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Writing How-To's

Sam W;1530759 said:
I must be a naturally gifted storyteller. I've never in my life read a how-to book, a rule book, or any book other than a work of fiction. It hasn't done me any harm. What you read in one how-to book is going to completely differ in another, and for that reason I can't allow myself to take them seriously. The best way to learn the craft of writing, in my opinion, is to read fiction. Not how-to guides or you-must guides. Fiction.

Here's an interesting and relevant anecdote. Everything I know about computers I learned by messing around with settings on an old, virtually dead, laptop my brother gave to me when I was fourteen. I kept tinkering with it until I knew every menu, sub-menu, and folder on that drive. Likewise, when I got my first mobile phone, I tinkered with it until I knew it inside out. No handbooks, dummies' guides, or any other informative literature were ever perused along the way. Through trial and error I figured out how everything worked in relation to everything else.

When I started writing, the same system of trial and error applied. The more I wrote and tinkered with my writing, the better it became. The more I read, the more my vocabulary and syntax improved. I was accepted for publication not because I read Fifty Great Tips on How to Write a Killer Story, but because of hard work and perseverance. I read the masters: Clancy, Ludlum, Forsyth, Higgins. I studied their styles and mimicked them to begin with, until my own voice metamorphosed out of all of theirs. I wrote, wrote some more, and then some more just for good measure. The ideas were good but the writing did not do them justice, so I honed it until it looked and sounded like what you would read in a published novel.

There are no shortcuts in writing, in my opinion. Now how-to book can show you how to write a novel which will never be rejected and become a best-seller overnight. There is no formula. My advice would be to forget the how-to books. Start reading, start writing, and figure it all out for yourself along the way.


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