That’s a tough question. Many people think they can’t write because they weren’t taught how in school. Don’t let that keep you from writing, if you have a desire to write. You just might be a writer and don’t know it yet.

I’ve always been extremely imaginative. I remember playing make-belief games with friends. I remember daydreaming. I remember thinking up stories. I remember lying in bed at night and dreaming stories while I was still awake.

As for school, though, I remember writing a short story in a fifth grade class and poems in a high school English class. I don’t remember much else about creative writing in school. I’m not even sure I thought much about creative writing.

I read all kinds of books, starting when I was in first grade. I remember reading The Wizard of Oz when I was in second grade and asking my mother how writers could create pictures in my mind with their words. She didn’t know.

It remained a mystery to me until I was in my forties, actually. I kept going to book stores, looking for the kinds of stories that rolled around in my head. I couldn’t find them. One day, I went home and told my husband I wanted to try to write a novel. He humored me and got me a used laptop computer. This was about seventeen years ago.

I started my new hobby by reading a book about writing–and I read dozens more of those self-help books over the years. I wrote my first book and hid it away (on my computer), never to be seen again. It was dreadful but necessary because it gave me practice and helped me learn. I kept writing, gaining more experience with each book.

I only told my husband and our children, my father and stepmother, and a few co-workers that I was writing. No one else would ever have guessed I was a writer. My son (in 9th grade at the time) attempted to write a book about vampires at the same time I started writing. My daughter (in 5th grade at the time) attempted to write three different books (each about animals). Both kids were creative and they were inspired because I was doing it, but they both quit because they didn’t have the stick-to-it ability back then.

My son had written his first complete novel many years later before he told us (his father and me) that he was writing. I know many others who are writing books right now but haven’t told many people (other than their fellow writers’ group members). I think many of us writing our first books lack confidence and don’t want to tell others in case we suck at writing. The doubt sticks with us even after we’ve written a dozen books. It doesn’t mean we can’t write or that we aren’t good at it. We do need feedback and book reviews. That’s the best thing an author can get from readers.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, you don’t have to have a college degree to write novels. You don’t have to be a genius. You don’t have to take lots of writing classes. You don’t have to be a natural-born writer.

What do you need?

You need to either have a story that you know very well–such as your own life story–or you need a creative brain and a willingness to research the things that you don’t know so that you can make the story ring true even though it’s entirely make-believe. The old adage ‘write what you know’, that many writers hear often, isn’t true. You do not have to write only about things you know. How do you think people can convincingly write about vampires, space ships traveling the galaxies, child witches going to magic school, monsters, girls tumbling down rabbit holes and meeting all kinds of strange creatures, girls caught up in tornadoes and dropping houses onto witches, and time travelers? Those writers had a desire to write and wonderfully creative brains.

You need to either be good with grammar and punctuation, or you need to be willing to work with a good editor who is patient and reliable.

Writing skills come from practice and study. You can study on your own (through books or websites), you can study by attending writing workshops, or you can study with other writers in local writing groups. You can even join online writers groups.

I hope I’ve inspired some of you to take a chance. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?