Since I tend to be somewhat of a bibliophile, I decided when I got serious about this whole writing thing that I would seek advice on how to write in books. It made sense – I learned how to do geometry and how to play the piano and how to speak French from books. I could certainly learn how to write from a book, couldn’t I? Well, sure, it turned out, a certain amount of the skill of writing could be learned from a book, but like many other creative endeavours, you’re either born with the gift or you’re not and no amount of reading How-To-Write books will help if you don’t have the gift.
From a book, you can learn proper grammar and sentence structure. You can pick up some tricks on discipline and how to outline a story. But you can’t learn how to turn a phrase in such a way that takes something as mundane as making bread and turn it into something magical if you’re not born with the gift of writing. I know this runs counter to certain books available on the market right now, but I blame that on the writers’ stellar agent. Unfortunately, for every hack who gets a multi-book deal, complete with movie and merchandising rights, someone who is truly a gifted story-teller is now reading his fiftieth rejection letter and has decided to cash in his chips and go back to selling insurance.
Too bad you can’t learn how to have better luck from reading a book, huh?
And honestly, maybe it’s a bit premature for me to be worrying about finding an agent, but I live in fear of never being published. I think (no, I hope) all writers go through this. I know I have the gift of writing. I believe so thoroughly in my skill and my ability to tell a compelling story. I know – deep down, like in the sub-cockles of my heart – that I am a Good Writer. I just hope that I can find an agent who believes just as thoroughly in my ability. Because, I’ve decided after reading myriad books, articles, and blog posts on the subject – having an agent (or not) is what makes or breaks you in this business. Not whether or not you have the gift of writing; not whether or not you’ve read enough books on writing. Whether or not you have an agent who is willing to bend over backwards for you is what determines your publishability.
It’s fortunate that you can learn how to land a good agent from reading a book.