Good writing has the knack of making you forget you’re reading carefully crafted fiction. It involves you emotionally with the characters and their predicament.
So, how is that done? First, you need to master the basic of grammar and layout, so that you don’t irritate your readers. Which is not to say that you must always be grammatically correct – but you do need to know the rules in order to flout them to good effect.
There are two rules of writing that should never be broken:
1. Read voraciously and analytically
2. Write every day
You don’t have to set a word limit, just make sure you write something. Stephen King used to say that he allowed himself birthdays and public holidays off, but in his book On Writing he admitted that he was lying. He never took time off. Every day is a writing day. The more you use words – the more you learn to manipulate them – the more you will master their power and their beauty.
Enrich your reading by going to library and bookshop readings, attend festivals, listen to authors, ask them about their writing process. You will hear widely differing – even conflicting – opinions, but they will help you to learn your craft, as well as giving you pointers as to what might work for you. You might be surproised how hard the best writers work at their art. At one reading I attended, Irish writer John Banville admitted that he wrote ‘at a glacial rate’, editing and re-editing until he was reasonably happy that he’d achieved what he set out to achieve in a chapter, a scene, a paragraph – a sentence. Even the great PD James seeks out editorial comment. I was delighted at a literary fair to hear her say in conversation with Nina Bawden: ‘One is always very grateful for editorial comment.’
The art of writing is, in fact, rewriting. You have to learn to love the editorial process.
And finally, as a wise old scholar once said, the art of fiction is the application of bottom to seat. If you’re the kind of person who is ‘too busy’ to sit down and write, then you need to be honest with yourself – you really don’t want to write. If you want it enough, if you’re passionate enough, you’ll make the time.