I was recently reading an older issue of Writer’s Digest and I happened upon the article “Short Stories Big Rewards”. It was a pretty informative piece, so if you can find a copy of Writer’s Digest: Writer’s Yearbook 2017, I highly recommend it. But the part that I latched onto and couldn’t seem to let go, wasn’t really about the short writing format, or even how to use short stories to boost your writing career, it was the couple paragraphs mentioning Hugh Howey.
Of course, I’ve heard of him before and his famous “Wool” book, but what I hadn’t heard was the story behind the publishing of his book. According to the article Howey said, “That’s it . . . I made the work available and did zero promotion for it.”
He just plopped his book onto Amazon Kindle and he’s insta-famous?! How on Earth is that fair? I slave over my books. I spend hours just plotting new ways to get the word out about my writing, and I get nowhere. Howey put his work out there and walks away and the reading world pounces on it like a half starved cougar.
And then a sneaking suspicion crept into my thoughts and I realized I’d had this same experience before. Back when I was studying for my Fine Arts degree, I remember meeting people like Howey.
In my studio art classes I did pretty well. Well enough to get good grades. I demonstrated the techniques taught and I used them as they were supposed to be used. My paintings and drawing were very correct. They were good, but not great. But every class had at least one student who’s work was truly great. It didn’t matter what they were painting, every brush stroke was mesmerizing. No matter how hard I studied or practiced, I could never match these students . Even with all my skills, there was always something my paintings lacked. The difference between them and me was a difference between skill and talent. Skill can make you correct, but it can never make you great.
I have a funny feeling that Howey has some serious talent, and unfortunately there isn’t any writing manual for that.