the day job and am thrilled to see all these fabulous comments. Can't wait to respond!

But first, a huge thank you to Mary and Tina and all the lovely Seekers for having me here today and for all the wisdom, support, and encouragement they've given. Seekerville ROCKS!

It's raining like crazy here in Maryland (and all up and down the east coast I think). Very bad hair day, but perfect writing weather. Looking forward to reading everyone's thoughts on where good writers come from. Has anyone said the pumpkin patch yet? ;)

Anita Mae Draper said...

My family always applauded my stories and said I had the gift for writing. They sat in rapt silence as I spun my tales using literary devices like alliteration, anaphora and onomonopiea to keep them enthralled - before I even knew these devices had a name.

But when I decided to become a full-time writer, I realized I how much I lacked. I'd always struggled with grammar and that hadn't changed. I also needed to learn the structure of a story, and how to use conflict to a greater extent.

I'd been working with bare stories, but it takes learning and experience to turn a good writer into a great one.

Which is why I'm still learning and keep coming back to Seekerville. :D

Anne Barton said...

Tina, you make total sense and I couldn't agree more. I think you called it Writer's Boot Camp, right? We've all got to go through it at some point. Best to get it over with before the stress of deadlines, edits, and reviews. I have mad respect for big name authors who still attend workshops and take notes. The truly great ones never stop learning.

Helen, thanks for the coffee! Love the building analogy. My friend and writing partner Lisa likes to say "brick by brick." Yep.

Mary, that's an interesting theory! Reminds me of what Jenny Crusie says about writing--that you need Juice (i.e., story) and Craft. But if you have to choose one, take Juice. :)

Anne Barton said...

Walt, sounds like you and Mary are on the same page! So you guys think it's mostly nature. But can we train our brains to conjure up better stories? Or are there only natural-born storytellers?

Melissa, I like your point about geniuses working harder at their craft than anyone. And it does seem like there are some people who have a natural gift for writing. Thanks for giving me a lot more to think about!

Cindy, that's what I do too--get the story onto the computer first and worry about layering other things in later. Sounds like you're enjoying the journey and that's what it's all about.

Anne Barton said...

Debra, excellent point. I also believe that we all have gifts and for some of us it takes us a while to discover them (ahem, wish I'd started writing earlier) but that's okay. And I also love what you said about growing through writing. Not just as a writer but as a person.

Jill, I agree--discipline is so important for writing. Like my dad says, just showing up every day is 90% of the job. My dad isn't a writer but hey, I think it still applies. Thanks for being here!

Jackie, how great to have a file of all your story ideas! I know the feeling of wanting to do a story justice, and some ideas are so big or complex they can be intimidating, but I say go for it. ;)

Anne Barton said...

Ruthy, I love what you said about this topic. I guess when writing is your passion it doesn't feel like work at all. It feels like we're pretty lucky to be doing this thing. That's what I realized from writing my first manuscript...that even though it's hard work it's SO FUN. Also, I totally agree with "never be afraid." It's a waste of energy. Just trust, and write.

Donna, reading a fabulous book and trying to figure out what techniques the author used is a great learning strategy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Annie, yes--perseverance is key. (For example, I had to type perseverance 4 times just now before spell check blessed it. I persevered! LOL) So maybe it's a triangular thing--story/craft/commitment.

Anne Barton said...

Jackie, sending prayers and good thoughts that you feel better soon!

Courtney, be careful--writing for fun is how most of us get hooked! ;) I'm a very good singer but only when I'm by myself in the car. With the windows rolled up. Ha!

Karen, congrats on your sale! I'm sure all that writing helped. It's like it primes your brain to accept the craft info. If you're not ready to hear it, it doesn't soak in. But if you've immersed yourself in a story, then you understand. By the way, my husband is painting in the other room, so maybe that's where the priming metaphor came from. LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Anne, what a great post! I've never really thought about this much. Very interesting to consider.

I tend to agree with what Melissa said. I think there's probably some inborn ability to be a storyteller. My family loves to make fun of me when I get to telling a story. Actually, they accuse me of exaggerating all the time! :) But it's so fun to tell that story and make it better...

Anyway, I also think a lot can be learned. I think my books have improved as I've written more (although hubby still likes my first one best, I think). :)

joye said...

I think one has to have a passion for the English language and how words go together to mean something. There are writers and then there are really writers. i think it all comes down to that.

Anne Barton said...

Cindy, I like that distinction--maybe we're born with a passion to write and then we still have to pay our dues. Plus, when we pay our dues it gives us writing "war stories" (worst rejection, worst review, etc.) that we can talk about with our friends which is always fun.

Sherri, oh, I love that bit of wisdom from Cheryl St. John! So true. And most of us have had writing black moments that are not in our stories. LOL. Just makes the happy ending sweeter. ;)

Mary, thank you so much for the kind words about my book. You have NO idea how excited it made me to hear you liked it! I will treasure that email FOREVER.

Anne Barton said...

