Monday, January 25, 2016

You Can't Learn To Write From A Workshop

Head into a bookstore. Look online. Attend a conference. It is a certainty that you will find someone teaching others how to write a novel. You can even attend a weekend long seminar where someone will teach you to write. Even at the university level, you will find professors teaching "creative writing courses." But... here is the thing. These courses cannot teach you how to write.

The way to learn writing is by writing and studying other writers.

The problem a lot of writers have is this belief that by taking a given course, or reading a particular book is that with that knowledge, they will know how to write. At some level, this does work, but too often, writers misinterpret that message. What they should be doing is taking that information and examining other authors and their writing. They should be taking this information and thinking about what they are doing in their own writing.

When an author submits a project to me, it becomes very clear whether they know how to write or not. Those that do, the story just unfolds off of the page. The characters come alive. The reader gets sucked into the story and the world of the characters. For those who don't know how to write, the story become elementary. You see the author using a device in the story because, apparently, in Chapter 3 of their textbook, they were told to do that.

To truly be a great writer takes time. It takes years of studying other writers and their stories. To see what that person is doing, and, more importantly, learning WHY the author did what he or she did.

As a writer, you need to spend almost every day, of every week, examining and studying writing. Yes, you should continue to write, but take the time to digest what you see and hear. When the learning becomes natural, you will be that writer you set out to be so many years ago.


  1. Nice post. I think, too, that when you read like a writer, noticing what other writers do that works, it enhances the reading experience as well as the writing experience.

  2. Maybe, you'll eventually become a writer doing that but a good writing teacher or two or three will cut down the time to achieve professional craft by a huge amount of time.

    I started writing in pre-Internet, pre-RWA craft courses, and, even with several degrees in literary criticism with a specialization in literary analysis, it took me over a dozen years and about that many finished novels before my craft was publishable.

    Doing that with absolutely no help, I've made it my personal crusade to help new writers via my blog, etc.

    I bet, if you surveyed all your successful writers as well as most of the bestselling authors you know, they'd all point to some teacher or writing mentor who helped them along the way to punishable craft.

    1. Sorry, I meant publishable. Dang spellchecker.