I promised Mod R this post.
Talent, what is it, why is it, how much does it matter in writing?
Short answer: I don’t know.
Longer answer: I think talent exists. The exact definition of it is harder to nail down.
When I wrote my first novel in Russian – I was 14 and I did it on a manual typewriter – my father took it to the head of the Russian Literature faculty at the university. My dad was high up in administrative structure and he had a lot of connections. He also showed it to a physics professor who was a friend of the family.
The story was cringe. The professor came back with all sorts of edits and suggestions. He was helpful that way in general. The reply from the head of the Literature faculty was short. “You either have it or not. She has it.”
At the time, I didn’t pay any attention to it and I forgot about it for decades until our children started writing, and I read some of it and realized that yes, whatever the mysterious it was, it made it over.
But is it nature or nurture?
I didn’t know how to teach the kids to read in English, so I bought Hooked on Phonics. Ten out of ten stars. The little books were amazing. Not only we read to the girls every night, but they were reading Dr. Seuss on their own by the time they went to kindergarten. As they grew up, they read non-stop and widely, everything from Chicken Soup for a Teenage Soul to Fifty Shades of Grey. We had heated discussions about Dickens and Twilight. Keeping them in books was a race.
If they hadn’t read everything they could get their hands on, would their talent ever show up?
I don’t know.
Reading is a learning process. It can be passive, when we read for enjoyment, or active, when we pull sentences apart to see how they are made. But despite the educational nature of all reading, reading and writing are separated by a massive gulf filled with labor.
Reading for fun is easy. Writing is difficult. It takes effort. Writers become physically fatigued after an intense effort even though they are barely moving. Active reading, the type you do to better your writing, is also work. It takes a certain amount of effort to bridge the gap between reading and storytelling and then more effort to learn how to tell that story so other people would want to read it.
So here is my definition of talent. Writing talent is a person’s natural ability to bridge the gap between reading and writing faster. It’s a shortcut. A head start.
Some of us naturally read a little more actively than the others. We note how the words are put together. We instinctively identify natural sounding dialogue and then remember it. We tend to think more about what the characters experience. We think about our feelings, we think about other people’s feelings, we construct elaborate scenarios in our heads where we triumph over everyday evil that wronged us and so on. We collect witty comebacks. This is talent. It’s a predisposition to obsess and therefore become more proficient.
Can someone without this vague talent write a good book? Absolutely. They will just have to work harder and it will take longer. I know someone who was in the workshop with me fifteen years ago. She wrote, but it didn’t have that spark that pulls the readers in, and people I will not name said some unkind things about her lack of talent, which was why I left a particular email loop. Recently, I saw her first book from a respected imprint with excellent reviews. It just took longer, that’s all.
But talent alone will get you nowhere without hard work.
When I heard the back door close,I opened my book.I groaned.
It was so dark outside, the words looked like eligible little scribbles. I rolled onto my stomach and shut my eyes in frustration. I should of thought that through.
All at once, I was hit with the undeniable feeling that someone else was outside with me still.
“Ezra, I know you’re still there.”
He didn’t reply, so I sat back up and stared into the darkness. I squinted my eyes, hoping to enhance my vision. There was absolutely nothing outside.
Teenage writer, 2014
Talent, plus a lot of hard work, some crying, and then more work:
A violent eruption of tremors shook the room. The REDACTED wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me in. With my eyes clenched shut, I pressed my face against his muscular chest and braced for impact. Everything collapsed around us.
Deafening silence. An eerie stillness froze the air.
Cold hands grabbed my hips and spun me. I could feel the REDACTED behind me.
His icy breath brushed over the side of my face, and chills trickled down my spine.
“Open your eyes,” he whispered in my ear.
Emerald hills of luscious grass rolled over the horizon under a glittering night sky.
A blood red moon loomed above, illuminating the valley with a soft, crimson light.
Hanging behind it like a distant shadow was another moon, sickle shaped and faint.
I must’ve been asleep the whole time. That was the only reasonable explanation for what I was seeing. Waking up in my dorm, the building collapsing upon us, it’d all been just a trick- one of the mind games that the REDACTED’s kind was known to use on humans. It should’ve been obvious, and I should’ve been mad. But I wasn’t.
