One of the problems writers face early in the learning curve is the sheer scale of the basic skill-set needed to be any good.
Once they’ve got past the Dunning-Kruger problem – the illusion of competence because they’re totally ignorant of what has to be learned – the whole vista of writing explodes out across their vision, and it’s huge.
To write a story, authors have to master writing style, story structure, character arcs and understand the editorial process, all at once. Non-fiction demands a similarly multi-faceted approach. Every part of it is needed, all the components inter-relate dynamically, and it’s daunting.
My advice? Break the problem down. Fiction writing divides up according to those broad areas and I recommend working each one up individually – by practise. Isolate each part from its inter-relationship with the rest, just to get a handle on how each bit works. The order is going to be up to the individual, but I always recommend tackling ‘style’ first – getting comfortable with the creation and construction of words and phrases.
That’s because expression is the very basis of writing – the ability to assemble the words in the desired style, without stalling and stuttering over whether something needs a comma or wrestling with recalcitrant phrases.
Make that part of the task an automatic and ingrained ability first, and it’s possible to then focus on the issue of content. Don’t be fooled by the fact that everybody ‘learns’ how to write at school. They do – but not to the point of being able to write a novel. That takes a different skill set.
As to how to do that? Practise. Write stuff. Write a lot of stuff. Then throw it away – just like concert pianists spend many hours learning how to play before unleashing themselves on the public. They don’t let others listen to it. Nor do they record it.
Writing’s the same, when you’re learning the basics.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016