Telepathy is real, but takes training
Good writing grabs the reader with the first sentence, keeps them enthralled throughout, and spits them out at the end a changed person. So why isn’t all writing like that? In fact, writing that good is pretty rare, and is written by creative minds at the top of their game and often with a string of publishing credits behind them. The majority of unpublished creative writing is self-indulgent drivel that reeks of inexperience, even though the writer may have felt inspired at the time and had superb images and narratives in their head. They just couldn’t get them out properly.
The process of getting thoughts onto paper or hard disk in a way that is instantly engaging to the reader is an art that, partially at least, can be learned by constant practice, trial and error, and a lot of reading as well as writing. When it is done well, a magic happens. The reader finds themselves inside the world the writer has created, despite being separated from the writer by both time and place. Writing is telepathy, and it’s real. But it is a skillset not unlike The Force in Star Wars: apprentices must practice daily, and face up to their own fears, in order to achieve mastery.
A good path to becoming a writer is to join a local creative writers’ group where your material will be critiqued in a supportive atmosphere. Learning to take criticism is an essential rite of passage for writers. A writer who takes the stance that every sentence they write is set in stone and ready for publication will have a difficult time. Writing is in fact rewriting, again and again, until the story shines through. A friendly group of like-minded writers can be a big help in this process.
A creative writing course can also help by examining the dynamics of storytelling and presenting common pitfalls and how to overcome them. Many of these are online and have a tutor / mentor to offer advice and – yes – more healthy critiquing to put your ego in its place. Topics frequently explored are dialogue, characterisation, plot, theme, setting and viewpoint. Specific techniques may be discussed and experimented with in more detail.
A great advantage of online writing schools is that geographical location does not matter. In fact it can be stimulating to creativity; dialogue with writers from other parts of the world can present story ideas and settings one may not have thought of otherwise.
Dr Eileen Herbert-Goodall, who runs Field of Words, an online writing school in Australia, has extensive experience in training writers from all over the world to make their writing more publishable. Her school runs short story, flash fiction and memoir writing competitions and an Outstanding Young Writers program. She engages with schools to encourage creative writing for young people and maybe sniff out the next bestselling author. On the subject of rewriting after the first draft, she says “Who knows how many times we might need to revisit our work, changing this or ditching that, until we get it right? Whatever the case, remember re-drafting brings us a step closer to constructing a story we’d be proud to set loose upon the world.’