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New Writer: how do I develop basic writing skills?

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
I tend to read about writing a lot, especially when I am stuck. It often inspires me, and helps me look at my writing with a new perspective.

Here are some good titles that are sitting on my bookshelf right now. Most of them are older titles, but they contain solid advice for beginning writers.

How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card - a classic
Elements of Style by Strunk and White - you can't break the rules until you learn them
The Novel Writer's Tookkit by Bob Mayer
Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks - I may not like everything he's written, but it's an awesome read about the writing life
Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block - another good one about being a writer
Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card - great for learning how to craft your characters

Good luck, and welcome to the club!
1. Write something.
2. Edit it to the best of your ability.
3. Seek feedback. There's a Showcase forum here, and many other places like it on the web. Or, join a writing group.
4. Be aware that people are going to tear your writing to shreads. If you harbor illusion that someone is going to say: that's awesome, continue what you're doing, get rid of them now.
5. Consider the advice. Fix what you can.
6. Go back for more.
7. Keep repeating steps 3 - 6 until you feel you're up to a standard where you can continue.

That's what worked for me.
I agree on this.

Just make sure you keep an open and positive mind. Remember that every improvement makes your output even better. Also, I can recommend 'On Writing' by Stephen King. :)
I am going against the grain for one thing here. It will drive people nuts when i say it, but there is a reason why I do.


Yes, do not go grab the latest and greatest to read and emulate. Do not jot notes on what the author did, why they did it, and how you can improve on it until AFTER you feel confident you know where your voice is coming from. There are so many disasters waiting for you if you go that route, you will hit walls because you won't think like a writer, you will think like a reader.

Go through as many non-fiction texts as you can get your hands on. Branch out. Learn poetry. Learn script writing. Write articles. Blog a little. These things will help you find your voice far better than reading fiction from someone else.

When you do get to the point your voice won't be an echo of someone else, you will want to read fiction for three things (all at the same time, in whatever order you choose). Enjoyment, Expression, and Lessons. When enjoyment is gone, then you look for the expression. How did they express it? Did you get it? What about it didn't you understand? This will dovetail into Lessons, where you can mine fiction for gold and use the raw data to remind yourself what you must make clear as a writer to your readers.

You are writing for readers, but you must write as a writer first. Never let what you read dictate your writing skills. These habits are hard to break, and they lead to poorly edited self-published novels that fester in Amazon and B&N.