Saturday, October 17, 2009

What it takes to be a master writer

Fellow writer Mary DeMuth has posted an interesting article @

In her blog "What it Takes To Be A master Writer" Mary answers a question fielded by most published authors.

And Mary tells the grinding truth about improving the craft, the answer listeners steeped in an instant-gratification world don't want to hear: 10,000 hours of practice.

Wow. Break that down. That's a full time job (assuming 40 hr week and two weeks off a year) for FIVE YEARS. And that's before publication, so let's make it ten years of twenty hour weeks because you need another job to support your writing habit.

Most good writing doesn't happen without a long period of craft-work. But that runs counter-culture to our instant-potato, microwave-everything culture. We want washboard abs in two weeks, a complete work-out in four minutes a day and our success overnight.

But greatness for a writer rarely comes without a willingness to spend long weeks alone and learning to be OK without publication.

As God's children, we understand His sovereignty over all. Sure, he could make me or any other writer and overnight success, but he'll likely use the hours of solitude in perfecting the craft as a means of grace to accomplish his plan. And He rarely measures success the way man does. In Isaiah 28:10 we read, "for it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little."

I've often read that verse and thought, boy, Isaiah sure hasn't met my editors! They would have never let me get away with repetitive words like that. The red marks would have been all over that text. But God isn't in a hurry and the prose gets repetitive for a reason. God is interested in quality. And not necessarily quality.

Take a look at Mary DeMuth's blog. Don't despair. In God's universe, great writing is almost always accomplished "line upon line, line upon line."

As always, I'm hoping that you will understand your need for grace every moment, Harry.

Friday, October 9, 2009

"I thought you were a woman!"

OK, I'll admit to a little vanity. I often look at what people are reading in public places, like in airports when they are waiting around for a flight. I dream of someday seeing someone actually reading a Harry Kraus novel so I could sneak up and ask them what they are reading.

Well, it actually happened to me....once. But the person's response wasn't what I was expecting.

A few years ago, I was in Scottsdale, Arizona at a surgery meeting, eating alone in a restaurant. A couple came in and sat at the next table. The man was quickly absorbed in some sporting event on the large-screen TV while the woman picked up a book to read. I casually looked over. I couldn't believe my eyes. It was one of mine, "Could I Have This Dance?"

So now what to do? I HAD to talk to her. I waited until they stood to leave and then I stood up as well and said something lame. "Excuse me. I happened to notice you were reading. Where did you get that book?"

The woman looked at me like I was some creep daring to hit on her in front of her husband. And that had to be the worst come-on line in history. She answered, "The library back home."

By this time, I was committed. I launched ahead. "Well, believe it or not, I wrote that book."

She did a quick double take of the cover and looked back at me. "I thought you were a woman." (what she meant was I thought the author of this book was a woman).

Granted, my name carries little recognition with readers. She was reading a book with an attractive young woman on the cover and the story is written from the view point of a woman in, of course, she assumed the writer was a woman!

In a way, she'd paid me a huge complement. As a man, I'd pulled it off, writing in a believable way from a woman's point of view.

She quickly looked down at the book again. "It does say,'Harry.'"

"Yes," I said, pointing at my chest. "That's me."

At this point, I did something even lamer, pulling out my driver's license to convince her. "See?"
She was polite and believed me. In fact, a few minutes later, she came back into the restaurant and wanted a picture with me as she held up the book. I think she wanted proof for the librarian back in Wisconsin.

Anyway, that was my ego-moment, wrapped up in a bow of misconception: "I thought you were a woman!"

Have a great day. The weather is turning a bit cooler in my part of Virginia. The leaves will be changing soon. I love it.