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Yep, and I could be a carpenter if it weren't for that pesky hammering and sawing.
Your tools matter. Your most basic tools really matter.
Because writing a book isn't just about getting a super, wonderful idea. Actually, many would-be writers do realize this, approach a published writer and say, "I've got this great idea. How about you write it and we split the take?" The published writer will *almost always say no, but it's too facile to say this is because he or she is too busy. It's really because the published writer already has the ideas and the writing. Until the would-be also has both, until the would-be is also the complete package, he or she will remain a would-be.
* Tim LaHaye, who is not a novelist, had the idea for the Left Behind series and asked Jerry Jenkins, who is a novelist, to write the books. But they are both writers, and LaHaye's particular expertise was foundational to the series.
Yes, a novelist is a storyteller. But the novelist conveys his or her stories in, well, prose (and occasionally verse). Which has rules. There are other ways to tell stories: orally, in movies, in song, in art, even in video games. If you want to employ those media, you have to gain whatever skills are required in order to do a quality job. If you want to write a story, you do need grammar, punctuation, and spelling to get that story across. Lacking these, your story will be different from, and less than, your vision for it. Lacking these, you won't get an agent's or editor's time of day. Because they can buy from people who are the complete package.
Doesn't an editor "fix all that"? No. An editor pitches to her employer's acquisitions committee the most top-quality work she can possibly find, in both story and writing. The editor will write the author a revision letter, sometimes a long one, as the publication process begins, but those revisions won't be about mechanics. A copyeditor, whose job it is to fix light mechanical errors, will go over the manuscript too, but this is a far cry from fixing the work of writers who don't know how to use their tools.
As writers, we have many skills to learn, about storytelling, about writing, and about the particulars of conveying a story through writing. Writers and teachers argue over whether and which of these skills can be taught or learned. A sense of language and a "way with words," many say, must be innate. But grammar, punctuation and spelling are highly learnable, and they aren't something you either had to master in middle school or the chance is gone forever. Taking a class is always an option, but for self-study there are a number of funny, helpful grammar books. Funny? Yes! Here's a sampling of titles:
Things That Make us (Sic), by Martha Brockenbrough
Lapsing into a Comma, by Bill Walsh
The Elephants of Style, by Bill Walsh
Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, by Mignon Fogarty
The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier, by Bonnie Trenga
This isn't an exhaustive list by far, and many of these authors have websites and blogs, too. And since, no matter our skill level, we all need to sharpen the tools in our box, I'm sure these enticing titles get plenty of workout from all sorts of writers. How about you -- do you have a favorite grammar/punctuation/spelling book? Do tell!