Writing courses and seminars can be both instructional and motivational. The lecturers (often authors themselves) can pass on some useful tips and can assist with the technicalities of constructing characters and plot. They can give advice on how to write dialogue and pass on the tricks of the trade as well as provide guidance on publishing. Often such talks can be inspirational and motivational. For me, while I didn't attend any creative writing courses I did go to seminars given by authors, which I found helpful.
The only way to 'learn how to write' is to write, and also to read. Reading helps you to understand what shapes novels.
The key to successful writing is very much a process of trial and error and finding what works for you, of keeping an open mind, and not being afraid to experiment. Try writing from different points of view, i.e. from a female viewpoint and then a male viewpoint, in the first person and then third person. If you don't have a clear genre in mind then try different genres.
All writers approach their work differently so there is no right or wrong way of writing. Some authors plan their novels from start to finish, others improvise as they go along. I tend to do the latter. I start with an idea, often inspired by a location, I work up sketchy profiles of a couple of characters, often the victim in my case as I write crime novels, and then I get cracking on the novel and wait for the characters to start talking and acting, which in turn drives the plot and a shape begins to emerge.
Writers need to have a keen interest in humanity, along with good observational skills and an ear for conversations.
Watch people's body language, see how they move, react, speak. Observe conditions – the weather, scenery, street scenes. Absorb sound, smells and taste. How can you add that to your writing?
Be patient and persistent, also learn how to be selective. A tenth of that information and research you have gathered will be used, maybe even less.
All authors should have an open inquiring mind.Once you open your mind to ideas they can come thick and fast and they can come from anywhere – that overheard conversation, that snippet of research you’ve just unearthed, a place you have visited or something you’ve seen or experienced.
Read and learn about the nuances of language, how switching the order of two words can change their meaning. Look at the impact of how words look on a page and then how they sound when read aloud. Do they tell you anything about the atmosphere or about the character?
And while you can learn technique, no one can create a 'voice' for you, that only comes with practice and experimentation.
You also need to be self-disciplined after all that novel has to be written, there is no magic wand to wave and it will appear on your computer. Writing involves many hours, days, months, years even of sitting down and putting words on to a computer screen or paper.
Then you need the critical ability and ruthlessness to edit and polish.
Above all though you need to enjoy the art of writing and creating for your own sake. If publication comes so be it. It might be a bonus for you but it might not be essential to every writer. Being deemed to be a successful author could be writing for the pure pleasure of doing so.
Where to buy
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Also available as an ebook and on Amazon Kindle, Kobo and for loan from UK, USA, Irish and Commonwealth libraries