Developing the Art of Writing

What would I tell you, if you were just starting out to learn the art of writing? First, I would ask what kind of writing you want to do, and I would ask what sort of reading you like most, for you will ultimately be most comfortable writing that sort of literature. At the very least, the books you have loved most will be the unconscious yardstick by which you hold your writing.

Most of good writers spend time almost every day writing. Then they go over what we have written, looking for ways to explain their ideas better. Perhaps there is a scene with a man riding a bus. The character in your story thought he saw the flash of something belted around the man’s waist, under his jacket, that looks like it could be explosives. What does your character do? Does he attempt to get close enough to the man to defuse what he believes is a bomb, and get into an acutely embarrassing situation? Perhaps what your man saw wasn’t a bomb at all, but a brace the man needed to support his back. Everyone makes mistakes, or perhaps it wasn’t really a mistake.

Your job as the writer is to describe the scene so that your readers understand what is happening and why your main character behaves the way he does. You learn how to do this better by writing. Writing stories, articles, and even books. Whatever you feel inspired to write; do it.

Do not expect perfection. If you are lucky, you may be able to join a writer’s group with other writers who are as determined as you are to improve their craft and get published. If this group is small enough so that you are each able to critique the other members’ writing, you will have a chance to learn a lot. Each of you in turn, spending time listening to what the others have to say about your work creates a certain amount of tension, keeping each person on his toes to give his best work. It is also fascinating how much you can learn about writing by critiquing someone else’s work. When you sit down to think what would be necessary to make the other participant’s stories work, you begin to see ways to make your writing better.

For instance, you may see that someone’s descriptions are either more verbose than they need to be, or nonexistent, when you would like to know more about where his story is taking place. You read through his manuscript and mark the places where you believe changes should be made. Or, you read someone’s story and the dialogue may feel stilted, so you start altering that dialogue to suit your sensibilities. As you write and edit your own manuscript, you become more aware of these sorts of things. And that is how you learn to write well.

There are online writer’s groups and some of them are better than others. However, they can be decent alternatives if you cannot find a group near where you live that would permit new members to join. Most important though is to read examples of good writing that you really enjoy, and then write, every day; reading analytically so that you can begin to understand how a good writer works with and describes the different situations in his novels.

Like learning how to drive a car, you drive and drive until stepping on the clutch and changing gears becomes automatic to the point that you no longer have to think how and when to do it. So it is with writing. The more you write and the more you edit what you write, the better you will be at getting your ideas across on paper.


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About Genevieve

Genevieve is a ghostwriter, specializing in memoirs, biographies and novels for her clients, since 2002. She loves her work, Her blog is a hodge podge of whatever happens to be on her mind when she sits down to write. Her essays may be about anything from family life, to politics, to good grammar. Come read it at and leave a message.
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