If you have what it takes to become a writer, this simple process will kick start your writing ability.
First of all, stop worrying about what people will think of your writing. There is plenty of time for that when you try to make money selling your work.
If you want to be a writer, the first and foremost thing you MUST do is to uncork the creative bottle and let the genie out. You must get yourself to the point where you can sit down and easily write 500 or 1000 words about anything that interests you.
You get this ability very simply. You write for an hour or until you reach 500 words every day and you continue this until you find that you want to write 1000 or 2000 words every day.
The same thing applies to drawing, painting, and any sort of designing. Until you have done drawings, paintings or designs every day, you will still be struggling with the mechanics of the matter instead of capturing ideas for posterity.
When I say write, I mean write, not polish and finagle the language around until it reads like one of William Gibson’s novels. You write by keyboarding your ideas, one after another until you gain the ability to write easily and without effort.
Let us say you have never done dialog, for example. Have you ever considered that you could learn to write through the following process:
1. Start by simply writing snatches of dialog for an hour or so, using your memory as a guide.
2. Concentrate on capturing the essence of the exchange, rather than worrying about the paragraph format and the punctuation. If you get stuck during this first attempt, find a novel and read enough dialog until you get an idea how it appears on the page. Then write for an hour or until you have a big win doing it.
3. When you are finished, put your work away until tomorrow and get on with your life. During the time you are not writing, listen to conversations and think how you would describe them in print.
You will probably find yourself looking in books to see how other writers do dialog. Don’t spend too much time on this yet, just get the idea how interesting dialog is written.
4. Go back to your writing the next day and see what changes you might make to make the dialog more real or more believable. Now this is really important – Don’t make changes in what you have written!
Spend your time writing NEW dialog that incorporates what you have already learned. Do not spend much time rewriting or polishing. The product you want is pages and pages of NEW dialog.
End off when you have written 500 words or so or an hour has passed, whichever comes first. Put away your work and don’t mess with it. Go out and live life.
5. Listen to conversations with a sharper ear this time and look at some pages of dialog in books to see what else you could do to make your writing more realistic. Repeat step #4.
If you continue this process for about a week, you will accumulate a ton of experience on writing dialog. You may not be fluent yet, but you should be able to recognize great dialog as opposed to mediocre dialog.
At this point, you might want to look at some articles and books about writing dialog. They will make sense now and you may be able to incorporate this data into your writing.
On the other hand, you may decide that a book or article doesn’t make sense because it espouses a style that doesn’t fit what you need. That’s OK too, because when you actually start writing, your powers of observation are sharpened. You will begin to exercise judgment as to what is useful to you.
There is lots more to be learned, but by following this process of doing, refining, repeat until enlightened, you will smoothly and certainly achieve the ability to write passable dialog. Once you are there, you can tackle another skill while continuing to move your dialog writing to a professional level.
Little by little, you can become a writer who can actually write. Then it is time to decide what you could write that people would want to read. I will cover that in a future post.
You can see that this process of learning by doing is quite different from the usual regime which typically goes like this:
1. study examples of great writing,
2. write an exercise,
3. spend lots of time discussing the exercise
4. Repeat 1-3 until the course is over.
5. write final exercise.
If you have tried the usual regimes and are not writing prolifically, you might want to give my suggestion a whirl. This approach was first espoused in the book, Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande.
I read her book and followed one of her recommended exercises until I looked forward to writing every day. At that point, I had written 60,000 words of a loosely connected series of fictional incidents which may eventually become a Sci-Fi novel. I had not written fiction since the third grade, so this process obviously worked.
I did not do this exercise to produce a novel, I did it to acquire the ability to crank out interesting copy on demand. Once I achieved the ability, I found opportunities to use it. You can do the same.