Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent. -- Neil Gaiman
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Learning Your Craft Is Not About Spelling and Grammar

If you want to become the writer you are meant to be, then you must embrace these three truths.

  1. You must make writing a lifestyle
  2. You must learn your craft
  3. You must move forward one piece at a time

In part one of this this three part series, I talked about the importance of making writing a routine part of your life. Here, I will cover the second of these three truths.

Learn Your Craft

The second truth is about learning your craft.

If you keep writing, you will never stop learning, but there are three areas I would like to emphasize which you will want to focus on:

  • storycraft
  • clarity
  • finding your voice

I'm not a purist when it comes to spelling and grammar. Honestly, I believe that if you can talk, you can write. If you don't understand spelling and grammar you'll be limited, but it is not a requirement. You can always hire someone to clean up your writing for you.

What is important is that you have something to say and that you can say it in a compelling way.

If you have only a limited amount of time, then learn storycraft. Storycraft will serve you well whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction.

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston is about the deadly outbreaks of the Ebola Virus. The book was originally published in 1999 and I read it a few years later. It is non-fiction, but I couldn't put it down. It's a truly gripping read.

Of course, the book is even more poignant today. As I write this, the worst Ebola outbreak in history is raging through western Africa.

My point is simply that all great writing benefits from storytelling.

In addition to storycraft, you need clarity in your writing. Don't try to impress your readers with flowery language or high-falutin ideas. Your talent as a writer is to share truth, to communicate new ideas in ways that not only help people understand better, but which seep into them effortlessly.

Research shows that readers perceive a writer as more intelligent when he uses simpler language and smaller words. Make use of readability metrics to determine if your writing is overly complex.

Finally, the third aspect of learning your craft is finding your voice. I will grant you that this can be a challenge. However, if writing is a part of your daily routine, your voice will inevitably find you.

Still, what does it mean to find your voice?

In short, you have found your voice when you are no longer boring.

Pretty simple isn't it!

What we really mean when we talk about voice is that your writing is compelling, that as a reader I feel I can trust you and that I'm intrigued by you enough to keep reading.

There is no one formula to avoid being boring, but there are a lot of guidelines. These guidelines include storycraft and clarity among other things. Don't be afraid to inject some personality into your writing. It doesn't have to be your own authentic personality. It can be a part of you, a role you get to play as the author.

When you can write with a voice, the simplest, most boring subject can be made exciting and intriguing.