How Much Talent Does a Fiction Writer Need?
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How Much Talent Does a Fiction Writer Need?

I often hear the term – “she’s (he’s) such a talented writer (musician, sportsperson etc.). So, how much talent does a fiction writer need? If you look at the meaning of the word, apart from the synonym “genius” (how many of those are there in any sphere?), there are many facets to “talent”.

What is talent?

I often hear the term – “she’s (he’s) such a talented writer (musician, sportsperson etc.). So, how much talent does a fiction writer need? If you look at the meaning of the word, apart from the synonym “genius” (how many of those are there in any sphere?), there are many facets to “talent”. Some of them are:

  • Aptitude
  • Flair
  • Capacity
  • Faculty
  • Ability
  • Forte
  • Skill
  • Sense
  • Capability
  • Capacity
  • Knack
  • Style
  • Panache
  • Strong point
  • Competence
  • qualifications
  • Resources
  • Intellect
  • Brilliance
  • Intelligence
  • Flamboyance

Ability and intelligence are more important than talent for a fiction writer

One of the most powerful meanings of the word “talent” is “ability”. If anyone has the desire to achieve something, they can use their own individual ability to fulfil any goal. Writers necessarily need to have “flair” and certainly “style”. A dash of flamboyance won’t go astray, nor will “competence” (especially when it comes to learning and understanding writing techniques).

Each writer will also have a “strong point”. Some are gifted with a vast knowledge of history and can apply this to historical fiction, whether it is romantic or otherwise. Others could possess the ability to understand complex technical data. This would lend itself to science fiction or crime fiction if the writer chooses to go down that path.

When it is all boiled down, a writer’s “intelligence” is probably more of an asset that some obscure amount of “talent”. Intelligence will allow you to understand many things. It will also enable you to carefully formulate a superb story and write it intelligently.

Writers must use every ounce of their talent and ability when they embark on a fiction writing career. It can be, for some, one of the most difficult career paths to take. Unless you are willing to explore your own set of skills, and apply them to your writing, or enhance them with professional development (training), it could eventuate that your writing career will stall somewhere between “beginner” and “intermediate” status and stay there. This equates to never realising a dream to achieve publication if that is your dream. Remember, things only stay the same if you let this happen. It is up to the individual to rescue themselves from whatever unwanted situation befalls them.

Getting back to the question - How much talent does a writer need?” - My answer to this is:

A writer needs “some talent” or “enough talent”, but better still, they need the “ability” to assess the capabilities they don’t have and the “sense” to gain these by some means or another. They need the “inclination” to not be daunted by the huge amount of learning involved in becoming a truly competent fiction writer. They also need the hunger to turn “ability” into “outstanding ability” to elevate themselves into the upper echelons of the writing/publishing industries.

There are many things that make up “talent”. I would rather have a liberal smattering of all of them, rather than just “talent”. Plenty of people have talent for various things, but unless they use it properly, this talent becomes irrelevant.

A big factor that affects the success of anybody who strives for excellence in any sphere is the desire to achieve their full potential and the determination to move forward, step-by-step, until they reach the top. Everybody moves forward at a different rate, depending on their personal ability and circumstances. Not every fiction writer has the luxury of being able to write full-time. Most of us have work and family commitments and lives to live. It is unrealistic to expect any person to totally isolate themselves from friends, family and society just to achieve a personal goal. After all, a writer’s life experiences is one of the ingredients that shapes their writing ability.


An excerpt from my book Fiction Writing Techniques – from the chapter “Talent – how much does a fiction writer need?”

© 2012 – Susan Jane

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Comments (2)

Nice exploration for the "talent" a fiction writer may need.

Yes, ability is a key word here.