The strange world around me now felt more like home than Earth or Mars ever did.
I liked being here.
Same writer 2021
Moderator R says
Thank you ????
And now – I need the book the last bit was from…
Try a google search of the text.
My google-fu is not strong to night – so still no clue *g*
Yes, me too. That excerpt Was awesome. I really likes it.
Same here….googled and this page came up. Maybe it’s new work from House Andrews?
Off hand, I think that it might be Kid 2’s work. Though it might be Kid 1, since both Kids write. Could possibly be Boy 1 or Boy 2, but I doubt it.
Beautifully (and talentedly!) put!
Natasha Johnson says
Thank you for that explanation! I always wondered if authors read the same way as just a reader or if they read stories a different way. Loved the example of the hard work with the extra something! Is this one of the Kids writings I remember you said something about one of them wanting to write a few years ago?
Thanks Mod R and Ilona.
I think I might borrow those words on occasion, they apply to so much more in life than writing alone 🙂
I love this post!
Plus, those are great passages that just make me want to read more! I wish I knew who to look up.
Dreamboat Annie says
I love your REDACTED snippets, they bode well for things to come.
Thank you for the explanation.
I think your description “the spark that pulls readers in” is apt. Some writers make me put aside all else, enraptured by the story until it’s complete. Others, not so much, but I can not define why. For example, I’ve always delighted in Somerset Maugham’s writing but when asked to give an explanation, well, it just is.
So there is technical talent and there is emotional, intellectual and/or psychological engagement. The sum of all is that spark, and I’m ever so glad you have it.
Donna A says
That was interesting. Also interesting is “Same Writer”. Hope we’ll be hearing more more from them soon.
Dreamboat Annie says
A place I visited recently
Dreamboat Annie says
Oops here is the photo
Patricia Schlorke says
It’s interesting to read an established author’s perspective on writing. All of us can write in one form or another, but are all of us authors? No.
To me, as a reader, it takes both talent and hard work. If an author can’t pull me into the book, I don’t care how many people say how awesome a book is, I won’t read it.
My mom started me reading children’s books when I was very young. However, at the time my comprehension was zilch. It wasn’t until my dad recommended Shakespeare to read out loud did I get my comprehension to work.
Thanks Mod R for getting Ilona to write this interesting post.
Off to data land. ????????
My English teacher in high school told us to open a book about a third of the way through and read a page. If there was absolutely nothing interesting or understandable on that page, the book wasn’t for you.
If, however, something grabbed your attention, the author had talent and the book should be read. It was explained that authors would work on and polish opening scenes to attempt to captivate their audience but the talented ones would be able to carry some spark throughout the entire book effortlessly.
Patricia Schlorke says
I use to do something similar by reading the blurb on the back of the book. If it caught my attention, I would look at the last chapter in the book. If not, the book was put back on the shelf.
Lee Anne says
That explains why downloading a sample chapter doesn’t work for me. I’ve bought a few books that started out very promising but then failed to keep my interest.
Yep, nothing beats browsing in a book store. Flipping through the pages, the feel, the smell of clean paper, so many adventures just calling out to be read.
+1 Sample chapters are definitely chancy. I need to figure out a way to get rid of the DNFs.
Great idea from your teacher, although that spark is not carried ‘effortlessly’, but with skill and good rewriting.
There is this author I know. I think I read his first published book and the story had interesting concept – travel to an alternate reality – which is absolutely in my wheelhouse. I had already read and loved many books in that specific genre. His was the first book I read in that genre which I had a hard time finishing. His book also was the first book I read which made me realize that you can be a competent wordsmith AND a boring storyteller at the same time.
I’ve always felt so sorry for him. He tries so hard to be a good storyteller, yet always fails.
Erickson Todd says
Gallup’s Strength Training defines Talent as areas of your life which are at the confluence of your passions, interest, and experience, such that it streamlines the effort required to accomplish specific actions.
The idea being that different talents can accomplish the same things in a variety of ways, and that constraining results to specific talents wastes resources and denies enagement.
