Millions of people doing their thing on any part of this earth at any given time have great story ideas swimming in their head (to wit). There is a subset of people who try to get those ideas from their heads onto paper in the form of writing, visual arts or music. Within that subset there are people who are able to not only get the ideas down, but also are able to get them down well. Then there are those who are brilliant and get their ideas down in such a way that they make us laugh, weep and fret.
The secret to succeeding as a writer, if you believe what you see on various writing blogs and in writing books, is to methodically pound out the words, revise, rewrite and persevere. That’s true, but it doesn’t get at the underlying challenge: getting your readers to see that thing you saw in your head that prompted you to write in the first place.
I’m not saying the writing schedule, the revisions, the writing and the perseverance won’t aid you tremendously in your efforts — it will. What I am saying is that it is difficult to know if you are succeeding because you, the writer, are so close to the material. You know your characters, their back stories, their motivations and their aspirations. You know the look and feel of the setting of your story. You know the hidden twists and the subtext of the conversations. All of these things make it even more difficult to know if your writing is doing what you want it to.
So how do you find out? Get others to read your work – people you can trust to be honest with you about your writing. The more people who will do this for you, the better. Some writers turn to writing groups, others go for the workshop scene. Some writers have a circle of writing friends who, while not a writing group, are willing to lend the support necessary. Different readers will provide insights to different things. Readers of the type of work you are writing can tell you if it is cliche, mundane, confusing or a rollicking thrillride of a read. Readers who are writers or editors can provide you with technical feedback as well as feedback about the overall story.
Finding these people is easier than you think – There is a robust writing community on Twitter (#amwriting hash tag is a good one to get started), in the blogosphere (Bibliophile Stalker’s links, Writer Unboxed, any number of writer blogs like Mark Charan Newton’s) and probably not that far from where you live (do a Google search for writing group [your state] to get started). Get involved in the conversation and you will develop relationships with writers from all over — Writers like to share because they toil alone and like to encourage and commiserate. Review your friendships for those people who may have some editing or writing chops, look to online writing resources such as the Online Writing Workshop for sci-fi and fantasy writers, or go to conventions with a goal to participate and network (without being pushy, of course).
And how do I know this? I’m in the process of doing this myself. I have the good fortune of having people in my life who are readers of fantasy and are excited by my work. I also have the good fortune to know some folks who have writing and editing backgrounds. However, I don’t want to wear out my welcome, so the more resources, the better.
Of course, you do still need to sit your butt down and pound out those words.