When you think about it, those who succeed in getting a novel into bookstores illustrate “publishing of the fittest.” Just as critters evolve over time to become better, stronger, and more successful, I think writers do, too.
There are stages in the evolution of a writer (think of the illustration you’ve no doubt seen of the progression from ape to man). Novelists emerge from a primordial goo of wanting to tell stories. But there’s a lot of evolving yet to come.
Just as early mankind figured out how to use tools, writers have to learn and figure out how to use language. That starts with adequate grammar and punctuation. Since an author’s audience is trained by schooling and reading to interpret words and punctuation in certain ways, a writer will never get her true meaning onto the page without knowing the effects of what she puts on that page. Even a misplaced comma can throw a narrative off its stride.
Okay, so now our evolving writer has the urge to tell stories, and has a grasp of using language. We’ll assume a certain level of talent, just as early mankind had a certain level of intelligence. What next?