As an essayist I’ve learned a lot from nineteenth century poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson who once said, "Talent alone cannot make a writer." It's a phrase most journalists and serious authors can relate to but often finding themselves falling prey to indifference. I may add my two cents by saying; writing is more than just words”. Aspiring writers and veterans too, should be aware that when proper syntax, hyperbole, and metaphor are structured for reader analysis, words become central to dramatic effect and intent. But more often than not, not all things come together for all intended purposes for a good read. Albeit, sometimes even the best ideas, combined with top notch reporting and research can be hard to translate onto the page. Still, there are some writers technically have paid their dues and have learned the craft, and understand the importance of denouement. It’s all about knowing how to turn complex, even tedious, material into compelling stories to keep readers enthralled and pages turning. As an avid Book Reviewer, and Editor even, I run across books that do not adhere to any of the aforementioned. A well-structured manuscript should subscribe to all of the literary elements for telling that story the way you want your readers to get your point. You don't want to waste the reader's time with a book that is not prepared for adequate adherence to literary worth.
The title of this correspondence is one that I've always wanted to verify - that not all authors and books born without enhanced content will buttress this industry for stability. I asked a question among my students as part of an essay writing contest - 'what makes a writer a great author' and got a plethora of answers and unique responses. Having worked as a Journalist and adjunct literary professional wearing many hats, I've seen and read quite a few books that couldn't hold water, as well as a few that were outstanding in presentation and qualitative verve. Authors that stood out were those that wrote from a model that exemplified a deep passion for imagery. I've always surmised that writing is much more than a string of words thrown together from one end to another hoping that the middle won't sag. The reality is that all aspiring authors (and a few veterans, too) must face the fact that the odds are higher that they will not hit the bestseller lists. Nor will they become rich writing as a career, especially without a substantive written legacy among other attributes.
Thus, no matter how talented, hardworking and prolific they may be, the market simply cannot sustain more than a few James Pattersons and Toni Morrisons. But writing that seminal novel takes much more than what you and I may see on the surface. We all know that perseverance more often than not will balance the law of averages for some semblance of success when all the 'i's are dotted, and 't's crossed to say that you did your homework. How will it effect context and content? It may even call for that extra-curricular mustard spread out evenly sandwiched between slices of anticipated success to give written works justified tastes for easy consumption. When a story is well-written authors go the length to make sure that the foundation has been put in place and that storyboards are followed and the necessary research done to give it legitimacy. When words flow and jive coherently the aforementioned Mr. Emerson would be proud!
Moreover, when I read I want to identify with what authors are trying to convey…I want their mindsets to further propel me to feel that I’m part of the action. Truly, that’s page-turning delight for me! I love history and can appreciate yesteryear’s timing and sequences; I’m a sucker for a good period piece that tells me what I need to know. But it also has to be written in a way that holds my interest. The topic must be compelling enough, important enough, and conducive to warrant that words are not mere pawns holding the storyline hostage. I guess I’m becoming too astute in my judgment of the type of writing that has become mundane and fitting the industry’s penchant for status quo. Because I want more, I have no problem extending my reading file as I’ve become accustomed to ‘reading across the board’. That’s akin to not being limited or inhibited to certain genres that won’t allow a broader base of reference. Comprehensive journalism and entertaining literature written where words dance on the pages allow metaphoric drama to guide adjectives that render readers spellbound. Alas, the most important feature of this type of writing is finding a personal connection and a reason to say – “damn, that was a good book!"
Of late, I’ve been writing more, especially in the non-fiction mode preparing for publication of a series of my essays and articles written recently. I get a chance to reflect, write and choose from my personal journals, freelance assignments, and memoir that’s relevant from my observance of life seen from my catbird seat. I want to become that vital wordsmith with something to say where the words actually are meaningful. I want the essays that I’ve contributed over the years to academic journals to give credence to my faithfulness. I’ve come to love giving insight on how things should be done, even. I feel that every how-to story should offer readers a set of action items or a start-to-finish process they can easily follow and begin to implement the minute they're finished reading. The substance provided needs to be detailed enough that readers find value, but not so detailed that it seems overwhelming and impossible to put into practice.
Words are important to me. I choose them carefully when I articulate orally and written. In my estimation, wit and wisdom are progenitors of them if placed with eloquence beyond ordinary pretention. As a researcher writing articles, I want my words to signify a greater sense of flow…I want them to act as a filter, sorting through the information collecting and presenting the pieces that are most useful and significant. I am always reminded by several of my author friends who chide that a good story shouldn’t just sound an alarm -- it should marshal an army of intellectual resources to help readers to respond to stimuli! As you read this piece and formulate your next writing project, put some oomph in your choice of words while writing, think about how you may better present your novel idea so that your words can be that command performance before an enthusiastic audience chomping at the bit for them. Words are characters of content; they need to be dressed right for style and substance. Great writing indeed is much more than words when you’re ready to perform with them!