Kathy, we DO have a lot of fun, don't we? ;)

Mary, love this-->"miles and miles of words strung together" Yes! That's what it's all about. And if it means the house is a little dirty, well then so be it. Congrats on finding your passion, and on the great progress!

Janet, I agree, it IS like a college level course. And the tenacity to see the story through all the way to the end is so important. Finishing what we start.

Anne Barton said...

Julie, I like the comparison to dancing--esp. what you said about rhythm. It kind of reminds me of a writer's voice. And dancing at weddings is a must!

Tina, LOL midlist reminds you of middle earth. Where's the hobbit love?

PattiJo, I agree about the great comments. They're really making me think. Which is not easy on a Friday afternoon! Ha!

Anne Barton said...

Sandra, good point about writers starting out as terrific readers. Have you ever watched Ira Glass's videos on storytelling? He says that good writers have "killer taste" (which I think comes from reading) and the frustration we have as writers comes from having great taste and not having the skills to get there. Yet. Working on it. :)

Marianne, Seekerville is the best place for coffee and books!! Thanks for dropping by.

Jeanne, so glad I'm not the only one addicted to craft blogs and books! I'm a sucker for anything that starts off "10 Easy Ways..." I mean, we all know it's not easy, but a girl can dream. :)

Anne Barton said...

Debby, congrats on finishing another (fabulous, I'm sure!) story! Building suspense sounds like a great lesson. I think I need a story dedicated to learning that too!

Mary, LOL. Nurture your writer nature. I'm so confused. But still, a T-shirt is always good. It will make people wonder.

Jan, you got it! Thanks for stopping by.

Anne Barton said...

Myra, so, so beautifully said! I love the notion of a gift/calling. Thanks.

Melissa, LOL about your relaxing fall. But what a wonderful happy time that will be! Good luck!

KC, I wrote the article first and then came up with the title. We should do another post called "Where Do Good Titles Come From?" LOL. I agree that Seekerville often has just the nugget of wisdom I need at the time I need it.

Amy, yes--everybody has a talent/gift for something. Thanks for being here!

Anne Barton said...

Sue, very cool that your son inherited your way with words! Thanks so much for picking up my book--I'll still enter you in the gift card drawing. :)

Virginia, what a great point about making a connection with readers. That's huge. Wonderful writing moves people for sure.

Julie, will do! Thanks for stopping by!

Anne Barton said...

Anita Mae, you've been entertaining people with your stories since you were a wee lass! It's wonderful that your family encouraged and nurtured your talent.

Missy, I agree, all stories are better with a little exaggeration! ;) Like you, I hope that each story is a little better than the last. I wouldn't mind a lot better, either!

Joy, thanks for being here!

Jenny Blake said...

I am not a writer but was thinking this is a little like in history there have been story tellers. They tell wonderful stories people will listen to for hours but when the stories are put on paper they lose some of there charm. I think this is like some writing. Some authors are born with the ability to write a story but still need help to fine tune the story.

I can tell a story or I can tell someone details of what I saw or did on a holiday but when it comes to writing it down I just cant get the same detail onto paper.

Heidi said...

I agree that a writer must be invisible to the reader- it's distracting when I'm aware that the story is being told by someone and I don't feel like I'm fully experiencing the characters.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Joye, that's a good take on it... "there are writers and then there are really writers..."

I like that.

Virginia, I love the reader connection. That's the best thing of all, not the slaps on the back (or upside the head around here!!!) or the camaraderie of writers struggling to get it done, or the sisterhood and brotherhood of Seekerville... Because all that's nice but when I get an e-mail from a young mother who's lost a child... or a husband who just buried his wife... Or a young father who says he's passing my books on to his teenage girls because he approves... That makes my day. And I'd honestly do it for nothing.

Although I love getting paid at long last, LOL!!!


Anne Barton said...

Jenny, that's an interesting take on it. And I think there's a difference between great storytelling in person vs. in print. I admire both!

Heidi, yes, writing that calls attention to itself is a distraction. Like too many accessories with a really great outfit. LOL

Ruthy, getting paid is good. :) But emails like You and your books have touched many, many people.

Chill N said...

A thought-provoking post, Anne, which has generated so many interesting observations in the comments. I think there is something inborn and wonderfully inexplicable about writing ... and the choice is ours as to what to do with it, how to develop it, and how to go about sharing it with others.

Nancy C

Keli Gwyn said...

Wonderful post, Anne! I pondered this very topic recently and came to pretty much the same conclusion you did.

Writing can be learned through study coupled with writing, writing, and more writing. Sure, there is creativity in the mix, but if that was all it took, I think there would be a whole lot more people writing books.

I've had a number of people tell me about their clever story/non-fiction ideas, but they haven't spent countless hours honing their craft and sitting at the keyboard splashing words on the page when the creativity's flowing--and when it's not. Without that investment in the nurturing, nature can lay dormant, but put the two together, and great things can happen.

Mary Preston said...

I think that no matter what your gift might be, you have to work at it.