5 Things I Wish I Had Learned Sooner about Writing
Being a writer means always learning and always searching for new ways to improve. This can often be a frustrating experience when you discover something you wish you had found out sooner. Here then is a list of the things I wish I had learned earlier.
1. WORKING HARD IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN HAVING TALENT.
Some people are blessed with both natural skill and technique. The rest of us have to work harder than them just to be half as good. This is a myth. Yes, some people have a knack for aspects of art but at some point, they will have worked hard to improve their technique. Nobody is blessed with technique.
2. STRUCTURE IS IMPORTANT BUT STYLE IS KING
I spent so long reading about story structure and plotting out ideas. Often these well-paced narratives went unnoticed by readers due to bad style and grammar. Bookshops contain hundreds of books with awful structures; few contain books with awful style.
3. GRAMMAR IS NOT METAPHYSICS
As part of the generation that wasn’t taught grammar in school, I spent most of my life thinking of it as something only university professors could ever understand. For some reason I believed that, my great stories would overcome any shortcomings in grammar. Don’t make the same mistakes. If you want to be a writer, you must understand the medium you work in. I’m not saying you need to understand the grammatical terms but you should at least know when and why to use a comma. Of course, a good grammar checker always helps.
4. HABIT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN INSPIRATION.
So you haven’t written today because you have your best ideas at 3am and you have to go to work tomorrow and tomorrow comes and you’re too tired and your friend is coming over. This is not the life of a writer on their way to success. My productivity increased 500% when I stopped waiting for inspiration and started getting up two hours earlier and churning out 2000 words. Sometimes it flowed, and was horrible to edit, most of the time I had to push it out of me using willpower.
5. THERE’S HELP OUT THERE.
As I mentioned above, I spent a long time reading books about structure but it was not until I read On Writing by Stephen King that I realized there were books about the aspects of writing that I found difficult. There are many awful books about writing but the few good ones out there can make a huge difference. Check out my Help for Writers page for a few recommended books.
What have you learned about writing that you wish you had learned sooner?