Your words triggered something but I couldn’t put my finger on it…
I would love if my kids become avid readers like me it will be wonderful lucky you…thanks for sharing it helps a lot
My stepdaughter HATED reading as a child. The only thing she’d pick up was these little paperback kids’ horror novels (I don’t even remember the name), or else things like “Sweet Valley High”. She detested reading her school books, and was doing terrible in school because of it.
The Christmas she was nine, I bought her a book of poetry by Shel Silverstein (I think it was Where the Sidewalk Ends). It was enough over her head that she had to work at it a bit, but she liked the poetry, and she LOVED the way the words created pictures. She read it cover to cover within a couple of days. That got her hooked, and the next school year, she aced her classes.
Goosebumps? Those were all the rage around that time.
Read to them, and let them pick out books for themselves. Doesn’t matter what kind of book. Different kids like different kinds. Some kids are all about nonfiction, some only want fiction, some will read anything in sight once they get going. The important thing is to let them choose, once they’re old enough to toddle over to the shelf on their own power. I loved animals, so as long as they were involved, it was all good. Fiction or field guide, I was in. Of course you have to help them if it’s something they can’t get through on their own yet. That’s where all learning takes place, though, in the space between what they can already do on their own and what they can’t manage yet.
I’m a ret children’s librarian, and your advice is spot on. Kids who are allowed to choose their own books, and gently guided to add in quality literature become lifelong readers, and possibly even writers. 😉
Erika Gill says
How do you organize your collection of witty comebacks? I struggle with this. Searchable docs are only so useful
Did you ever publish your Russian teen-written novel?
“Did you ever publish your Russian teen-written novel?”
No. It really was cringe. I don’t remember anything about it except for weird plants, some sort of dark knight, and a tower. 🙂
Bill from nj says
Hmm, a tower? Could that have been Roland trying to tell you to write about him?
Patricia Schlorke says
Sounds like the Kate Daniel’s series. Atlanta has weird plants. There’s a dark knight. Roland’s tower. ????
Maria Schneider says
This is such a great post. Whether you have the talent or not, the task is worth trying. And this post is something to remember when encouraging a child or a friend. It’s worth trying. You never know how high you might fly, and you never know what offshoot you will explore where your inborn talent resides.
Carol J Southard says
When I was very young, I remember my parents reading – it was their favorite pastime. Paperbacks, mostly (we moved a lot – my Dad was an independent contractor). Kind of like being a military brat. 😉 Anyway, I would pick up the books and turn the pages, trying to decipher from the little black squiggles on each page what my folks got out of reading. I did not connect this process with “See spot run.” I could read simple words (boring!), but I hadn’t yet figured out that books contained stories. Then, we moved, briefly, to Thailand, in 1970. No TV, only the books Mom brought. These included “Tarzan”, “Black Beauty,” and Nevil Shute’s “The Legacy.” My Mom began by reading to us aloud. And I made the connection: Big books = Stories. My Mom feigned exhaustion (she was pregnant with my little brother). I picked up “Black Beauty,” and began slowly making my way through the first chapter. It took a long time, but I was hooked. I have had a book, in one form or another, in my hands ever since. 🙂
trailing wife says
Well said, Ilona. I have been complimented on how well I write on several internet discussion boards; putting thoughts into words on paper comes fairly easily to me. I have read voraciously since I grasped how letters make words and words make sentences.
Trailing daughter #1 did all that as a child, but while I read like a reader, she has written stories since the age of three (Mr. Wife showed her the letters to type on his computer after she told him what she wanted to say — she didn’t actually learn to read until she went to school) and has always read like a writer. Trailing daughter #2 reads like me.
Trailing daughter #1 currently writes long, elaborate fanfics that have an enthusiastic audience, and has more stories in her head than she has time to put down. Trailing daughter #2 writes very clear business memos and project timelines. Clearly nurture helps, but innate nature is definitely a thing.
For a fiction writer, innate writing skill is useful, but without the storytelling drive, being able to write well doesn’t matter. If the storytelling drive is there, one needn’t be an exquisite writer — Frank Herbert of _Dune_ fame comes to mind.
+1, couldn’t agree more with your Herbert comment! Just finished reading, story was amazing (!), writing not quite as much.
I agree with your definition(s) of talent and its “limitations”.
