Monday, September 2, 2019

Writing Well Takes Practice

You can't run a race well without training.

As an author, whenever anyone hears that I write they will inevitably say "I thought about writing a book once" or "I'm going to write a book someday" or any number of sentences along those lines. I am not offended by this, I find it amusing more than anything else. Yet what people don't seem to understand is that you cannot simply write a book by wishing it.

Yes, perhaps you can piece together a string of words to create a sentence. And maybe you can string enough sentences along to create an 80,000 word story. The latter is highly unlikely when done by chance, but supposing you had accomplished such a feat, will it be a good story? No. Nothing done without some level of expertise is going to be good. There are a exceptions to every rule, of course, but very few of us are such freaks of nature that we can simply be good at everything without trying.

One of my hobbies, outside of simply reading a book, is running. I do 5K races and half marathons and the like with one of my sisters. We pretend to train by forcing ourselves to least once a week. But we are never diligent or disciplined in training our bodies for the excess of physical activity; endurance, strength...the things you need to complete a race well. Do we get to the finish line? Yes. Are we in more pain than necessary because we chose not to train? Also yes.

Writing a book is hard work. It is not something that happens overnight, and certainly not without effort. You have to train for it first. Learning basic grammar rules is unfortunately often the first step--it is physically painful for me to read many first drafts from aspiring writers because they do not understand the most basic principles. Periods. Commas. Capitalization. Learn how to write; that's the first step.

Once you've mastered the basics of the English language, it is time for the next level of training, learning to write well. You have to write every day; practice, practice, practice and in time you will improve. Read excessively and learn to imitate what you see. Take writing courses to hone your skills and learn new techniques. Soak up all of the knowledge and know-how that you can and then pour that into your words.

If you can manage to reach a point of readability, then you've reached the next stage of training: finding your own voice. You want to learn from other authors, but you don't want to mimic them. You have to find your own way of expressing what you wish to say. Everyone speaks differently and it is the same way with the written word. We are all different. So find what makes you different and grow from there. The best way to do this is to write every day. Write, and then write some more--you're training, remember?

Now that you finally write well, you can start thinking about writing a book. This will also take time, effort, and several stages. You have to be disciplined and diligent in writing every day and moving your story forward or your book will never be finished. Some days it is fun to sit down and write, other days it is a chore, but you have to do it regardless.

I am much better at mastering myself and my laziness and procrastination when it comes to writing than running, but I hope from now on I can take what I know of training to write books and apply it to my running hobby. If I train correctly for the next half marathon, I won't die like last time.

So yes, I can run a race and finish it, but can I run well and in such a way that won't bring physical harm to my body? Do I force my way through a book, spewing words as they come, or do I train myself daily, and therefore learn to write well? As hard as it can sometimes be, if you want to write a book, your answer to that last question should always be the latter.

P.S. I fully intend to start training properly for running.

Are you considering writing a book, or already in the middle of such a project? Comment below: I would love to hear about it!

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