When it comes to writing creatively, passion certainly helps, but I think it’s over-rated. In addition to passion, there are several other P-words which apply. The one most critical to your success probably won’t be the same for me, but every word on the list counts, so it doesn’t matter where we start when listing them. That said, I’ll just dig in.
We’ll start with perseverance, that quality which drives a writer, or any other artist, to actually finish something. For all the oohs and ahs over the volume of work being published today, whether independently or via traditional means, the volume of work being abandoned is significantly higher. Simply put, most stories are never finished. The number of unfinished novels festering on hard drives, filling up notebooks and nourishing paper mites around the world staggers the imagination, even one as vivid as mine. Finish what you start.
Premise is a word which tops the list for many novelists. A book without a premise is a book that’s going nowhere, because the author hasn’t chosen a destination, much less the route to take. Figure out a way to state the central idea of your story in one sentence. Be sure to include the following: a person, in a place, with a problem. Then, define the primary obstacle and what’s at stake. That’s your premise. Anything that doesn’t advance the premise is a waste of time–yours and your reader’s.
Let’s move on to pacing, the bane of so many nascent novelists. It should come as no surprise that writers love words. We love their sound, their feel, and the way they reflect how incredibly clever and gifted we are. <cough, wheeze> All too often, however, our splendiferous words get in the way of the story. We get wrapped up in the texture of the tale, and we load the poor reader down with so much detail and/or backstory that they forget why they opened the damned book in the first place. Anything that doesn’t move the story along is slowing it down and ought to be heavily edited if not jettisoned altogether.
Perfection plays a role in novel writing. In one sense it’s crucial; in another it’s suicidal. If you strive to find the perfect words for every situation, the idea of perfection is an ideal worth pursuing. Replacing stative verbs (was, is, were, etc.) with verbs that actually do something is a great place to start your hunt for perfection. But don’t get so caught up in the process that the work is never finished. I’ve published ten novels, and there’s not a one that I couldn’t improve. At some point, however, you have to pronounce the work done, so you can move on to the next one.
I could add a few more P-words, like pedantic, punditry and philosophy, but I think I’ve done enough for this round. Maybe I’ll tackle those next time.