[This article first appeared in Night Owl Reviews]
Writers are always giving out advice on how to write, assuming for some reason that people care. I mean, you don’t see doctors prattling on to whoever will listen about the best ways to reset a bone or writing blog posts about identifying infectious diseases.
Maybe writing is unique in the sense it seems like something everyone should be capable of doing. With some sad exceptions, everybody is literate, everybody’s got “What if…?” story ideas, and everybody can
tell a good story from a bad one. And yet only a tiny handful of people can sit down and complete a coherent story; even fewer a GOOD coherent story. So there’s a certain mystique around writing, as if people capable of doing it have some kind of magical power that transcends schooling and is divinely revealed ala God’s proclamation of the ten commandments.
And it’s true that you’ll probably never be a great writer if you don’t have a certain natural talent for it. BUT you’ll definitely never be a good writer if you don’t study the craft.
Even people with natural mad skillz need to train and practice with experts to reach elite levels. You think Serena Williams just woke up one day a champion? Hell no! Writing’s the same—natural talent alone won’t make you a master writer. You need to study and understand your craft if you ever want to intentionally create something truly great. (You might be able to do it once on a fluke, but one good book is not a career.)
There are no shortage of How to Write books out there, but here are the ones I’ve found most useful:
You’ll notice a mix of storytelling and wordsmithing books, because you need to be good at both. In fact, most of my writing advice columns are really summaries of different sections of these books.
Say you’re lazy and just wanna watch videos! Yeah, me too sometimes. Here are some great YouTube channels to check out:
I also lurk on a few book review channels, to get a sense for what readers like and what they bitch about (apparently YA’s become a cesspool of incompetence lately).
Finally, I leave you with this video from Storytellers that nails being a professional writer on the head: