I took a writing workshop by Story Engineering creator Larry Brooks that completely summarized my novel-writing experience. He said that deciding to write a book is a lot like watching an Olympic event and thinking, “That doesn’t look so hard.”
This false sense of proficiency comes from the same place, whether you fancy yourself the next Stephen King or Simone Biles.
The experts make it look easy.
As a professional writer for 20 years, I was under the impression that writing a book wouldn’t be that much different than writing a video script or a website.
I was dead wrong.
Sure, I had writing chops. I’d won awards. I’d delighted clients. I’d spent decades spinning clever turns of phrase, writing dialogue that sounded like human-speak rather than corporate blah-blah, making words play nice together.
Turns out there’s an ocean of difference between writing well and telling a great story.
So there was a learning curve. A steep one. And I climbed it with all of the sweat and delirium of an Everest hopeful.
Along the way I learned a few things:
Story, like life, has a rhythm.
Your characters sometimes have a mind of their own.
All of those years of writing did come in handy after all.
Number three was the biggest surprise. After the soul-sucking darkness of realizing that novel-writing was about more than putting sentences together, a bright light appeared. I realized that my years of copywriting gave me stamina. It filled my writing toolbox with the chisels and planes and files I needed to hone my craft. It reminded me that I did understand the power of story, even if my stories had to fit within a 30-second TV commercial or on the side of a bus.
I’ve written about thousands of different products over the years, from Nike apparel to health insurance to school buses. I’m grateful that all of the weird and wonderful jobs prepared me for this one: writing the book I always wanted.
PS That photo of me is on-location at a school bus video shoot. The shot is much more interesting than the one of me writing a fruit sticker website.