Those words change life as we know it, especially once you realize that the essence of writing is more than simply coming up with a great idea. It’s researching and brainstorming, reading and studying, editing and revising, building a platform and networking.
Once that truth sets in, the question that inevitably follows is this: Where do I start? You start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. I admit I love that memorable line from the classic movie The Sound of Music, and every time I listen to Julie Andrews sing it, I can’t help but sing along. If only following her advice were as simple and fun as singing the song.
Most new writers are so excited about the prospect of writing the great American novel that they want to skip the prerequisites. I remember thinking I could. I was an English major in college, had been teaching writing and literary analysis for years, what more could I possibly need to know? As it turned out, quite a bit. The more I delved into the writing world, the more I realized I had to learn. The fact is, I’m still learning.
The naked truth is that there is no shortcut to writing well. Stephen King, in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, says it this way: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.”
Writing a lot means making a commitment every day to get something on the page. Understand and accept in advance that much of what goes on that page will have to be revised and rewritten numerous times, but don’t give up. Remember that writing in spite of the obstacles is vital to becoming a good writer.
Reading a lot requires more than a proclivity for speed reading. It requires careful study of the books fundamental to your craft. Read books by various authors in your genre. Study and dissect them. Make notes on sentence structure, word choice, and descriptive language. Analyze how the authors develop mood, tone, character, and plot then apply what you learn to your own work.
Purchase instructional books on the writing craft. (See the many options in our bookstore.) Highlight them, dog-ear them, and make notes in the margins. Complete their sample exercises and practice their techniques until your work transforms from cautious imitation to confident creation.
Another key ingredient to learning to write well is to talk with other writers. Find a writers group in your area, research online options, or make plans to attend a writers’ conference. The St. Davids conference runs from June 17-21—just over 100 days away—and registration begins in March. We have a limited number of scholarships available and offer a significant discount for those who register by May 10. Explore our Web site and see all the opportunities we have to offer then come join us for a week you’ll never forget.
The writing life is a journey. If you’re ready to take your first step, try St. Davids. It’s a very good place to start.
Vickie Price Taylor has a bachelor’s degree in English Education and has spent the better part of the last decade sharing her passion for writing with high school students. A lover of fiction, she is most often either reading a good book or working on writing one of her own. Her stories have earned finalist positions in both the 2007 Molly Contest and the 2011TARA Contest. She currently serves as director of the St. Davids Christian Writers Conference. When she’s not hanging out with her family or jogging the trails in her home state of West Virginia, you can find her on her blog at www.vickiepricetaylor.wordpress.com.