It might seem rather presumptuous for anyone to blatantly claim they're going to teach other people how to write. Who am I to teach you anything?
To tell the truth, I don't consider myself an expert or guru in the art or mechanics of fiction writing. This page on how to write is more of an overview of all the ingredients I believe go into quality fiction.
For some, writing a story is a muse-fueled art event where they explore thoughts and feelings and are primarily in it for their own purposes. For others, writing a book is mostly about creating a marketable product by using their natural talents or abilities. There are some people that focus more on the business side of things and their idea of how to write means hiring ghostwriters to pump out fiction as quickly as possible, usually for self-publishing purposes.
The first two methods both seem acceptable to me. The third method is fine for business people, I suppose, but this is not Motley Business, it is Motley Writers.
In order to produce a quality story, from micro flash to epic volume, a writer needs to focus on two things: art and craft. These are the foundations of any type of fiction writing and must be considered before you create your first character or dream up a unique twist that leads to an unexpected conclusion.
What are they?
The Art of Writing
Art is the stuff that not everyone can do. Not everyone can paint like da Vinci or sculpt like Michelangelo. Not everyone can create an epic world like George RR Martin or brand new words and phrases like Shakespeare.
Talent is its mate and many people believe it cannot be taught but must be either intrinsic or cultivated in some organic, holistic method. Art is inspiration and imagination.
Art is taking nothing and turning it into something that means something or has some effect on whoever consumes it. That does not mean it needs to speak to everybody in equal measure. A well-written romance novel that makes the reader swoon and rejoice with the characters can have just as much art in it as a critically acclaimed literary novel.
Art is the story, people that populate it, the places they live, work, and play, and how it all blends together to be greater than the sum of its parts.
Craft of Writing
People who want to be writers can learn the craft from reading, practicing, English usage tutorials or games, or vast university programs dedicated to creative writing. Craft is mechanics. It is how you get the art on the screen or the page in such a way that it conveys meaning and emotion to readers. It is the boring stuff like grammar and spelling but also snuggles up to the realm of art when you talk about things like rhythm, metaphor, pacing, etc. A fiction writer's craft is more mosaic than paint-by-numbers.
In my unscientific research from observing many writers and those still dreaming of becoming writers over the years, many people have the misguided opinion that craft is not an essential thing to learn in order to create something worthwhile or succeed professionally.
One thing I hear a lot is, "That is the editor's job."
No. No, it's not. In order to share your ideas and your characters' stories, you need to know how to do it effectively. You need to know how the gears need to turn inside the music box or no one will ever enjoy the music.
The Learning How to Write Process Explained
Here is the Motley Writers super-duper "Learn How to Write" process:
1 – Read other people's stories in multiple genres. Read non-fiction too.
2 – Write stuff.
3 – Take a class, read a how-to book, listen to a podcast, or peruse writers' groups to learn more about creativity, craft, and the business of writing. Or just come to Motley Writers regularly and check out my blog.
4 – Write more stuff. Keep reading too.
5 – Critique other people's works. This helps your brain figure out what works and what doesn't and gives you practice explaining the whys and hows surrounding good fiction. Also, it helps you meet more writers.
6 – Never stop writing. Or reading.
7 – Put your stuff out there for critique. This may require plate armor, your favorite monster-slaying teddy bear, or just a whole bucketful of guts, but it is a necessary part of becoming a good writer.
Dismiss any critiques that are just plain rude and the ones that are way too fluffy and light. Neither of these helps you. Focus on the ones with actionable tips, but do not change everything based on the opinions of one or two people. Instead, use your intellectual self instead of your emotional self to consider the critique and determine if it is helpful or not.
Does it Ever End?
No. It never ends.
I am a great proponent of lifelong learning. To make an extreme example, if you stop learning how to write in first grade, your stories would be simple and uninteresting to anyone besides your teacher or parent. If you stop reading fiction after the literature classics you were forced to read in high school, anything you write may suffer from the use of old-fashioned methods.