So I’ve been delving into the strange world of Tumblr. I said for years I didn’t understand it. Then I got into the Merlin fandom, started poking around, realized that no one understood Tumblr, and started using it a lot.
So this floated across my dashboard today:
If Tumblr frightens you, the answer I wrote is here:
The question was, “how do write good,” (sic) and Maureen Johnson gave a succinct answer I felt could use some elaboration.
Write. Write more. Ask for constructive criticism. Cry. Get angry. Do what they say. See how it makes it better. Buy your editor/beta reader/tolerant friend flowers or chocolate or something and then write more.
Read. Read amazing writers, read amazing storytellers, note that sometimes the two things aren’t the same. When something you read makes you happy, think about why.
Then write more. Write nonfiction. Write short paragraphs. Write drabbles. Write poetry. Write short fanfiction. Or long. Or your own stories. Write what moves you. Explain things to people with your writing.
Read about writing. Read about language. Read about structure. Read about why things work, why they don’t. Understand the rules. Write until your editor only makes small changes in grammar (and sometimes they’re wrong and you know it but you always listen because if it caught their attention something about the flow is probably off.)
And ultimately? Break rules if there’s a good reason to. Don’t let other people’s ideas about writing get in the way of good storytelling. A few million words in, you’re going to know to your bones when you need to be scrupulously formal and when you need to throw that to the wind because that character over there? He says “Ain’t” a lot, and no one speaks in complete sentences all the time.
But throw all that out the window for a moment, because you can stick your face in a computer screen for decades and never live enough to have a damn thing worth writing about. Go out into the world. Experience love. Experience failure. Have crowning moments of awesome and be crushed by devastating tragedy. Feel the wind on your elbows and smell things that no one should ever have to smell. Think about how you would tell these things to someone else, about how you would help them experience what you’ve experienced.
When you know enough about writing and life to be able to put someone else in your shoes and have them feel the blisters? You’ll write good.