Thought for the Day – Learning

Throught of the DayFor about ten years, I searched for a manuscript for a western novel I had written in my late teens. It had been packed away when I moved. I knew it was here—somewhere—in a box. I just had to open the right one.

Looking back to that time in my youth, I recalled I had written a good story. I had done extensive research on the old west, read several western novels and even took notes when I went horseback riding. I knew it was a gem. It would need a little editing, and it would be ready for readers.

When I finally found the manuscript, I was a little disappointed. It wasn’t as well-written as I remembered. To be honest, it was poorly written and would need extensive editing. My punctuation and sentence structure was okay, but far below my current writing ability. I read only about 20 pages (all hand-written) before I put it on a shelf and marked it as a future project.

I’ve read a lot of stories in the past five years that are equal in quality to that western novel. They were written by hopeful authors who wanted to be published. If they are like me, they might think it is a gem, but honestly, it is a stepping stone in the world of writing. We all have them.

The key to continuing on the writing path is to keep learning and to keep striving to be better than your last piece of writing. (Notice I said, better than your last piece of writing, not better than your favourite novelist or any other author.). If you want to be a writer, it’s vital to learn the basics: punctuation, grammar, spelling and capitalization.

The learning doesn’t end there. Keep reading and learning about character development, plot, setting, dialogue, transition…the list goes on. Just when you think you have written the best story ever, put it away for a spell. Learn more about the craft of writing, and then take out that story and read it again. See if it can be improved.

It baffles me that some writers who want to be published don’t take the time to learn even the basics: punctuation, capitalization, spelling, grammar. The truth may sound cruel, but I’ll be honest with you: you might be the best story teller in the world, but if you can’t translate that story into a readable manuscript, then you will never be published.

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11 thoughts on “Thought for the Day – Learning

  1. I rather like going back to stories written in the last couple of years and revamping them in the light of what I have learnt. It makes me think my writing is actually becoming better, with more depth. And it often surprises me how a story can take a new direction making it into a new work rather than one that is revised and tweaked.

    • I completely agree. I have several stories complete or half complete, just sitting there waiting for when I can get to them. When I do, I’ll be in a different place than when I first conceived them. It will be interesting to see what new direction they take.

  2. Great points here Di. No doubt you were surprised at an old MS. As time passes with all our writing and reading we are bound to grow. Still, it’s nice to look back, and at least you have some bones to work with. 🙂

    • I do have the bones for a future story. I really liked the concept of it, and I love the old west. I just have to watch “Young Guns” again (for the ump-teenth time) and I’m right there, loving it all over again. Honestly, I can’t get enough of Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid. Which reminds me, I haven’t seen that movie for more than 20 years. I’m overdue to see it again.

  3. My publisher has asked me to go over my first two books as she is using a new printer. I am amazed at how much I have learned since those first two books. I am still learning….

    • We are all still learning, Darlene. I think if we stopped, we’d become stale. I think it’s a great exercise to read our past novels; it is a great way to show us how far we’ve come. Thanks for visiting.

  4. We always think we’re so much better in the beginning than we really are. Maybe that’s a good thing because it keeps us going. If we knew the real truth we might quit before we ever get good enough for publication. That’s on thing I try to impress upon people, the fact that it takes time to improve your craft. Great post!

    • I agree, Laura. We all do. There’s definitely a long learning curve. Perhaps it is the thought that we are writing well that keeps us going. That’s a good point. Thanks for visiting.

  5. I have taught creative writing classes for many years, and some of my(non-writing) friends can’t understand why some of my students have taken classes with me for years. “Haven’t they learned how to write yet?” they ask with a bit of distain and impatience. They don’t understand that writing (like any music performance or art form) can only keep improving, keep getting better and stronger and deeper, the more you ‘practice.’

    • Thank you for visiting. It is a challenge to explain to those who don’t write the idea that we must keep learning to write. After all, everyone can write. I accept this attitude because they aren’t ‘in the profession’. It’s like me not fully understanding what’s involved in taking a song from an idea to a completed recording, ready for the public. (Yet I know there is a lot of work behind the scenes.)

      The sad part is some writers don’t see that learning is a constant thing. I’ve sampled online books–supposedly complete, edited stories–that were in desperate need of help. The writers appear to have no interest in learning even the basics. I can somewhat forgive story flaws and holes, crazy and cardboard characters and plots that don’t impress, but there is no excuse for constant mistakes that reveal they can’t write. My eyes roll when I see things like ‘dose’ for ‘does’, ‘were’ for ‘we’re’, ‘through’ for ‘threw’, random capital letters in the middle of sentences, mangled and incomplete sentences, and my favourite, large blocks of text in one paragraph even though several people are talking.

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