In the world of professional baseball, teams send scouts to colleges (sometimes even high schools) to evaluate young talent.
There are five aspects of the game that these scouts look for, and naturally, the more areas a player excels at, the higher he is rated—they are hitting for power, hitting for average, fielding, throwing and speed.
A player who demonstrates proficiency in all five of these areas is rare, and is referred to as a five-tool-player.
Bo Jackson, Mike Schmidt and Kirby Puckett are a few examples of such elite players.
Naturally, it isn’t necessary to be a five-tool player to be successful in Major League Baseball, but obviously it is to a player’s advantage to possess strength in as many of the five as possible.
So it is, too, with writing.
You don’t have to be a five-tool-writer to be successful, but you should work to excel at as many of them as possible. In the ever-changing world of independent publishing they will all serve you well.
What are these tools, you ask…
Well, there is no official scouting report naming them that I am aware of, but I have compiled a list that I think are key skills all writers should strive to possess.
- Coming up with a good concept
I call this the What if idea…every good book starts with a great what if. For example – What if a giant shark staked a claim off the shores of a small New England town and terrorized the residents?
In my opinion…the what if is the foundation of the story – and like any building, a story is only as good as the foundation upon which it is built.
- Knowing how to turn a good concept into a good story
Once you’ve got your concept, the next trick is turning it into a good story. You’ll need to develop good characters, give them obstacles to overcome and a journey to complete – all without losing sight of your awesome what if.
- Writing a first draft that contains all the proper elements of a good book
I don’t believe in formulas when it comes to anything creative, least of all writing…However – there are certain guidelines you should follow when writing your book. There are dozens of websites and blogs offering in-depth analysis to help you. They’ll tell you all about tent poles, conflict, dialogue, plot points, pinch points, and everything else you should know about. Again – I don’t consider these things to be rules, but they are, at the very least, worthwhile suggestions.
- The ability to work well with your editor
Probably the biggest problem area for authors – of all levels. Let’s be honest…we spend months, maybe years, writing a masterpiece, and some glorified English teacher who has never written anything more detailed than a resume is going to tell us to butcher it?
The short answer…YES!
It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle. You sit there for an hour looking for a certain piece and somebody walks up and, after two minutes, picks up the piece and drops it in. Fresh eyes…they make a huge difference and the as the writer, sometimes we are just too close to the work to see the flaws – and believe me, there are flaws.
- Marketing skills
This is probably the most difficult concept for writers to warm to. Not in the same sense as writers disliking editors – but in the sense that too many writers have the attitude that their masterpiece will sell itself. The reality is the exact opposite. Your book might be the next Gone With the Wind or Harry Potter, but unless you hand it to Steven Spielberg personally, and he reads it, and loves it. Nobody will ever hear about it. The number of books published every day is mind boggling, so if you don’t get out there and push it, your sales numbers will be less than spectacular.
I’m not trying to discourage you.
On the contrary I’m trying to help you. I want every independent author out there, myself included, to be wildly successful.
I’m also not saying that the five tools I’ve outlined above are all you need to be successful, but they’ll help.
It should be noted that I am, by no means, an expert.
What you have just read is merely my opinion – and I welcome any additions, alterations or suggestions to make this blog more useful.
Let’s help each other.
As always – thank you for reading