Monday, December 15, 2014

Writing: Talent or Skill?

Do you remember your first story/novel/article/poem?

Yeah, it was perfection.  There was nothing that could be added to make it any better.  The angels sang your praises of the wonderfulness of the accomplishment.

Yeah, right!

Okay, I'll back off.  Your mother praised it. Your aunt sang its glories. Your friends stood in awe of your accomplishment. The manuscript was literally ready to be etched with gold leaf into expensive Italian marble for all prosperity.

Yeah, right!

Publisher reality check!  They rejected it.  Your dreams.  Your hopes.  Your aspirations.  DASHED!!  All of them thrown into the chasm of disbelief.

Does a writer use talent or skill to produce a salable manuscript?

My son has talent. He can weave a story that will hold your interest and make you want to turn pages faster than you can read.  In fact, he got an A on a short story he wrote back in school - I think he was in 8th grade.  It was titled: I Wished My Dog Had Ate My Homework But An Alien Stole It.  I loved it and, obviously, so did his teacher.  As I said, he can weave a tale.  Today, his daughter is getting ready to enter 8th grade next year and well, he can still tell some whoppers - and so can his daughter!

Yes, the kid has talent, but...

He doesn't has the skill.  English wasn't his forte class in school.  He's been published in an anthology but it took an immense amount of work.  His story he submitted to an anthology was unique.  His story grabbed the editors' eyes and they overlooked the bad formatting and English because the story was great.  When I say "formatting" I am really saying that his skill at punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure and spelling were atrocious.

Now, a little history.  When my son submitted this story of his, he used an alias, including the snail-mail address.  Both editors had had a chance to read and score the story.  Both thought it worthy but needed a drastic amount of work.  I was one of the editors.  He came to visit and I was working on the submissions.  I was getting ready to contact the authors, letting them know if they had made the cut. He asked what we did with those who submitted under an alias.  I explained that they would need to let us know their real name if they were published.  He confessed and I had to withdraw myself as a judge.  To be fair to the other judge, I explained that the submitter had been in contact with me, revealing their identity and I felt I couldn't judge fairly any longer since I knew who it was.  So the other editor was to make the decision if we'd go forward with the story or drop it. She decided to keep it and would be in contact with the author to get the corrections done.  My son decided to use his real name.  My co-editor was pleasantly surprised.  And the rest is, as is so often said, history. Nights of Blood 2: More Legends of the Vampire went to press.

This was before self-publishing via Amazon and other places was available. He had the talent to compose a story but it took the skill of others to make it something marketable.

Today, many authors don't bother with a publisher and go directly to self-publishing a book. They may have the talent to tell a good story but they don't have the skill to write the story.  OR, they may have the skill to write a story but not the talent to tell it properly.

The problem is many of them feel they have both the talent and the skill.  They don't.  An editor can help to guide the talent and skill to produce a viable book.  It is a necessity for an editor or publisher to correct the story and make it marketable.

So, does talent make you a writer?  Does skill make you a writer?  Or does it take both talent and skill?

What's your take on this?  Do you have talent or skill?  If you have one, can you learn the other?  Why or why not?  Share.


  1. Oooh, tricky question... I think I have both the talent and skill, BUT, I need guidance. I need an editor, I need betas, I need a team to help me make this the best novel it can be. I'm not so confident I can do it all myself.

  2. Ah, you have talent and skill AND you have knowledge - you KNOW you need help to make it the best possible novel. So many newbies miss this by thinking their first pass is perfection, not to be improved upon.

  3. Every writer, no matter how much skill he or she has, needs an editor. You cannot edit nor proofread your own stuff. However, the more you write, the better your skills get. And an excellent way to develop your own writing is to edit others'.

  4. I think talent is in the imagination and concept of writing. But without the skill, you won't be effective in telling your story. And a lot of work goes into perfecting your books. I think it's similar to my talent at playing the piano. I have a lot of natural musical talent, but without lessons and practice, I wouldn't be able to play very well.

  5. Both talent and skill are needed as well as some ability to handle rejection and persevere with no outside motivation. Lots of people say they'll write a book and may even have some talent and skill but lack the internal desire and motivation to stick through the rough times. Writing is not for the faint of heart.

  6. Interesting post Bob - love this. Fascinated by the concept. Think there are different talents/skills we require. We all have a unique blend I think. Much to ponder here.