Saturday, January 9, 2010

Read the Kind of Writing You’re Going to Write

Besides writing articles and books, I also teach writing. Over the last 25 years, I’ve had a lot of students take my classes. I’d venture to say that only about one percent of them had read the type of writing they intended to write. To be a good writer–to be a published writer at all–you need to read the kind of writing you intend to publish.

Unfortunately, the majority of beginning writers still hold the attitude that what they write is important. After all, didn’t they learn in school that every word is a nugget of gold. While that may be true in rare cases, in most a word is just a word, unless it’s strung together with other words that have meaning for the reader, for the reader is the most important part of the process.

When asked why they took one of my courses, many students say that they’ve been trying to get published but have had no luck. They think it’s their writing–and sometimes it is. But usually it’s because they have no idea of what’s being published out there. They have no idea of what editors want. And to find that out, short of asking an editor, is to read what that editor is publishing.

To learn to write a good article, short story, non-fiction book or novel, you first have to read ones that have been recently published. Notice I said recently. Reading short stories published in 1910 won’t get you anywhere. They’re just not written in a contemporary style. And style and structure, even more than content, is what you’re looking for.

So to learn how to write to get published, seek out good examples of the kind of writing you plan to do. By doing that, you’ll be well on your way to your first pay check.

1 comment:


You mean I have to read too? Ah, man.

Kidding. Spot on.