Talent will only take you so far. You must also have the desire to accomplish and the willingness to work hard for what you desire.
It helps if you have all three. (And you do.)
Whoa! That is impressive and now something I want to read more of. Thank you for sharing your talents with us the BDH!
Thank you. I’m a mid-life, “returning to writing” writer, and your words were just what I needed to hear this week. The advice I took to heart was not just about writing, either. 🙂
Lynn Thompson says
Thank you, Ilona Andrews for the post.
Talent is hard to define but I do agree you either have it or you do not. I think Within a category such as writing you have talented romance writers, talented science fiction writers, talented paranormal writers, talented western writers, talented movie script writers…. Sometimes they excel in multiple areas like Nora Roberts and write under pen names ie JD Robb. Sometimes not.
My father said talents should recognized and developed in a positive way in kids even if the person does nothing with as adults. That is challenging as an aunt.
An example is horseback riding. The parents are not horse people (OMG, you are going to fall off horse and get killed!) but child was and still is. I took child to barn etc because she wanted to experience. Turns out child is gifted potter and makes fantastic things as an adult. Yes I went to pottery classes too. Sigh. And ROTC, wrestling, dog training, rodeo…. Well rounded children are well rounded adults. (I did draw line at roller coasters. I watched while they rode.)
I have no idea what the source was for the final example…but I want it. Which I guess proves your point 😀
Oooh, is that the story Kid2(?) was writing that might get published??? You know we’re waiting anxiously and ready to hit the “buy” link!!
After reading Little Women, with Jo always writing, I wanted to be a writer. (Didn’t many of us?) In my late 20s I got a job as an Editor of educational materials and discovered I have a talent for writing instructions. I have never come across instructions and thought ‘Wow! I wish I could write that well.’ I often want to pick their instructions apart and improve them. I know I am good at it! Being a primary teacher and a natural-born educator help. However, I don’t have what it takes to write a novel. A novel sounds far more glamorous than writing a set of instructions for craft work or whatever, but I will stick with the talent I have been given. I greatly appreciate the talent of those who can write good novels.
Jean Morgan says
You, Ilona and your husband Gordon are both so very talented. Your blog is engaging, your novels are a delight of descriptions and conversations. You both are amazing people, period. Thank you for your explanation!
I kinda needed this today. Getting snippets makes me squee, giggle and on occasion drool. But these posts help me feel like all the time I spend staring at a screen re-crunching dialog and descriptions will be worth it eventually.
Leslie S. says
I’ve wondered lately if being a talented also includes having a strong mind’s eye.
I have some friends- my husband included- who can see the story in their head and hear the characters speaking to them. And then there is me… nothing. Right now, I’m trying to picture a cat and sure I know it has whiskers, pointed ears, fur etc. but I can’t really picture the cat. The same for my husband’s face. I know he’s got full lips, amber color eyes, dark hair, etc. but I cannot actually visualize his face. As you can imagine, my Pictionary skills are the absolute worst.
So it has me curious too if being a successful writer (talented?) means having a strong mind’s eye.
Moderator R says
That’s a very interesting question and implication of aphantasia. I think it’s quite a hot topic atm 🙂
House A wants you to know that RJ Blain also cannot picture the story in her head and it doesn’t even slow her down!
Here is an article that I hope will be helpful https://aphantasia.com/writing-with-aphantasia/
RJ Blain says
You can totally write books with aphantasia. I love I. Words and emotions. I have NOTHING in my mind’s eye; no pictures. It’s just black. No sounds. No textures. Zip, zilch, nada.
I think in disembodied “impressions” of words and emotions.
I go into a scene wanting to evoke a tone. A goal for things that happen. Descriptions are tough because I have to make that crap up every time. I use pictures to help.
I have no idea what my husband looks like if I’m not looking at him. No visual memory at all.
He cut his hair and beard once. I couldn’t recognize him. I lost him in a crowd because he wasn’t wearing his hat. It was so bad. Then he did it to startle me because it takes like a few days to “imprint” new recognition. (I love him but he owed me so many tacos for that.)
That’s a lot of words to tell you that you don’t need a mind’s eye to write books.
You need to want to write books, and then you need to do it. But I don’t feel a mind’s eye is at all necessary to learn to write.
