A Real Writer Can Never Be Defeated

A real writer can never be defeated.

Are you a real writer?

William Saroyan was a real writer, someone born to tell stories. He was a short story writer at first, then a playwright, then a novelist and finally a memoirist. He is not much talked about today, but he should be.

He wrote one the finest collections of short stories in the American idiom,
My Name is Aram.

He wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning play,
The Time of Your Life (he famously refused the prize).

He went into a period where his plays did not play and his books did not sell. Refusing to stop, he started writing quirky memoirs, like T
he Bicycle Rider in Beverly Hills and Sons Come and Go, Mothers Hang in Forever.

At the end of his life he wrote surely one of the oddest memoirs ever,
Obituaries. In it he took the annual Variety edition that listed all the obits of movie industry people, and he went through it alphabetically, taking each name and riffing on it. Most of the time he didn’t know the person, but used the name as a jumping of point for his stream-of-consciousness reminiscences.

The chapters have no paragraph breaks or indents.

It should not be readable, but oddly, it is.

Because Saroyan was a writer who would not be defeated. He once said, “A writer who is a real writer is a rebel who never stops.”

Preston Sturges was a real writer. Mainly, he was one of the greatest writer-directors in Hollywood history, and surely the finest purveyor of the screwball comedy. For a period of time he wrote and directed hit after hit after hit.

And then, suddenly, he couldn’t get arrested.

He did not stop writing.

And he said, “When the last dime is gone, I’ll sit on the curb with a pencil and a ten-cent notebook, and start the whole thing all over again.”

So now we are in a new age where it is possible for a writer to make real dough. Most writers in the past didn’t make much money at all, even if they managed to get published. A scant few ever made a living at it. Many quit or just gave up.

Now you can publish yourself, and if you care about your craft, if you really care and don’t just throw your undercooked spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks, if you take this thing seriously and are businesslike about it, you can write and people will read what you write and you might even make a few bucks. Or more.

It’ll always be a challenge, but now there’s an even playing field. You can keep going. You can keep trying. You can keep getting better. You don’t have sit down with someone telling you you’re not capable, that you should just quit, that you should go away and leave your dreams to others. You don’t have to take that as long as you’ve got a keyboard and an imagination.

And, in this way, you can never be defeated.

Are you a real writer?

Then keep writing.

And don’t stop. Ever.

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Yes, Virginia, You Can Learn to Write Successful Fiction

Over at Writer Unboxed, bestselling novelist Sarah Pekkanen reflects on how she learned to write a novel. Key word: Learned. There are still some voices out there that say you can’t really learned the craft of writing fiction. Such voices should be collected and filed under “Baloney.” Sarah writes:
Sarah P

Here’s what I took away from that phone conversation [with my agent]: I had my characters down – they were in good shape. What was missing from my novel was plot.

I set out on a quest to learn how to infuse my books with plot. I began by searching for books about plotting, and I bought every single one I could find. The stack still stands on the top of my computer hutch, and if it ever comes crashing down, it might take a few days for them to find me in the rubble – I have that many books. I read every single one, scribbling notes in the margins and folding down the corners of pages when I came across particularly helpful points.

The most important thing I learned is that putting together a novel, for most of us, is difficult – but with certain creative tools, it can get easier. You may never achieve perfect pitch, but you can definitely be taught how to write a book.

Sarah was kind enough to mention a couple of books:

The two finest guides I found were Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, and Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass.


[T] books by Bell and Maass taught me so much more, and every time I re-read them, I come away with new tips. The best part of all? Now I have three novels of my own on bookstore shelves, and I’ve just turned in the fourth to my editor. But it never would’ve happened if I hadn’t learned to plot – and for that, I’ll always be grateful to the authors who took the time to show the rest of us how it’s done.

Sarah Pekkanen, with three acclaimed novels out now, and a fourth in the pipeline, is a prime exhibit against what I call The Big Lie, to wit, you can’t teach someone how to write successful fiction.

Be sure to read the whole post at
Writer Unboxed,

And if you want to get your novel to that storied next level, click
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