Monday, April 12, 2010

How Do You Learn to Write?

Jody Hedlund had an excellent blog post discussing if “putting in the time” really matters. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Among other things, she reminds writers that everyone’s journey is different. It may take one writer years to get published and another may take a much shorter time, but the main thing is to keep learning the craft. This got me thinking (yes, I occasionally do this).

I do think it’s important to learn the craft of writing and one excellent way (as we’ve all heard) is to read lots of books. I agree about the importance of this, because we need to know what works.

However, I also believe we need to read what doesn’t work. Crit groups are a good way to do this since most work when it starts out doesn’t work. We get to see the process of taking something that doesn’t work and watching it blossom into something that does (hopefully). It’s hard to do this with our own work because we are too close to it. We know what it is supposed to say and think it says or conveys what we want it to, but this isn’t always the case. Having an objective viewpoint can help us see the errors in our work, but seeing the errors in other people’s work is often valuable as well. By learning to critique work, we learn to improve our own.

It is for this reason that I’ve often wished I could intern with an agent/editor and read through the slush. Though I’ve never experienced this, I feel it would be an amazing opportunity to learn about not only what works, but also what doesn’t work. Of course everyone has different tastes so what I like, someone else might not, but it’s the same way with agents/editors out there now; though one may not like your work, another may fall in love with it.

So, while I’ve been plugging away at this writing gig for more years than I care to count . . . who am I kidding, I’ve counted many times and it all adds up to seven long years of learning . . . I’m still going at it because I love it. Have I learned all there is to learn in these last seven years? Heck no! I’m not sure the learning ever stops. Even published writers are still learning.

The craft of writing will always have something new to teach us if we are open to learning. I believe the continued learning is an important part of being a writer. There’s always room for improvement . . . sometimes even after the novel is published. I’m not sure there is such a thing as a “perfect manuscript.” However, I do believe there is such a thing as a perfect attempt at a manuscript. We can do our best, and that’s all we can do.

The important thing is to keep raising the bar on what our best is. This can only be accomplished through continued learning.

So, if any agent or editor out there is looking for someone to read through the slush, I’m game!

What is your process of learning to write?

Learn on.


T. Anne said...

I'm knee deep in purchasing more craft books. I do this about once a year and I love the learning that takes place because of them. I'd be foolish to think I don't need them. ;)

just Joan said...

I love purchasing books that help me learn my craft. I learn something new from each of them, but it can sure get expensive to keep purchasing them. =) I think I need to cut back on my book buying, but I can't get enough!