Storytelling: Is it better to read books about the craft and then write your stories or just write then learn principles before editing?


A part of me feels like reading about writing stories may distract me from getting anything done because I want to make sure I know enough, but at the same time, if I learn about it first, it will boost my confidence in my writing.  

7 Answers

  • 4 weeks ago

    The key to getting better at something is to consistently practice it. So keep writing and learn about the craft as you go. That way, you can make tweaks where you need to, and strengthen as you learn and apply to your writing what you learn. 

    Personally, I have found that the more obsessed with crafting I got, the less I wrote due to feeling like I wanted to have it "all together". I got overwhelmed believing that my storytelling ability wasn't good enough and I ended up losing focus on what my real passion was---writing! Truth is, all authors have different methods and the right one is the one that works for you.

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  • Those things are not mutually exclusive. If you have a desire to write and stories to tell - you write (and all the while, you should also be reading). As you learn more of the craft - if your earlier stories were good - you can rework them into something better.

    There are too many questions like this on Yahoo Answers (not just in Books & Authors) that sound like stalling. Just write.

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  • Amber
    Lv 5
    1 month ago

    There is no hard and fast rule because learning is different for everyone and the craft can get very complicated and takes years to learn and master everything. Too many people get caught up in the learning so they know a lot but can't put any of it into practice because they haven't written anything. Things like structure, language, grammar, punctuation can all be learnt as you go it's not like you have to be a master at that. Plenty of writers who are successful haven't mastered it (Brandon Sanderson cough cough). You prefect that later, once it's written. No need for it to be perfect the first time.

    You best bet is to understand the foundations of writing first and put those into practice with short stories or novellas. Once you feel confident then just introducing more complex tools into your work. Start off simple and find your feet. Learn the basics of plot structure and pacing. Learn the basics of character (want, goal, motivation, needs, fears). Learn the basics of scene setting and tone. 

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  • 1 month ago

    There's not a single approach to writing well that works for everyone.

    For instance, I rarely got anything from books about writing; most of my slow improvements came from qualified critique and rewrites. I've given every writing book away.

    But my writing friends include those who devoured quite a few books on writing before they started or very early in the process.

    Since a short story isn't a huge investment of time and effort, consider writing one, showing it to no one, then writing a second version after you've read a how-to book. When the second draft is complete, read another book and revise or rewrite based on what you've learned.

    Keep each version separate, and later, read the first draft and the last. You'll marvel at the improvement.

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  • 1 month ago

    Basically writing is an art of last resort.

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  • 1 month ago

    My advice is to do both at the same time.

    First of all, theory is usually better learned while combined with practise. For some things, while you've read about the technique and understand it, it can take time to learn how to implement it, and especially to the point where it comes naturally to you.

    Second of all, it's best to start good writing habits as early on as possible. Might as well use the time spent on writing those first 80,000 words as writing technique practise as well.

    Thirdly, it will save you a lot of time when editing. Even for something simple and relatively easy fixed.

    Let's say you're one of those newbie writers who cannot write a line of dialogue without adding a dialogue tag with an -ly adverb (hesitantly, silently, angrily, happily etc.). When you're ready to edit, you study the craft and learn that they are best avoided (one here and there is okay), and then you suddenly find yourself having to fix hundreds of tags. Whereas had you known from the beginning, you could have avoided them and instead practised writing good dialogue tags and action beats as you went along.

    And finally, as someone who has been writing for more than 20 years, I can honestly say that you never stop learning about the craft. So it definitely don't wait until you feel you know enough, because that point might never truly come.

    Remember to get feedback on your writing. When I first started out, I joined an online writing workshop/group and the constructive feedback I got there taught me how to write more than anything else. This is also why the ability to take criticism and use it to learn is so very important if you want to learn how to write well.

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  • Cogito
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    You should have read hundreds of novels, as well as a few 'advice' books about how to write a good novel, and have really mastered the English language before starting to write yourself.

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