Just do yourself a favor and do NOT follow conventional wisdom a lot of authors spout about seeing things in your head. It obviously won’t work for us.
Instead, recruit a friend to pose for you. Move in the way your character is going to move. In time, action sequences will become easier because you’ve learned the movement as knowledge.
But don’t worry about that mind’s eye issue.
It’s 100% not necessary for learning to write well.
I am only judging my ability to write well on one criteria though: I’m paid to do it.
I write what I want to read often so I’m hugely biased and can’t judge if my books are “good.”
I uhm like to read them so there you have it.
But some people like them! And they pay my bills!
It can be done. Embrace how YOU write. Just remember our words can make pictures appear in other people’s heads! And if that isn’t magic, I’m not sure what is…
I’m still really confused people say they see stuff in their heads though. Really confused.
Like when I realized it wasn’t a joke or figure of speech I asked if my friend was all right and if she needed a doctor?? I thought it was a figure of speech until like my early 30s.
Turns out I’m the one with the broken brain…
RJ Blain says
Thank you for that autocorrect goodness.
Now the internet knows I’m insane.
For those questioning, I love I. Should have been I think in.
Sorry. My phone is psychotic.
Judy Schultheis says
I quite happily read your books. I own four of them and will buy more as my budget allows.
Thank you for this post. That snippet was interesting. I hope to read more about REDACTED someday.
I’m doing my annual NaNoWriMo prep-that-goes-nowhere and was rereading your posts helping Erin. Will there be more? I enjoy reading about authors thought process in world building, especially yours, since I love the worlds you’ve built.
I’m off to procrastinate on coming up with an actual plot while adding ridiculously detailed stuff to the background of my world.
Barbara Kay Swanson says
So thoughtful. I want to add, talent is amazing. However, if you are not driven to create–if you are not persistent–talent is, in my personal experience, nearly worthless. It just makes you feel guilty for not living ‘up to your potential’. Persistence because you are driven to create–that is what makes talent worthwhile. IMO.
On a personal note, I promised to buy my children whatever books they wanted from used bookstores and they took me for the best parental ride ever. All are readers, all have found their writing voices, and all have book addictions.
Love what you read, and loving reading soon follows.
Your “Hooked on Phonics” memory reminded me of my own experice. My oldest two kids were bored to death in school. I decided to home school. Then I was stuck with trying to teach two non-readers (my youngest two) how to read. I bought a home school resource named “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.” It was a phonics book. Neither young child made it past lesson 75. For some reason, they hit Lesson 75 and started reading everything printed on paper. In later years, I could compare them to the two oldest kids who were taught to read by the public school system. The oldest two, taught by the schools, can’t spell a five letter word correctly three attempts out of five. The younger two can, correctly, spell almost anything the first try. Home schooling was a success with or without phonics but I found it amazing that such a resource is so badly neglected in our schools.
Listening to my fellow co-workers I am shocked at how reading and math are taught in schools. My desk mate told me that when his daughter was a senior in high school they didn’t agree with the teacher how some words should be spelled s they had an agreement during that school year that certain verbiage would be spelled the way the kids wanted. I was aghast when he told me that. I told him they will be utterly shocked in college and when writing resumes or memos at work when professors and bosses toss their papers into the garbage for misspelling.
My agency had to hire editors to edit analysts reports because the current crop of hires can’t spell or write a coherent sentence much less a report. The analysts are college graduates.
Lea, some crazy people looked at the percentage of words that follow the rules and decided that it wasn’t enough to justify phonics, plus they started a movement called “Whole Language”, which allowed invented spellings, etc. American primary school curricula has a history of swinging from one side to the other, when it might be nicer just to sit in the middle. While I agree that going crazy on disallowing children to write the way they have to in order to write, and to pick on every single word is wrong, I see no reason not to say “good first draft- let’s put standard spelling on the second draft and fix it up” and also KEEP teaching phonics.
Vonnie, you wrote what I was thinking while reading Lea’s comment (and Ilona’s mention of Hooked on Phonics), as so many children struggle with the “Whole Language” approach (it seems that students just memorize various words, but they struggle to decode novel or unfamiliar words, which then hinders their comprehension of the reading material). I’m happy to see that phonics are being reintroduced in the schools again.
