Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: Learning How To Write

“How to Become a Writer”


I put the title of this post in quotes because I needed some way to indicate that I was not going to be giving you the End-All-Be-All method for becoming a writer.

Though, actually, if I give in to the urge to generalize, all you have to do to become a writer is to read as many good writers as you can while also writing until it stops sounding like crap

I should add that “read as many good writers as you can” does not mean reading what they say about how to write

Some folks will tell you “Just use the Internet.”—Everything is on it, right?—and, here’s a link to start you on that hazardous journey

Other folks might tell you to get an MFA (in the USA…)—I did a post about that called, ” I Don’t Have to Pay for an MFA in Creative Writing ? “.

Also, that last link will let folks in countries other than the USA do, for free, what folks here do when they pay tens of thousands of dollars for an MFA (Master of Fine Arts); though, doing it for free doesn’t let you go on to teach others “How to Become a Writer”

But, no matter what method someone uses to become a writer, there’s one helluva lot of learning involved.

I recently came across an article by Allison Beckert called Self-Education for Writers.

And, I’ll share a few excerpts that I hope will encourage you to go read the full article:

The lifeblood of any skill or talent is continued growth.”

Continuing education should be a priority for anyone hoping to produce quality writing.”

“A good place to start would be listing topics of interest, or subjects about writing about which you know little…”

“Also, throw some research topics in there for subjects to write about…”

“Here are a few general study types:

  • Lecture/Seminar
  • Online Class
  • Instructional Book
  • Textbook
  • Example analysis”

Allison goes on to explore some of those types of study then says:

“Finally, study for retention. All the lessons in the world don’t matter unless they’re remembered, either as fact or as a valued skill.”

Allison may not be the world’s best writer and I’m certainly not; but, she brings a sense of Reality to learning how to write that’s a relief from all the Overblown Hype that’s out there
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You’ll find more “pointers” about how to write <— by taking that link :-) (60 other articles that might help you in your self-education)
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Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
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The Very Best Way To Learn To Be A Writer?


I’ll answer the question in that title up there at the end of the post

On the way to answering it, I’ll give you a few ways to tap into what this blog has said about the issue in its nearly three years of publication.

First, is to scroll down the left side-bar to Top Tags and click on writing advice <— or, click that link :-)

The next way would be to look toward the top right of this blog and find the search box—then, type in the words “how to write<— or, click that link—or, put some other phrase in the search box that more nearly describes what you want to know

If you’d like to hear from an archetypical aspiring writer who’s reaching out for help, try this particular post:

Letter from A Neglected Writer

Or, if you’d like my opinion on books about how to write, try this post:

Learning How To Be An Author Means Much More Than Reading About How To Write

And, even though I feel there’s much more to learning to write than reading about how to learn to write, my Best Friend gave me a link to a great place to find books on the subject—as of this writing, 139 books:

Poets & Writers Best Books for Writers

So, my answer to the question in the title of this post?

Go ahead and read a few books about writing—read as many as it takes to get tired of reading about how to write.

Then, write—then, write—then, write

And, while doing all that writing, read some of the best writers you can find—but, don’t read what they said about how to write—read their novels or short stories or poetry

And, finally, write
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Can You Talk Back To A Famous Author?


“You can’t teach people to write well.”

I barely scratched the surface on this topic back in September in the post, The “Self”-Education of Writers . . .

That quote about not being able to teach someone to write well is from an article by Kurt Vonnegut back in 1967—Teaching the Unteachable

I thought of putting a few more snippets from the article here but then saw a thread on Google Plus about it.

So to get you in the mood to either agree with Kurt or argue with him, I’ll put a few of the comments from that thread here:

Brian Meeks 19:33
I loved that article! Thanks so much for posting it. I live near, and work (occasionally) in Iowa City. That may be part of why I liked the article, but mostly I just enjoyed…what else…the writing.
I especially enjoyed the bit about poetry writers v. prose writers.
Great find!

William Morton 19:49
KV’s essay is flawed from the first line forward. I would reference the work of Betty Edwards. KV was a cranky old fart. People can be learnt to write better.

Amy Knepper 20:15
to Monika Ullian — Considering I married a preacher and I’m approaching middle life, there were several points I thought were jaded and condescending. I got a chuckle out of it though. At least I can recognize it (and my local writers guild is full of the same combination of people).

Renee Bennett 21:23
I’m minded of a comment from somewhere (sorry, don’t remember who at the moment) that very cynically divided writing groups into two classes of people: those who wanted to write, and those who wanted to have written.

Torah Cottrill 21:39
Best quote: The idea of a conference for prose writes is an absurdity. They don’t confer, can’t confer. It’s all they can do to drag themselves past one another like great, wounded bears.

Check out the thread on G+ for more… [Edit: since I first wrote this the thread responses have grown :-) ]

So what’s your take—Can creative writing be taught??
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The “Self”-Education of Writers . . .


I must begin this post by making it clear that many fine writers have completed what’s considered a full education—appropriate degrees and banners flying high.

Yet, many other fine writers have tasted the fare of society’s brand of learning and decided, sometimes seemingly “against their will”, to set their own sails on their own ship of pedagogy.

I, for instance, tried college three times—thrice found it wanting—am still a devoted learner

Many are the writers whose education—beyond that which is learned from living fully and authentically—comes from reading other writers—their creative fiction, not books about how to write.

From the previous post, How To Read Like A Writer—here’s a quote of me quoting Maria Popova who’s quoting Francine Prose from her book, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them:

Concerning writers reading to learn how to write—”…the connection has to do with whatever mysterious promptings make you want to write. It’s like watching someone dance and then secretly, in your own room, trying out a few steps.”

“You will do yourself a disservice if you confine your reading to the rising star whose six-figure, two-book contract might seem to indicate where your own work should be heading.”

“The only time my passion for reading steered me in the wrong direction was when I let it persuade me to go to graduate school….I left graduate school and became a writer.”

And, concerning authors who stopped their schooling, FlavorWire has an article called, 10 Famous Authors Who Dropped Out of School.

Harper Lee who dropped out during her junior year of university.

Augusten Burroughs, dropped out at age 13.

Charles Dickens, forced out of school at 12 to work long hours for little pay, returned to school, yet many feel his early working days color his writing.

Jack Kerouac dropped out during his freshman year from football injuries.

William Faulkner dropped out at 15 and again at 22.

Mark Twain was forced out of school at 12 due to his father’s death and the need to work for the family.

George Bernard Shaw, dropped out at 14 and once wrote, “Schools and schoolmasters, as we have them today, are not popular as places of education and teachers, but rather prisons and turnkeys in which children are kept to prevent them disturbing and chaperoning their parents.”

H.G. Wells, out at 11 due do his father’s injury.

Jack London, out at 13.

Can you share others in the Comments?

Did you also drop out of school?
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Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
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