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Thread: Skill set to be a successful writer

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  1. #1
    Lagrange Point CourtneyC's Avatar
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    Jan 2011
    Best place on Earth.

    Skill set to be a successful writer

    I'm starting my 2nd MS. First one got as far as a full read by one of my top agents, but she declined saying she wasn't as emotionally attached at the end as she would have liked.

    So! Onward to project 2. I started it with an idea about the world/rules in which the story is set. Then I did a rough sketch of my main character and his sidekick. Then I thought of some fabulous one-liners and scene vignettes on opening, inciting incident, and climax. Then I came up with an intriguing and kick-a$$ title. Then I started to plug it into a basic story structure to work out the timeline and necessary scenes/conflict...and hit a brick wall.

    I realize I don't have an antagonist. I don't have a good character arc. I don't have any subplots or side characters. This happened on project 1, but I soldiered through and came up with some wonderfully three-dimensional characters, side plots, wounds for all POV characters, a bad guy, and what I thought was a satisfying/surprise ending. But, something fell flat there somewhere. I hope my second effort will be more successful, but I'm not sure what I've learned that will help me in my second attempt.

    It started me thinking what skill set one needs to do this well. I think we can all Google around and find the template/recipe for a hero's journey or basic story structure, as well as do some requisite research on geography/history/factoids to sprinkle in for realism. But there is so much more:

    1. You have to write well. So, an English degree helps here.

    2. You have to think up surprise twists and turns. Perhaps a propensity toward riddles, clues, mysteries. Maybe an understanding of criminal behavior?

    3. You have to have lots of empathy to put yourself in someone else's shoes. Perhaps a debate background?

    4. You would probably do well to have a psychology degree to understand motives and character growth and how past wounds lead to present behavior.

    5. You have to have some business sense to conduct yourself professionally at conferences, writing query letters, etc.

    6. You have to be able to tell a story so well that you keep your audience hooked the whole time. Doling out only enticing bits of info. at just the right time in the story. So either you are yourself an outgoing person or you are very observant of what it takes to draw and keep a crowd interested.

    I've tried dissecting successful works in my genre, but I can't say that's really helped me.

    What do you all think?
    Last edited by CourtneyC; 10-22-2013 at 11:50 PM.

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