Learning to Write
November 24, 2007
Read! Read! Read!
If you don't like reading, you won't like writing. If you don't like writing, you won't be an author.
If you find that you get bored when you're reading, you're reading the wrong stuff. Don't waste your time reading something that bores you. Reading should be enjoyable.
Reading Tip: When you read a story, slow down. Don't rush through it. Take time to act out every character (in your mind or even aloud) and enjoy every scene.
Before you buy a book, start reading it at the bookstore, or borrow it from the library. If you don't like it, you won't have to look it at every day sitting on your bookshelf like a nagging reminder of wasted money for a task that you don't want to do.
Learn the Basics
Grammar, style, spelling, and vocabulary aren't just for English teachers. If your writing is sloppy, nobody will want to read it. If you use the very fifty times in the first page, readers will get bored with your lack of variety. If you use the wrong words, you'll just confuse your readers (so look up those definitions).
Keep a Writing Journal
Start by getting a small spiral notebook that you can take with you anywhere. It should be small, so it can fit in your bag or briefcase. It should be spiral bound so you can flip it open completely and fold it back on itself for writing in places where you don't have much elbow room, and the spiral binding also is a good place to keep your pen.
A good writer's journal usually starts with "Dear Diary." It could contain a bunch of ideas that you jot down here and there. It could contain samples prose or poetry that you were suddenly inspired to write. It could contain detailed descriptions of things you see around you. Try making sketches of interesting objects, people, and places (even if you aren't very good at drawing). You should even keep a list interesting vocabulary words and character names. When you're writing, you'll be happy that you made an effort to keep notes.
It doesn't matter what you write. Just make an effort to write every day. If you feel creative, write something creatively. When you feel like writing non-fiction, write non-fiction. (I write my non-fiction articles on this website.) If you aren't in the mood for creative writing or strict non-fiction, try writing in your personal journal about what you've done during the day and things that are going in your life. Write your friends.
Learn About Story Structures
There are many different styles of story structures. Take some classes or read some books to learn about them, and try writing something based on the styles you learn about.
Read About Other Authors
Read interviews with and articles about other authors. Most importantly, read about authors you admire. Learn what worked for them and what didn't. Let yourself be comforted by knowing that they've had failures too (even the best of them).
Let Other People Read Your Work
If you don't let other people read your work, you will never know if it's really good or not.
Don't let your ego get in the way. No matter how good you are as a writer, you'll never be perfect, so you're work will never be perfect, but it can be close to perfect if you have other people fill in the gaps where your mind is lacking. (This doesn't mean they are smarter than you. It just means that they are better at some things than you are, and you are better at some things than they are, so put your heads together and be better at everything.) The best books, movies, etc. become the best because they've been improved by multiple people (e.g. agents, editors, directors, producers, consultants, focus groups, etc.).