Huh, this is a very interesting comment thread. I’ll have to dive into what either method entails, but at least it looks like a starting point for how to teach my bilingual kid English, as we live in a non-English-speaking country and school is not bilingual (a conscious choice on our part, as it is a better school than the bilingual one that was available). But that means the kid (only just out of kindergarten) is now attempting to write English using a wholly different set of phonemes, which makes reading the stories a special kind of brain gymnastics 😉
I’ve been holding off on tackling this, as I firmly believe learning one language fully is better than two languages half. But there’s no stopping the kid, so I’ve been trying to come up with a plan… Sounds this is a good direction for me to look at!
So thanks, is what I’m saying 🙂
As I am a stranger, take what I say with a grain of salt. The absolute best time to learn different languages is as a child (actually, they are acquiring language at a young age, not learning as many adults do). It might seem like they are learning “two languages half,” but they are just processing each language, and if you continue to expose them to both languages, they will become fluent in both (learning each language “fully”), though it won’t seem like it at first. (For what it’s worth, I was raised bilingual, though I stupidly did not keep up with my first language as I got older and my parents didn’t enforce it . Also, I’m a speech language pathologist (SLP/speech therapist), and though I didn’t get a bilingual extension, I was exposed to some bilingual theory in school and have received guidance from bilingual therapists, who often get upset when teachers tell parents to only expose a child to one language in order to “avoid confusion” or so they won’t fall behind in school.)
Sheesh, I didn’t realize I wrote so much. Ugh.
Thanks for the reply! I should have specified, but the kid is fluently bilingual in spoken language, I was just worried about how to teach written English. I figured learning to write as a process was hard enough without then _also_ mixing languages. The phonics process is what they use in school too, so I think that ought to work for English too…
It’s just that I live in a country where for quite a while, people who had immigrated were advised to not use their mother tongue at home because “that confused children”, whereas current research shows it’s better to speak the language you are most proficient in at home because learning one language fully is better for development of language skills and facilitates learning other languages rather than hinder them. (I’m not sure that explanation made it better. Language acquisition theory classes in uni were a long, long time ago…)
But yes, totally working on giving the kid two languages, just trying to figure out how to teach writing the “at home language”…
(yes, also a long reply, so we’re in good company 😉 )
(also yes, we’re both making the same point. My reply could have been a lot more succinct if I’d said “yes, that’s it exactly!”????)
In our family the oldest two, including me, got started on phonics instruction, while the younger three were started on whole language in a different school. Phonics is definitely more effective for most kids. There is a subset of kids however who have an auditory processing issue where they are simply not wired to learn phonetically. I have a friend whose three kids all had to spend a couple of years in a specialized school learning how to learn to read, because phonics did not work for them. They all excel at math, but reading was a struggle.
Big Mike says
Talent + hard work gets you part way there. For real success you also need luck. I’m thinking of my best friend from grade school — he had athletic talent by the bucketful and a great work ethic, but he blew out his knee the first day of freshman football practice. This was sixty years ago, so arthroscopic surgery for a random high school athlete in a quarry town was out of the question. Last I heard he was a Lutheran bishop, probably with emeritus status because we’re both 75.
So, luck. Would Ilona still be a published author if she had never met Gordon? Probably yes. As successful? Answer that one in your heart.
Judy E Schultheis says
Everything you’ve said about the talent and the hard work is true. Even people who write non-fiction have to be able to tell a good story. And it’s easier for the people who have a knack for it, though not impossible for anybody who’s willing to do the work.
Over these past many years, I’ve done a lot of editing both for myself and other people (secretaries write a lot more of their boss’s administrative stuff and letters than most people think). When I edit stuff, I tend to read it out loud. It helps a great deal with phrasing, and even more with punctuation.
I’ve had rave reviews of my editing skills (usually from people who just dumped a pile on my desk about three hours before deadline). I am almost as good as they were telling me, and it’s because I usually read it out loud.
Patricia Schlorke says
I tend to read out loud when I really, really need to understand something in order for me to explain it to someone else. I use to get looks from people when I would be reading a statistical formula under my breath. I would feel someone staring at me and look up. The shocked and embarrassed look on the other person’s face was priceless.
