No, you don't, but it is important. Bad grammar or the lack of it should not hold you back. I have known grammar aficionados who write terrible prose. I have also known people who have no grammar write great stories, stories that are direct from the heart. Here is one such writing by Bill Neidjie (Kakadu Man), an Australian Aboriginal elder:
My people… all dead We only got a few left… that’s all, not many.
We getting too old. Young people… I don’t know if they can hang on to this story… might be you can hang on to this story… to this earth…
You got children… grandson. Might be your grandson will get this story… keep going… Hang on like I done My spirit has gone back to my country… my mother.
What more could the above say – better grammar would not improve the power of the piece. And, even without grammar it is clear and easy to follow.
So do not let your lack of education, specifically a lack of grammar stop you. Rather, feel your writing, to be absorbed into it. If your grammar is not too good, don’t be concerned in the short term – just write. If you love writing, the grammar will come, and you will pick up bits here and there. Whereas, who learnt grammar for grammar’s sake? We learn grammar as a means to an end.
If your grammar is suspect, apply the following:
Make sure that the full grammar settings in your word processing software are on (checked). Usually, the default settings only make use of about a quarter of the options.
When you spell-check, take your time, and make sure you take heed of all those prompts.
Many writing coaches suggest to new authors to write from what they are familiar with. That makes sense as it is easier to focus on the writing. But once you are established as a writer, Elif Shafak (a novelist from Turkey) suggests that you expand your writing into what you don’t know. That way you grow as an individual and your store of knowledge can be drawn from a wider field.
There will be a lot more on What to write about in a future post.
The Discipline required to be a writer
Discipline is an earmark of a good writer.
Norman Mailer, author of the The naked and the dead spoke thus about discipline;
I used to have a little studio in Brooklyn, a couple of blocks from my house — no telephone, not much else. The only thing I ever did there was work. It was perfect. I was like a draft horse with a conditioned reflex. I came in ready to sit at my desk. No television, no way to call out. Didn’t want to be tempted.
There’s an old Talmudic belief that you build a fence around an impulse. If that’s not good enough, you build a fence around the fence. So, no amenities, just writing.
Success as a writer;
Skill; you must develop it. And, develop it you can.
Hard work; without it no critical mass will be achieve; Getting onto ‘the network’ of readers and influencers (the hard work must be smart work, and part of the smart working is getting onto the network).
Luck; there is no doubt that luck plays an important role in success, being seen or not being seen, being at the right place at the right time. But the hard work, with its increased exposure, will help in growing lucky exposure
… and, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling;
…yours is the publishing world and all that is in it.
And what is more you will be a best-selling author, my dear.
British author Pat Barker (Silence of the girl) spoke about self-doubt when writing. To mitigate this, she first does all her research, and thinks deeply about it. When ready to write, she starts and writes as quickly as she can to ‘outdistance’ the voice within. She claims this method works for her.