Monday, March 14, 2011

The Number One Secret To Writing

I'm feeling rather mischievous about this.

There is a lot of advice out there for writers. Some of it is helpful and some of it is not. A lot of it just depends on defining what your goals are and figuring out what works for you, but there is one very important element of writing that is very seldom addressed. This, my friends, is the number one secret to writing, which is, of course . . .

. . . that there is no number one secret to writing.

I pause here and indulge in a wicked grin while you groan and roll your eyes.

Wait. Come back. Forgo the scythes and pitch forks a moment. There is more.

There are a lot of elements we discuss when deciding how we are going to write a book --tone, characterization, plot, setting, whether or not to use adverbs --but, in the --slightly altered-- words of Jack Sparrow “That's what a book needs. What a book is –what a book really is –is a story.” There is something intangible and altogether undefinable hidden in the pages of a good book that really can't be pulled apart into all those little elements that hold it together.

Musician call it musicality. Actors call it presence. Dancers call it grace. You don't have to be born with it but you can't really learn it either. Not with a list of rules and techniques. You can only find it, hidden somewhere deep within yourself. All the tricks to help you define your prose and increase your tension can help you showcase it and improve upon it but the finger that points to the moon is not the moon itself. Relying on the rules is like having a keel and a hole and a deck but no ship.

There is no secret –or legion of secrets –that will make your writing good. You can do everything right down to the last detail and still have a rotten story. You can have characters that are underdeveloped, a plot full of holes, and awkward prose but still have a story that is pure magic.

Find your story and tell it. That is the number one secret to writing. In fact, it is the only secret.

(also you still have six days left to enter the Magical Stranger contest for Literary Idol)


  1. Ha ha, love the Jack Sparrow reference. I'm still searching for the "ship", so to speak. I hope you found yours :)

  2. That jack sparrow reference was great!

  3. Wow, you're right on the money with this. Writing is a creative endeavor, and what makes us unique is our "x" factor, which of course is undefinable... but we know it when we see it.

    Great post!

  4. You're right- there's no magic key to unlock the door to writing. We just have to keep doing it!

  5. If only there was one magic thing! It could be hard work. But even that doesn't guarantee anything.

    Hey, thanks for your comment on my blog.
    That was me pushing you to start querying. Go girl!

  6. Taryn! Thank you for dropping by my blog and for your thoughtful comment. :)

    I know! I know what the secret to writing is:


    If I give up, I'd never get ahead in anything. I loved this post, it goes hand in hand with mine!

    ♥.•*¨ Elizabeth ¨*•.♥