Thank goodness I work from home because I can read out loud and not bother anyone.
+1 re: reading out loud. I’ve caught many mistakes by doing that, as I read slower that way, rather than in my mind, where I can zip through errors without noticing anything.
I have the utmost respect for writers after (on a whim) trying to write my own urban fantasy novel centered around Indian mythology in NYC. I couldn’t even figure out what the characters would look like, let alone the plot. Whoa it takes time to think through possibilities and how to get those feelings on a page so they’re conveyed to readers. I’m also way too serious and the funnies in IA’s work are so hard to match. 😉
Finally, if that is Kid 1 or 2’s writing they are def headed to the majors if they want to be writers.
It’s like hearing half of a phone call: makes the other half extra tantalizing. Hmm, I foresee a future where I’m reading even more books by your family. That would be nice! Should maybe pause the old streaming service, though. There are only so many hours.
Aaaaaaargh! All these teasers! I’m so teased! Not that I’m complaining- they are a lovely way to tide the BDH over until the next instalment.
Carrie S says
The post is fascinating and I do hope I am able to read the REDACTED novel in the near future.
I also find the glimpses in to others lives and history from the comments very interesting.
My father was an avid reader of science fiction and westerns. Odd combo huh? I and 3 out of 4 brothers also are avid readers of many genres since we could read.
I will read the labels on soup cans if I don’t have a new book. I crave reading stories and the insight in to others lives. Cannot read a technical manual to save my life. Lol
My mother on the other hand did not read and was jealous of the time anyone in her family spent reading. To this day she will actively discourage anyone reading around her. “Why are you always buried in a book?” I heard many many times as a kid.
My children are not avid readers despite encouragement from me and access to many books in the home library. I read books I enjoy over and over again.
Proud member of the BDH
Thank you! What an interesting and thought-provoking blog post. I always enjoy your blog posts!
Ha! I suspect that this short glimpse of someone´s development is the new generation of HA!
Bill from NJ says
Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’ talked about this and whether or not I believe everything he postulates, I think he has points. Talent is real and personally I think that it plays a big role because if you can’t do something, how can you have a passion for it? Now it also true if you have a talent, that doesn’t mean you have to use it, if it doesn’t tick, that is fine. My dad was an engineer and in his mind if you were bright, it meant you had to be in the STEM world. While I did well in Stem courses but my natural bent is in other areas, I love history and writing, they are more my passions.
This is where luck comes in. Ilona’s dad, instead of telling her ‘ why do you want to write? You know you will be never good enough to live as a writer, ‘, etc, he took what she wrote and showed it to other people to get her feedback. That encouragement is huge and yes, luck.
My son is a classical musician, he showed talent and passion at a very young age on violin. It literally was all his choice, we just supported it, encouraged him to try but also told him if he ever decided it wasn’t for him, that was fine. He had a lot of luck, we could give him a lot of support, we didn’t do the prodigy crap which is a disaster area, but more importantly we let him find his passion, and it is still ongoing. Without the luck of support and encouragement no way he could make it to where he is ( still fraught of course).BTW not saying we were perfect parents, anyone in classical music had that support, lot of brave parents:)
Luck too in getting discovered, the agent or people see your book and go word of mouth.
With writing I think talent is there but I think there is not one talent. Susanna Kearsely ( whose historical fiction is incredible both as a tale and as history,highly recommended) says she doesn’t write, that she does her research,visits places, but then the book writes itself because she hears the characters in her head ( and if she starts getting off track, the characters stop talking to her:). Others craft beautiful plots then work through it like a painting. Composers work the same way, Handel was a Craftsman, Mozart claimed he heard it and wrote it down wo changing it ( draft manuscripts cast a baleful eye on this claim), Beethoven edited his compositions and wrote delightfully nasty comments on them, Schubert literally did hear the music and wrote it down.
Talent manifests differently in other words. With writing, the one thing I have seen with every great writer is that have read so much. I don’t think it works bc you constantly take deliberately from what you read, I think it is more what you read helps you,the writer, fund ( unconsciously) what you like and don’t like, then you ( unconsciously) synthesize it. Just think about the things Ilona writes about in terms of her and Gordon’s background, the kind of things they like ( eclectic), their sense of humor and you kind of understand why the IA universe is so damn awesome and weird and fun:).
