I hesitate to write this, because writing fiction can’t really be taught. The mechanics of writing can be – nouns, verbs, sentence structure, etc. Even things like how to create well-rounded characters and rich settings and descriptions can be taught. What can’t be taught is creativity.

There are hundreds of thousands of books, blog posts, articles, and the like about the craft of writing. How to write, what to focus on, and the classic ‘write what you know.’ Creative writing courses force you to write in genres that don’t even interest you. I avoid those because who are you to tell me how to be creative?

But as I sit and struggle to self-edit my novel, I sought advice. I turned to a second edition of a book I had heard works well for many people in my situation. I skipped the ‘exercises’ at the end of each chapter, and only read the checklists. Those checklists were food for thought. I didn’t really realize how the advice had already translated into my work. Still, this was really about mechanics. It didn’t teach me how to be creative – it can’t because that’s a totally individual task.

Writing prompts are another useful tool, but only when they are something you want to write about. Whether it’s a picture or written question or statement, it will inspire you differently than it will inspire me. Even the cliched beginnings like “It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once Upon a Time” catch each writer’s imagination differently.

My advice for writers just starting down the path of publication is: write what you want, not what people tell you to. The only reading about writing you should be doing is the kind that helps you tighten up the mess of a first draft you’ve created. Nothing else can be taught.

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