Learning to Write

Over lunch this past weekend, my stepmother mentioned to me that she’d been talking to someone in college who had decided he wanted to be a writer and wanted some advice on becoming one.

Well, there’s really only one way to become a writer. You have to write.

You can read writing books, take creative writing courses, and plan out stories all you want, but until you sit down and start writing on a regular basis, it’ll never happen.

You may understand, on some level, how putting together a story works, but until you try it yourself, you won’t get it. And sure, some of the stuff at the beginning will probably be terrible. You may look back in five years and want to burn everything.

As Stephen King said, it takes a million words of crap before you get any good at it.

So, if you want to be a writer, just start writing. You don’t need an English or a creative writing degree. (Some people even say that you shouldn’t get a creative writing degree if you want to write fiction, but your mileage may vary. I have two engineering degrees so I have no opinion on the matter.) You don’t need to read every writing book known to man (of which there are more than you can read in one life-time anyway) – and you shouldn’t, anyway, since they don’t work for everyone. You don’t need to deconstruct your favorite novels to see what makes them tick.

What you need to do is be able to sit down and complete a story, start to finish, without getting bogged down by details and frustrations that can be fixed in rewrites.

If you want to be a writer, write.

End of story.

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