Read, Observe & Write


Read and write, write and read. These are the only words of advice I would ever offer anyone who wants to write. Read, so you learn how other writers go about telling stories.

Not a day goes by without encountering at least half a dozen blogs offering advice or links to books that will tell you, how to write. These frustrate me so much. Not because they’re of little value, quite the contrary, but because there’s only one truly tried and tested formula for writing and that’s Read, Observe & Write.

Every writer is wracked by self doubt. Believe me, everything written could be written another way because, well, every written thing can be written in a different way.

Start small, learn the basic skill of writing and telling a story. It’s called communicating. Don’t just describe something to a reader, tell it so they can feel it. That’s writing.

The right way is often measured in dollars, pounds, euros, yen, roubles or whatever currency you can imagine. It is measured in readers, too. So people who self publish in digital books, promote their book’s publication to generate pre-orders, they give away pre-publication copies, free, to garner appropriate online reviews. All this creates demand and boosts sales figures that they hope will create more demand, until, like a descending snowball, their book sales become an avalanche.

That’s the nitty gritty of self publication; as the publisher, you take on the role of promoter and marketeer and, if there’s a way to do it, then it will be done.

There was a time when publication was largely predicated on the value of quality of the writing. That doesn’t apply so much, anymore. Publishing is a tricky business and there is enormous risk involved with regards to the cost of bringing a book to market. Publishing companies take these risks, relying on a good return on their investment.

Publishing houses used to rely on their own judgement and depth of experience and market to choose those writers and books they felt worth that risk. They had in house editing staff who were capable of judging a book’s merits. Nowadays, that role has been usurped by agents, who, while representing the writer in securing as good a deal as they can manage from a publisher, will also make the decision on the writers they will represent, on the earning potential of their writing. It’s a harsh world.

The unfortunate reaction is the rash of ‘how to write a best seller’ tomes, as though writing, like a mathematical formula, has an inevitable outcome.

I came across a blog in my ‘reader’ this morning. It was by someone who wants to write but was unsure how to start, what to read or maybe, what to write. I wrote this comment.

Read and write, write and read. These are the only words of advice I would ever offer anyone who wants to write. Read, so you learn how other writers go about telling stories. The more you read, the more you will differentiate styles.

Reading will also improve your vocabulary because words are the raw material for writers. Observation is the other important tool in the writer’s toolbox.

Listen to conversations. Hear how people use phrases and convey their meaning. Listen to how people react. Store that information in your writer’s data bank.Then write.

Write everything that comes into your head. If you have a story in mind, write it down.

Sit in your local coffee shop and watch people. write about the people you see: give them a life, an ailment, good or bad news, let them wait for someone, plan a deed, give them a heart attack or trip them up. Maybe they have children or a pet?

Then read what you’ve written. Keep doing these things. Reading books about how to write doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

The only thing that makes sense is writing. And Reading. Then reading and writing.

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