There are four traits a writer needs in order to succeed: Talent, Hard Work, Persistence, Luck.

In my next four blog entries I'll talk briefly about each. Then I'll summarize what I learned during the publication of my short story collection A Betrayal and Other Stories.

Talent - Sorry. You can't simply want to be a good writer and have it happen. You can't slap sentences down and go "Voila! Here Mr. Publisher. Begin the typesetting process!" You have to know how to write clear, concise, and grammatically-correct sentences. Because writing is about communication and if you can't write proper sentences you can't communicate.

You have to know where to start a story (usually a couple of pages in from where you think you should start), where to stop (usually a few pages before where you think you should stop), to know when to excise sentences, to know how to bring your reader along.

Excising is probably the most frustrating piece, especially when you are starting out. You could have a beautiful sentence that you've polished just right, but it simply doesn't belong. "I worked so hard on that sentence, it's perfect, flows beautifully, a masterpiece of syntax, and you expect me to simply toss it aside? You must be kidding!" But if it weakens the story in any way, you simply must remove it!

And, most likely, a lot has to go. Most people have a tendency to overwrite.

Just as the space between notes make a great musical piece, the space between sentences (what gets left out) makes the story. You can't put in so much that you insult the reader, but you can't leave out so much that you confuse the reader. Easy, right? Wrong! The problem is that some readers are more perceptive than others. You have to find a balance. And that is one of the hardest things to learn (indeed, it may be the hardest!).

Now, a lot of that you can learn, but you have to take the time to do that.

That leads to #2 ... {to be continued}