For about ten years, I searched for a manuscript for a western novel I had written in my late teens. It had been packed away when I moved. I knew it was here—somewhere—in a box. I just had to open the right one.
Looking back to that time in my youth, I recalled I had written a good story. I had done extensive research on the old west, read several western novels and even took notes when I went horseback riding. I knew it was a gem. It would need a little editing, and it would be ready for readers.
When I finally found the manuscript, I was a little disappointed. It wasn’t as well-written as I remembered. To be honest, it was poorly written and would need extensive editing. My punctuation and sentence structure was okay, but far below my current writing ability. I read only about 20 pages (all hand-written) before I put it on a shelf and marked it as a future project.
I’ve read a lot of stories in the past five years that are equal in quality to that western novel. They were written by hopeful authors who wanted to be published. If they are like me, they might think it is a gem, but honestly, it is a stepping stone in the world of writing. We all have them.
The key to continuing on the writing path is to keep learning and to keep striving to be better than your last piece of writing. (Notice I said, better than your last piece of writing, not better than your favourite novelist or any other author.). If you want to be a writer, it’s vital to learn the basics: punctuation, grammar, spelling and capitalization.
The learning doesn’t end there. Keep reading and learning about character development, plot, setting, dialogue, transition…the list goes on. Just when you think you have written the best story ever, put it away for a spell. Learn more about the craft of writing, and then take out that story and read it again. See if it can be improved.
It baffles me that some writers who want to be published don’t take the time to learn even the basics: punctuation, capitalization, spelling, grammar. The truth may sound cruel, but I’ll be honest with you: you might be the best story teller in the world, but if you can’t translate that story into a readable manuscript, then you will never be published.