Free Lessons from the Experts
There are so many services out there offering to help you become a better writer, from master classes with acclaimed authors to professional writing coaches. But one of the most valuable resources for aspiring writers is at the same time one of the most readily available and one of the most overlooked.
All you need is a library card and a bit of free time for research.
I’ve read the writings of and listened to interviews with numerous experts, whether published authors or publishing professionals, and one of the most common pieces of advice they give is to read.
But what does that entail?
Read within your genre.
No knowledge is truly wasted. Look at the books and novels you love most. Have you ever considered how many bits of random trivia went into making it great?
The author of a spy thriller might need to know all about firearms and at what temperature hypothermia sets in, but small details, like the fact that a wagging tail on a dog means happiness while on a cat it means someone’s about to bleed, give it depth.
However, each genre is unique, so read voraciously on as many subjects as possible but especially within the genre you write in. Pay attention to what successful writers in your genre do, how they structure their stories and introduce characters, action, and drama. This is equally applicable for fiction and nonfiction.
How do those authors lay out their stories? What works? What doesn’t?
Read other works by authors in your genre.
Identify the writers who are doing what you want to do and read everything they write, not just the books that made them popular. That means dipping into the memoirs and how-tos.
It has become a popular trend for an author, after they’ve achieved a certain level of success and fame, to publish a book on how they do what they do. One of the best ones I’ve ever read is On Writing by Stephen King. I’m not even much of a Stephen King fan, and I loved it and found it full of sound wisdom and advice.
Remember that these books aren’t definitive manuals on what you have to do to write a book. They’re the personal experiences of one person, but just like any self-help book, while no one method works for everyone, learning from experts in your field will make you better.
So, try some of the different techniques and advice and see what works for you.
Emulate; then innovate.
When we’re learning something new, we generally go through a certain trajectory. At first, we copy people who are doing what we want to be doing, but eventually, we have to go our own way.
So, once you learn how successful people did what you want to do, you can adapt it to find your own style.
You aren’t Stephen King or Nora Roberts or Zig Ziglar or Malcolm Gladwell. You’re you, and that’s a marvelous thing, because that means no one else can offer the world what you can.
Rebecca Miller is a professional copyeditor and general fan of all things having to do with the written word and the English language.
You can check out her website at Oakdale Editing or connect through Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Email.
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Rebecca has a passion for helping you fill the world with great literature and making sure said literature doesn't get passed over for the lack of a little editing.