I get asked this question from time to time and people are amazed at my answer. Some would think the outline. Others would say just to write what you're thinking. Still others would say, write whatever comes to mind and edit it later. Someone else would say to take a writing course. They would all be wrong, in my opinion.
Does that shock you? It does most people. While those things are helpful in their own way, none of them, in my opinion, are the most important part of writing. You see, writing is the art of using language to communicate an idea or paint a picture in the mind of another person. Now that I have made you think, I will tell you what the most important part of writing is to me.
Reading. That's right! Reading grows your vocabulary. Nobody wants to read a story, nor even a textbook, which is repetitive. A strong vocabulary helps to paint a much more vibrant picture for your readers. I have to check myself, at times, to make sure I don't use the same word or phrase too often.
Reading increases your imagination. The art of storytelling is more than information. It is elaborating on an idea and making it come alive. Have you ever read a book and thought, “What a battle that was?”, or “That must have been exciting”. That means the book you read was more than just words on a page. It was an adventure that you participated in. If you did not join in the experience, the writer missed the mark. Our job is to make you want to share the exploits. For that we need to grow our own imagination.
Reading the stories written by others, introduces us to different styles and helps us to develop our own, unique way of spinning a windy. (Telling a story) They also give you insight into what makes a story interesting, not just to yourself, but to other readers as well.
Let's not think on reading as simply a learning experience though. Reading is fun, relaxing and exhilarating! I've traveled through time into a strange future with H.G. Wells. I've ridden the western trails with men like Louis L'Amour, William Johnstone and Zane Grey, enjoying every escapade. As the reader I participated in every gun-battle, fantastic voyage and plot twist, never knowing what comes next, but wanting to turn the page and find out. I want to take my readers on adventures of their own, with the characters I create.
If you truly want to learn how to write, read some books in your genre and take some adventures for yourself. Then, you can be a better guide for your reader's treks through the stories you create.
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