There are 3 things I feel great passion for: writing, women, & football. Though I could write a Shakespearean ode to the glory of the female form I am going to focus on writing & football instead.
In the great game of American Football, there has been a trend of 1st & 2nd year quarterbacks playing very well the last year. It usually takes a good three or four years to just get good at the quarterback position (you have to learn an offense, read defenses, develop report with your receivers–it takes time). But these rookies like RG3, Wilson, and Kaepernick are using a new form of offense–the read-option–a threat to run not just pass that is giving them instant success.
The read-option is using a young quarterback’s’ style & natural ability–speed–to make up for his lack of experience.
As a young writer I saw a correlation with using my own natural ability (style–things they can’t teach you in your creative writing workshop or even discourage) and these quarterbacks using the read option. I have enough craft and accuracy to write a scene but I’m no Tom Brady or Peyton Manning and to use a literary reference Jonathan Franzen, Hemingway or Julian Barnes. I can use my wit, my style of voice, natural creativity to make a scene interesting, and comic ability to write entertaining pieces but I know I don’t have enough craft to write a great Literary Novel, at least not yet until I am a seasoned veteran.
I know romance and YA (just finished my rough draft of a YA novel I’m feeling good about) sells like crazy but Literary fiction is the highest form of fiction and that is where greatness lives. That is how you get into the Hall of Fame–that is how you get in the history books and have English teachers sing your praises.
Books that have a beautiful story, beautiful prose, and teach us the beautiful and ugly truth of what it means to be human are literary novels. This is the best kind of book you can write and it is hard to find these books these days because they are so hard to write and in some ways they are becoming harder to sell (that is a topic for another post).
I am noticing a lot of writers who are relying on their natural ability, creativity, and style to make up for their lack of ‘traditional’ craft, look at the late great David Foster Wallace who really doesn’t have much craft when it comes to story telling but we can say “Infinite Jest” with its pure intelligence and creativity is up there with great literary books like “Madame Bovary”, “Anna Karenina”, “Little Children” & hell even with his frenemy Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” (for better or worst that was the last Literary Novel to get a lot of press…note to self, go write a book about a cheating wife.)
It takes a lot of time to be really great, lots of reading, lots of studying the craft, the 3 acts, and lots of writing but until they really hit their stride some young writers have such a great style they can lean on it just like some of these quarterbacks can use their legs to get out of trouble and run for a first down.
A good example of a current young writer who is touching on literary novel themes is Ron Currie Jr. With three books out now they all have touched upon beautiful and existential themes using his own style of storytelling.
You can’t teach Ron Currie Jr. how to do what Ron Currie does in a creative writing class; he is young and breaks a lot of rules but he finds a style and system that works for the way that he wants to tell a story which follows his influence of the great Kurt Vonnegut who also does that very well.
Yes, craft will always matter and you’ve got study and read to learn it but until then ‘talent’ and ‘creativity’ can really make up for a lack of craft and if you have that stylish talent go and run with it.