Writers’ Guild Tip: You can learn to write

Carl Smothers’ books are found on Amazon.

Carl Smothers’ books are found on Amazon.

Carl Smothers

When I discuss writing with people I often hear the same story, “I’d like to write, but I don’t know where to start.” My response is simple: writing is a craft that can be learned. Yes, there is a lot to learn, but many tools are available to help you.

First build your reference library. Many good books are available, and online blogs are filled with information about writing. Two of my favorite books are The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke and Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss. If you are rusty on grammar 101, in my opinion Truss’ work is the simplest and best reference book you will ever need. Bad punctuation and grammar can destroy a good story.

Take a writing workshop, not necessarily a university course. Writing conferences such as FenCon sponsor workshops. Writer’s Digest (www.writersdigest.com) conducts online workshops and tutorials. A nominal cost may be associated with them.

Read other authors’ books especially good authors, not only in your genre, but also include other genres as well. It’s amazing how much you can learn about plot, style, character development and dialog style. Some bestselling authors have stated that they read a book a week.

Join a writing group or start one. Be prepared for honest critique and you will grow from it. Avoid being defensive since critique can be one of the best learning experiences you may have. View it objectively. It hurts when someone criticizes your “baby” and tells you it’s not as good as you think! Put your ego aside and you can learn with each review. Even very unfavorable remarks may hide an occasional nugget of truth.

Finally, doing is learning. In the end experience is the best teacher. It has been said that it takes ten thousand hours to learn to play the guitar competently. In writing, the rule of thumb is to write one million words.

There are over 100 rules governing writing, and they can be intimidating to a new writer. Just don’t let the rules stifle your creativity! Gerke’s book explores these rules and provides simple guidelines on using or not using them. “The Golden Rule of writing is to engage your reader from start to finish.” states Gerke.