Learning How To Write

As a student of Spanish, my goal was to think in Spanish. Skip the word-by-word translation so I'd have the necessary speed to speak and listen. I know words in Spanish that I'd be hard pressed to translate. Usually profanity, I confess. Chingow!

For years my students here in China have studied grammar, and know it better than you or I. They read. They write. But speaking involves moving faster than that. In conversation, we don't have time to write it first and make sure it's all grammatically flawless, then read it aloud, perhaps after a bit of rehearsal.

So, I try to give them a chance to practice putting words together on the fly, rules be damned. The rules they've internalized will kick in and keep them comprehensible, which will build their confidence in their ability to keep creating conversation that way.

This is not unlike what we go through as authors. First we study rulebooks, perhaps take some classes, and conclude just about everything we're is doing is wrong. So many rules to memorize. We might dread sitting down to write with all those constraints.

But really, it's not about memorizing rules at all. It's about internalizing the rules, following them (or not if you prefer) without being consciously aware of what they are. They're there, but in the background.

The story's what matters. You're supposed to be having fun, not "working." At least not during the creation phase.

We don't always take the time to say, "I've written ten active sentences in a row so maybe I'll whip in a passive one now" or "I need a beat for every X lines of dialogue." I published four novels and edited dozens more before I learned what a beat was. (It's a pause so the reader can catch his/her breath.)

And, of course, since it is writing and not speaking, we can always go back and revise later. Then rely on editors to catch what we missed, or at least make us wonder why we wrote it this way instead of that way.

Some authors aren't even consciously aware of "the rules." They've never taken a class, never read a book about writing. They're simply avid readers who one day decided to write. But they've internalized the rules as well. It comes from reading.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you want to write, you must read. If you don't like reading, maybe writing isn't for you. It's not about writing because you want to say, "I am a writer." It's about writing because you enjoy writing.

And, it's really nice when you've been writing for a long time to go back and read a book about how to write. You might find one or two things to tweak in your technique, as opposed to a daunting laundry list of flaws. It's much easier to internalize one or two new rules than 50 or 100!

Copyright 2004, Michael LaRocca

Michael LaRocca's website at http://www.chinarice.org was chosen by WRITER'S DIGEST as one of The 101 Best Websites For Writers in 2001 and 2002. His response was to throw it out and start over again because he's insane. He teaches English at a university in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, and publishes the free weekly newsletter WHO MOVED MY RICE?


Free Quran in All Languages

Free Tafsir Books

The Heart of the Delay: Harnessing The Wisdom of Procrastination (AKA Writers Block)

I am sure that at in some era, at some... Read More

Writers can Grow to be Comfortable with Criticism

On my first newspaper assignment as a critic, I was... Read More

How To Co-Publish For Profits!

The Benefits of Co-Publishing There are a number of publishers,... Read More

The Writers Angst

What is this annoying, insidious angst that permeates my psyche?... Read More

Increase Your Chances Of Winning Writing Contests

Winning writing contests can provide several advantages to writers. For... Read More

If You Want to Succeed As a Writer, Dont Just Think It, Do It

It never ceases to amaze me when a prospective writer... Read More

Keeping a Journal - One of the Three Treasures to Leave Behind

(excerpted from the "How to Use a Journal" audio series... Read More

Knock-Out Writers Block: Listening To Your Inner Voice

When I was young, I used to talk to myself.... Read More

Five Tips to Find More Time for Your Writing Life

When I asked new ezine subscribers, "What is your Number... Read More

The Magic of Layout in Your Story

"The Magic of Layout..."???Okay... "magic" might seem a bit over... Read More

Increase Your Web Traffic By Using Keyword Articles

If you have an online home based business you know... Read More

Writers Block is No Longer a Problem

"If you're like me, than I'm sure you're pretty familiar... Read More

A Few Brief Tips to Deal with Writing Rejection

What to do when you get rejected.You've just finished your... Read More

Vary Your Writing Style and Win Readers

First drafts are for getting down the ideas. Anna Jacobs... Read More

Groundbreaking Work

Every writer knows that the urge to write is not... Read More

8 Quick Tips on Creating Vivid, Memorable Characters

These 8 tips on using characters in your stories will... Read More

Characters In A Romance Novel

Before you even begin writing your novel, you need to... Read More

7 Devastating Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Writing engaging articles and energizing ad copy takes... Read More

Why Every Freelance Writer Needs A Website

What do you mean, you don't have a website yet?... Read More

Learn to Write Like a Pro

Many writers write for the experience. Others dream of having... Read More

Publish Your Novel on the First Try

Rejection. This scary word plagues virtually every writer this side... Read More

Have You Plotted Your Story Before Writing It?

Creative Writing Tips ?The writer, who doesn't have the time... Read More

Writing About Writing

What am I going to write about?Which topic is the... Read More

Making Freelance Writing Niche Types Fit: A Few Niche Types by Definition and Description

Our Freelance Writing Needs DefinedWe must make freelance niche types... Read More

Writing Made Them Rich #4: Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho was born on August 24th 1947 in Rio... Read More