Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Learning 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
You’ll find more “pointers” about how to write <— by taking that link :-) (60 other articles that might help you in your self-education)
Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

Writing Advice Can Often Be Toxic to Writers . . .

I remember when “personal” computers were beginning to appear—when every kid on the block started to become an “expert”—when you could easily trash your shiny, new computer by listening to the wrong people… 

I also remember when publishing books became easier for an individual—when every creative-type started to become a book-guru—when you could easily ruin your tender, longing hopes by listening to the wrong people

Computers have become a bit more robust.

Writing gurus are breeding like rabbits.

I’ve written 57 previous posts that all have something to do with writing advice (if you take that link, you’ll also find this post since I used the same tags…).

Many of those posts caution against certain types of writing advice—some offer what I consider good advice.

I’ll give a few examples of the kind of advice you might want to avoid; then, share a couple links that could, in my opinion, help

There are many ways writing advice can be sincerely given yet still be potentially harmful.

The most common type to avoid (though, I’ve read many and still haven’t been corrupted) are the ones that have a number in the title (apparently, folks who don’t like to work hard to learn something are quite attracted to numbered lists and way too many bloggers share lists in hopes of generating more traffic… [I’ve committed this “sin” myself a few times]).

Here are three examples:

Janet Fitch’s 10 Rules for Writers

Kerouac’s 30 Rules for Writing

Improving Your Fiction: 246 Rules from 28 Modern Writers

If you actually read those articles, you may find many tips ( or, “rules” ) that indeed help you in your writing; however

Learning to write by learning lists of “rules” can easily lead to stilted, contrived, or unnatural writing.

You can make a list of things to buy at the grocery store and make the effort to go there and get all the ingredients; but, they need to be combined properly—you must have a “grand plan” for your cooking to produce a great meal

It’s laughingly ironic to me that my all-time favorite writer of novels, C. J. Cherryh, actually produced a list called Writerisms and other Sins.

Yet, the final tip in that list was NO RULE SHOULD BE FOLLOWED OFF A CLIFF.

Perhaps the best advice I could give to writers is, if you feel you must read lists of tips, please do yourself a huge favor and devour a story from an accomplished writer for every single tip you ingest

And, if you just have to read a whole book of writing advice (and, you intend to write a novel), check out this article—Ever Wondered How An Author Actually Writes A Novel?

One last bit of writing advice:

Go read this articleHow To Read Like A Writer.
Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
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For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

So You Think You’re A Writer…

So, maybe you are a writer; or, you fondly hope you might be…

Reading Like A Writer

Reading Like A Writer

How do you confirm whether you really are a writer or whether you might actually be able to become one?

One idea would be to write something and ask your friends…

Perhaps that’s not a good idea—if they really are your friends, they might just tell you the truth…

So, do you think they’d say you’re a good writer; or, would they suggest some other hobby you should pursue?

Another idea would be to ask yourself—your deepest self—if you’re a writer…

The worst that could happen is that your self might say no…

Can you live with that?

What if you think you could learn to be a writer?

How would you go about studying the art?

Please, oh please, don’t say take a course in creative writing.

Perhaps, you’ve already committed yourself to being a writer; perhaps, already published a book or two.

Do you honestly, deeply feel you’re a real writer?

I don’t mean the feeling that you could be a better writer—I mean the feeling that what you’ve already written qualifies as something a real writer does…

One suggestion—whether you want to be a writer or are one—one insider tip about the process of becoming a writer: read this past post—How To Read Like A Writer.

Also, I suggest you read the book that post is about—Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.).

If you can’t do either of those suggestions, try reading this Wikipedia article about Reading Like A Writer.

If you can’t do that, try listening to this talk by Francine Prose, the author of Reading Like A writer

One little hint about learning to write, for those who can’t do any of my suggestions—you must read all the good authors you can get your hands on if you ever hope to learn to write…

But, please, oh please, don’t read their books about how to write…

O.K., I’ve done my good deed for the day—back to writing my next book………
Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

Oh, No! Not More Advice About How To Write!!

I’ve read very few books about how to write.


Image courtesy of sanja gjenero ~

But, I have read tons of books that were well-written—they taught me how to write.

Plus, writing stuff till it “sounded right” helped.

Then, there was that find you own writing voice period

And, I’ve blogged about writing advice and the dangers of accepting most of it.

Perhaps, my most useful post, so far, is Bad Advice for Writers = Most Advice for Writers.

Then there are the other 42 posts I’ve done about writing advice >>> this post will show up at the top of that list since I tagged it with “writing advice”—just scroll down for more :-)

So, there’s this guy called Leo Babauta—“blogger, journalist, and published author”—used to write about productivity then switched to writing about minimalism

He has a blog called ZenHabits and wrote an article called, What I’ve Learned as a Writer.

Do go to that link and read what he wrote—I’ll list his main points here and give my opinions:

“Write every damn day.”

O.K., not bad advice; but, please don’t feel bad if you skip one or four or seven.

“Create a blog if you don’t have one.”

Leo mentions something I also think about blogs—they might help you write every day; but, if you get a readership and don’t stick to some schedule, you may lose those readers…

“Write plainly.

Well Let’s say write as plainly as the topic demands. Some themes and plots demand something a bit above “plain”.

“Don’t write just to hear yourself talk.

Perhaps Unless hearing yourself talk is important for knowing what you need to write about.

“Nearly everything can be shortened.


“Fear stops most potential writers.

Again, yep.

“Read regularly for inspiration.

Three yeps in a row.

“Procrastination is your friend.

Considering that the etymology of procrastination has a root that means “belonging to tomorrow—forward”, it sure seems that some of my writing did belong to my mind and heart after they lived through a day or so more

“Have people expect your writing.

This might give you the motivation to keep writing; or, it may scare your wits to a frazzle.

“Email is an excuse.


“Writing tools don’t matter.

Well, most of them don’t matter; except, perhaps:

A good text editor like Jarte (free).

A decent word processor like LibreOffice (which is also free).

And, the Writing Tool of all writing tools, Scrivener (free trial and cheap at any price).

“Jealousy is idiotic.

Yeah, a writer should be creating their own gig, not worrying that they can’t write like someone else.

“Writing can change lives.

I agree and end the post with Leo’s comment on that last topic:

one thing I’ve learned, above all, is this: the life that my writing has changed more than any other is my own.”
To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
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