Yes, of course, you have to write a lot in order to learn to write. Also, you have to read a lot in order to learn to write. You really can’t avoid either of these two basic things. (Not to mention if you are skipping these things…um, why do you want to be a writer in the first place?)
But, in my opinion, you can also learn about craft. I was once at a writing conference (SIWC, to be exact) and James Scott Bell, in his talk, said something like this:
Let’s say you want to learn to perform brain surgery. Would people advise you to simply jump in, start practising brain surgery, mess about, see if you can figure it out? Would they say: Sure, you’ll make lots of mistakes, but eventually, you’ll get it right! (Ludicrous, right? No, first, you would learn the skills.)
I like this analogy quite a lot, obviously. And not just because of the medical connection.
Personally, I like books about craft. With one caveat: as long as that’s not all you’re doing. Because it’s a great procrastination tool, simply reading about writing, and not actually doing any of the writing yourself.
In this blog, I’m going to mention quite a few of my fave writing books. Here’s one:
Scene & Structure, by Jack Bickham.
Elizabeth Lyon recommended this book to me a few years ago. I’ve found it supremely helpful, for crafting solid, compelling scenes. Some writing books aim to give you a comprehensive overview of everything you need to know to write a novel. This book breaks down only one aspect–the building blocks of fiction: scenes. It’s a slim book, as a result, but excellent.
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