Oftentimes, for beginner writers, the craft part of writing escapes them. They write a story without giving much thought to the skillful part of it. The definition of craft: " a job or activity that requires special skill" From Merriam-Webster online.
A special skill--and there are several when it comes to writing. The first, likely, that comes to any writer is their sense of story. The ability to turn on the creativity switch in your brain and write the story that's brewing in your mind. That takes skill. To craft a story, but where the skill really comes in is to give it meaning to the reader, to accomplish telling it in a pleasing manner.
It sounds easy enough. But typing the last word of the first draft is only just the beginning. And oftentimes (most of the time) a beginner doesn't realize that.
When I wrote my first story (all 700+ pages of it) I was sure I'd written the next great American masterpiece. One day, while talking with my sister in law, she told me she'd been to the local library and met a woman who had recently been published. That was back in the day when self-publishing was sort of a Jetsons-like future. Anyway, the woman told my sister in law that when she wrote her book (it was her first) that she thought she'd be published in a flash because it was so good. But...it took her ten years to have a publisher accept her manuscript.
While I listened to my brother's wife regale me with this other writer's story, I was smugly confident that the poor author must not have written a good book at all-- for it to have taken ten years! And though she stated that all authors should expect to struggle to find a publisher, to have rewrite after rewrite after rewrite be part of the process, to cut chapters and characters and favorite parts, to accept criticism without getting hurt, and to be tough enough to not give up, I knew that would not be the case for me. My book was good. It would be a breeze. My publishing story wasn't going to be anything like hers.
Little did I know... That was eight and a half years ago; I'm still unpublished. A lot of the reason for that isn't continued rejection letters. Nope. Actually the biggest part of the reason is that I've slowed down to learn the craft...to get it right.
These are some things I've learned about the writing craft along the way, and if I could visit myself 8 1/2 years ago, these are things I would tell me:
Set aside your ego. Seriously. You don't know as much as you think you do.In fact, you know a pittance of what you need to know.
Become a sponge. Absorb advice that's offered. Yes, you can take it with a grain of salt, and you'll become better at knowing which advice is sound and which isn't as you continue your writing journey. Know this--the worst that can happen is that the helpful soul giving you advice won't know what they're talking (writing) about. But advice to writers from writers, in my experience, is never given out with malice. It's offered with good intentions. You'll learn a lesson in everything if you're open to it.
Read. Read. Read. I read that advice way back in my early stages of writing, before every writer and his brother had a blog offering advice (I know...I know. We're a dime a dozen these days). It was another piece of advice that I eschewed. But you know what? It's darned good advice. The deeper you get into the craft, the more you learn by reading other authors' writing.
Read Stephen King's "On Writing" for starters. And though The Elements of Style is antiquated, you should read it. It still serves some genres quite well.
Read blogs on the craft. Read writing gurus' advice. If you don't know of any, look to the right on this blog and you'll see a list of "Writing Resources". It's a very small list, but there are many, many, many more excellent writers other than those listed, who dole out free advice. The first place I'd start is at Writers Helping Writers (formerly The Bookshelf Muse) Become a regular visitor to The Grammar Girl's website.
And continue to seek out other writers. Another good place to find help, encouragement, and small doses of constructive criticism is Weekend Writing Warriors where participants share 8 sentences of their writing each Sunday. No long term commitments. It's free.
The online writing community is full of people willing to help other writers with their craft. Visit other April Blogging from A to Z Challenge by clicking here.