As writers, I think we all (at least those who are serious about the craft) come to a point in our writing careers where we realize we are not the next C.S. Lewis, or Tolkien, or E.E. Cummings—at least not yet. We come to a point where we realize that we may have a great creative mind; a great ability to invent or dream up a fantastic story in some new world, a great murder mystery, or a hot new romance; however, we also realize we may not yet have the skills to write it—the mechanics.
A Good Writer Studies Their Craft
I’m not just talking about proper grammar, although this is super important, I’m talking about the structure of a story—the “The Act Structure” is one example but there are others. Some stories start off in the midst of the action and then go back to explain the story and the protagonist. Others, introduce the protagonist and antagonist, and what mystery, murder, romance, or adventure is about to take place. All of these are techniques to “hook” the reader—to make them want to turn the page. Let’s face it, anyone can learn to write a white paper, an essay, a book report, or a news article; however, fiction has to hook the reader quickly, more than any other genre.
A reader will often tolerate boredom in an essay or news article because they want the bottom line—the information—that they know is in there somewhere; but with a fiction, the reader will close the book and grab another one in a hot second if they lose interest.
The point of all this is to recommend three books in particular which have been so helpful to my career. They have given me tremendous insight into technique, structure, and how to write much better.
“On Writing Well” by William Zinsser (A true classic and a must read).
“The New Writers Handbook” By Erica Jong (this is an anthology of great writers and their personal advice).
“Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott (this book really speaks to how a writer finds their personal voice).
I hope this helps.