Writing ability comes from skills in reading
Best way to improve your own technique is to examine talents and faults of others in their works of creativity
Published 05/04/2011 | 05:00
I was asked a few years ago if I would consider giving creative writing lessons as an evening class. While being flattered that anyone would consider me fit for such a task, I knew it would be pointless because having attended umpteen such classes myself, I have come to the conclusion that you cannot 'teach' writing. All I could have done was hand out lists of books that I felt were worth reading and then sent everyone home.
Writing comes from within and the best way to learn and improve your own skills is to read, then read more and then keep on reading. Make a list of good authors, go to the library, take out the books, read them and carefully examine how the stories are structured and how they use language. Note the ones you enjoy most and study why this is so.
We can write about anything under the sun but it's usually best to stick to subjects we are familiar with. My favourite authors are people such as John Steinbeck, who wrote brilliantly about the down and outs in 1930s America, or John McGahern, who produced magical tales, all of which were based on his own life and personal experiences. Simple stories but so readable and so moving because the author is being honest with the reader and writing about a subject he knows intimately.
Writing is about communicating ideas and creating mental images in a manner that holds the reader's attention. All aspiring writers long for that elusive phrase or sentence that the reader dwells on, remembers and maybe repeats with pleasure.
There is, of course, a degree of snobbery to be found among the literary brigade and it is only when you attend a writers' weekend that you realise how the various scribes are classified as being good, just average or occasionally brilliant.
Creative writing, where the author creates a story and characters in a manner that grips the reader is a rare skill but it can be learnt if one works at it -- and occasionally the writer earns millions in the process.
Then there is poetry, journalism, essays, letter writing, sports reporting, travel literature, press releases, writing obituaries and even pieces like this, which could be described as an 'opinion piece', but the highest form of writing in the minds of the snobs is the literary novel.