Can Novel Writing be Taught?

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It’s been debated for hundreds of years – can novel writing actually be taught to someone? Or is it a matter of natural born talent? Is the world of fiction too deeply embedded in creativity to be brought down to elements that can be taught?

First of all, are we talking about talent or ability? I’ve been a writing instructor for more than three decades now. In my experiences, I’ve seen aspiring writer with loads of talent who did very little with what they had.

On the other hand, I’ve witnessed with sheer joy those who had a little smigeon of talent and went on to work hard and learn all they could about their craft. They were not afraid to face seeming failure, and were not afraid to produce a lot of bad writing on their way to learning how to create a really good novel.

It’s ironic, but true.

Notice in the second example above I said that type of person “learned their craft.” This is very important!

Also in my experiences with writers, I’ve met those who want to know all about getting published in “five minutes or less.” Not exactly the type who will put the “shoulder to the plow.”

No one can sprinkle fairy dust on your head and endow you with talent to write. Whether or not you have that propensity is up to you to recognize. I recognized mine very early in life.

Here are a few general guidelines:

Do you love a good story?
Do you have story ideas floating through your brain?
Do you get drunk on a well-written, compelling novel?
Are you always picking up some novel or other and are apt to get lost in it?
Have you dreamed about getting published?
Were you at least “pretty good” in language arts in school?

If you answered yes to at least some of these questions, chances are you have the beginnings of talent to write novels. But again, can the rudiments – the basics – be taught?

We may be asking the wrong question. Better questions might be:
Are you willing to learn?
Are you willing to pay the price to apply yourself to the task of studying the craft?

If you have the basic talent, you can learn the techniques of the art form of novel writing. That’s a fact, pure and simple! I stand before you as living proof!

You will want to learn:

What it takes to be a good novelist
How to recognize good story material
How to construct a well-crafted novel
How to stay with your task and not cave in
How to maintain your enthusiasm

Becoming a novelist is not unlike any other goal in life – if you want it badly enough, you will do whatever it takes to make it happen!


Study everything you can on the subject of novel writing (and fiction writing in general). And then write!

Never forget: Every published novelist was once a wannabe!


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