Writing Takes Practice! A Lot of It!
Practice, Man, Practice!
by Dale E. Lehman
A man walking lost in New York City comes across a street musician playing tunes on a violin. Hoping the musician can give him directions, he asks, “Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” The musician replies, “Practice, man, practice!”
Okay, old joke, but it has a point. Before we can do something well, we must practice. Writing included. Nobody is born writing or telling stories. It’s a skill that must be learned. I once read that to become expert, a writer must write one million words, the equivalent of ten or so novels. And really, any complex job takes long practice, often as much as ten years. Think of a doctor’s path: college, medical school, internship, residency, and only then is she an expert physician.
Writers once followed a similar path. Most of us collected years of rejection slips before achieving publication, and many never got there at all. I spent high school, college, and early adulthood writing short stories. That’s 20 plus years of rejection slips but learning all the while. Beginning In the mid-1990’s I wrote five novels. Only then was my writing good enough to get occasional nibbles from editors and agents.
Alas, the agent I finally landed turned out to be a scam artist. Disillusioned, I quit writing fiction for ten years. When I finally shook off the experience and wrote The Fibonacci Murders (Howard County Mystery #1), my wife’s assessment was, “Well, I can tell you’re out of practice.” Use it or lose it. But at least I was practicing again. I followed with True Death (HCM #2), then science fiction/humor novel Space Operatic (currently searching for an agent), then Ice on the Bay (HCM #3, due out February 26th).
Reading my mysteries, you can track my progress as a writer and it’s true, writing takes practice. Comments from readers and self-assessment suggest that I’ve finally fully recovered from that ten-year hiatus. And this, in turn, should be a caution to anyone wishing to self-publish a book: if you haven’t practiced—and practiced a lot! —you probably aren’t ready to publish. So, don’t rush it.
Okay, your path may be shorter or longer than mine. There is no one size fits all. But just remember: it took me decades to become about good enough to publish. After my “break,” it took four more novels to get back up to speed. Even though The Fibonacci Murders gets pretty good reviews, if I rewrote it today, it would be even better. Do yourself a favor and take the time to practice before you publish.
Thanks Dale for such an interesting story! Writing takes practice for sure. If you would like to learn more about Dale or check out some of his work all the links are below! If you would like to write a guest blog or article about your life as an author or publisher, then don’t hesitate to contact us directly!
Dale E. Lehman Author Bio
Dale E. Lehman is a veteran software developer, amateur astronomer, and bonsai artist in training. He is the author of the Howard County Mysteries series (The Fibonacci Murders, True Death). His writing has also appeared in Sky & Telescope and a couple of software development journals. With his wife Kathleen, he owns and operates One Voice Press and Serpent Cliff. They have five children, five grandchildren, and two feisty cats.
His third Howard County Mystery, Ice on the Bay, will be released on February 26, 2018. Meanwhile, he is at work on a science fiction/humor novel, a crime/humor novel, and HCM #4.
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