Write what you know

Or do a lot of research. Then write what you know. Then learn how to write well.

And that starts with writing; good bad or ugly, competent or all in a muddle, it all starts with writing. And then a bit of sticking to it so that you can learn how to write well.

What I’m getting at here is that if you hope to write for a living some day, start now. Writing is the easy part; writing well just takes a lot of doing. It also requires feedback from readers, who are both your very best friends ever in the whole wide world and your most brutal and honest critics. So you have to love them, and cherish them, and through fair means or foul, keep them.

By golly, there. I’ve said it.

So how do you define “writing well”? Look at the question from your reader’s point of view. Is it ‘readable’?  Does the story make sense to the reader, or is it confusing and hard to follow? Are the characters real people or paper cutouts without depth? Are you focusing on character development, or is it all about the plot? Is your writing filled with grammatical and spelling errors? Do you have continuity errors? If you provide dates and times, have you screwed them up, too?

Just how good a writer are you?

You’ll never know until someone other than your mother reads your manuscript. And gives you honest feedback. And you listen to it, and take heed, and correct your errors.

There is no such thing as a thin-skinned writer.

Nobody ever learned anything by doing things right the first time, and I guarantee that no writer ever learned his or her craft without listening to what people (editors, bosses and readers) had to say. There’s a really, really old saying taken right from the Old Testament: “We will do and we will learn”. Note it does NOT say ‘we will learn and then we will do’. Book learning, or sitting in a classroom while listening to a teacher drone on and on never taught anyone anything (go ahead and argue with me – you’ll lose).

You ONLY learn by doing; go ahead and make mistakes – the more the merrier. Beg someone to tell you what you did wrong and then FIX those errors. Make more mistakes and be certain to beg someone else to tell you what you did wrong, fix them and thank those people every day of your life for pointing out your errors.

Your readers, if you allow them, will make you a successful writer. If you can’t take criticism, don’t ever try to write for a living.


About Gary Showalter

Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s. Following his discharge from the Army, Mr. Showalter picked cotton in East Texas, baled hay in Ardmore Oklahoma, sold light bulbs in Los Angeles, California, and built cattle pens in Fallon, Nevada (during a blizzard, of course). After settling in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Showalter worked as a professional gardener before turning his hand to furniture making. In 1981, he moved to Israel, married, and raised four children while working as a furniture maker, silversmith, goldsmith, and ornamental wood turner. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security. He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel. During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites. Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003, to care for an elderly parent. He published his first novel, “The Big Bend”, in the fall of 2008. His second novel, “Hog Valley”, is now in print. Mr. Showalter's third novel, “Twisted Key”, was published in the fall of 2011, and his fourth novel, "Lonesome Cove" is now available in Kindle format and should be published in paper near the end of 2012. He currently lives in Deland, Fl, where he is co-authoring "A Silent Star" with Tony Attanasio. "A Silent Star" is the true tale (though novelized, with names changed for security reasons) about the 4-person covert action team sent into Yemen to capture Osama Bin laden immediately after the bombing of the USS Cole in the Aden harbor in Yemen in October of 2000.
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