I’d like to begin with this disclaimer: What follows are only my personal opinions, developed through my own experience writing books and listening to many other writers. You may disagree with some or all, and not be wrong. So read this with a grain of salt, or whatever the literary equivalent might be.
Don’t Practice Writing – Write!
If your objective is to write a book, write a book. Don’t waste time on writing exercises or journals just for practice, unless you specifically want to write those things instead of, or in addition to, your book. If your book isn’t perfect – and let’s face it, it won’t be – improve and develop it with future drafts.
If you need that much help learning how to construct proper sentences and paragraphs, you should probably reconsider your project. Lack of strong, traditional writing technique, however, does not mean you should not write. Use your limitations as if you intended to write that way all along. Make it your style. Some very badly written books have done very well commercially, to the chagrin of many authors who write the way you’re “supposed to“. Write – always. But choose projects that best reflect your abilities at the time.
Finishing your first draft is the biggest part of the writing process. That said, your first draft will be full of typos, errors, things you omitted and other things you should have left out altogether. There will undoubtedly be lots of ideas you could have phrased better. But be of good cheer. That’s why they’re called drafts, and not finished works.
You cannot proofread a manuscript too many times. You can, however, edit away the effect you originally hoped to create in your reader. By trying too hard to conform to the so-called rules of writing, or manuals of style, it is all too easy to lose that style, that literary art, in favor of producing a typical high school English class assignment. Not all sentences need to be even and concise. Sometimes passive voice reads more appropriately than active. Remember that splitting infinitives used to be a big no-no; now it’s the norm. Manuscripts can always be improved upon. Just don’t let the quest for the perfect ruin the perfectly good enough.
Avoid pandering or worrying about whom you might offend. If you have to think about whether you are being inclusive enough, you have already lost the plot. Write books you are pleased to read back, regardless of whether everyone else in the world will feel the same way.
There is a tendency, particularly among aspiring writers, to add a dash of fairy dust to the art of writing as well as to the lives of their admired authors. This, to my mind, is pure fantasy. Writing is…writing. It is putting pen to paper, fingertips to keyboard or voice to microphone. Idolized authors got that way by applying butt to chair and words to paper. They produced. Enchantment rarely enters into it. That said, I would still love to have been a fly on Gertrude Stein’s wall…
Joel Bresler is the author of
which Is FREE on Amazon Worldwide from 5th to 9th October, as part of a BookBub Special Promotion.