Imagine a novel written by someone whose whole life revolved around being a CPA *shudder*
I’ve been reading a lot of free Kindle books since the pandemic hit, and I see the A, B, and C writers. It’s quite interesting. I think about some of the C writers, who have amazing worlds and plots, and I think about what they’ve left out.
The question of talent is one that I’ve been thinking about lately, so this question, ModR, hits the spot, thank you!
I remember that I once had some sort of class about acting, and the teacher suggested that you either had talent or not.
I’m not so sure I subscribe to that point of view. I’ve come to the same place as Ilona- sure, talent gives one a head start. But what comes after that? I love that she was able to give a specific example of someone who didn’t have that immediately accessible natural talent but obviously kept plugging away.
I forget which book it is, but one of those great modern books about where real life phenomena meets research, like Blink, talked about the practice effect for the playing of instruments, and how huge it was in the final evaluation of skill. i can’t help but think that this, plus the knowledge of craft, would serve one well in any endeavor.
I feel like part of it is just you write what you know. I’ve had a habit since I was young to start day dreaming stories/novels in my head when bored. Back then, all I ever read was books.
Now, I’ve been reading a lot of webtoons/manhwas recently, and all I can think of is how stories should be plotted out, webtoon style xD
Bill G says
Fascinating. Thank you.
Cool! I love your articles on writing. Thank you!!!
DeAnna Dear says
So when is Kid 2’s book coming out? Inquiring minds want to know.
just because you read a lot does not mean you can write. exhibit A: enter all the booktubers that are suddenly trying to be authors.
Mod R, thanks for asking the question! This was an eye-opening blog post.
My talent lies in reading books ???? so I am very grateful for those whose talents lie in writing them.
And I agree with the rest of the BDH: when is the REDACTED book coming out? I’m already hooked!
Lee Anne says
Very interesting as always. I keep wanting to pull the Redacted tape right off the text and see what’s underneath. ????
I enjoyed this post. Thank you 🙂
(And now I want to know more about the 2021 snippet! Heck, I want to know about the 2014 one also…)
Trainor Linda says
It’s writing the idea. I dream a story and as I wake I keep it going and I can remember it. But writing it down as I dream or think it is hard. I need to record it with one of those voice to text thinglys.
Marcia McGinley says
A really interesting post – thank you.
I love reading and writing and I have always found it amusing how what I have been reading a lot of, affects the style (not necessarily the content) of my writing. It’s especially noticeable to me after I have been indulging in Georgette Heyer.
I think it must be hereditary too. My daughter went through a Meg Cabot stage that lasted a few years and all her creative writing for school took on that Meg Cabot flavour. I remember one English teacher being very impressed!
Kimberly au Telemanus says
That 2nd excerpt sounds like something I want to buy and read!
I hope whatever kid wrote it realizes how great their writing is. Looking forward to reading the whole thing????
Maura Elizabeth Manning says
Books were my salvation as a child. I lived in my local library.
I would compose stories in my head – escaping into worlds I created from all the things I’d read: Steel Magic, The Mouse That Roared, The Fellowship of the Ring. All the world’s found within the confines of that local library. And I had the help of the librarian as well. She curated what I read – feeding my voracious mind with a variety of fiction and history. I learned more in that tiny building than any class or school I ever attended. So I’d say yes….reading fosters creativity….of all kinds. And it can save a life; proof that things can indeed be better. It still does, actually. I read, and I escape. Thank you for creating such engrossing worlds.
That’s so neat to see how much of a difference growth in writing can take! And I really like your definition of talent, it leaves so much more room for play and learning and dedication.
The last story snippet was so interesting! Will you notify us if it ever gets published? Even from that tiny blurb, it feels like a story I could really get into.
And thank you for the excellent post on talent!
Yep, now I want to read that
Ida Monteforte says
I’m clearly a highly talented reader. 😀 I do all those things you mention, except the writing part.
The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.
Has been my mantra for a long time reminding myself yes I may have a gift but I must work and use it for others to enjoy the fruits of my gift.