Learning to Write Well
By Martha Ramirez
Copyright © 2009 by Martha Ramirez, All Rights Reserved
My debut children’s book was released in the year 2008. I have set many
goals and have learned a great deal in this past year alone. I didn’t
know there was such a thing called the “craft.” I wasn’t aware this so
called “craft” is how most successful authors practice their writing.
All I knew is that I held a strong passion to write and a willingness to
achieve my goals. A strong desire burned within me, not to just
write, but to write well.
Some authors attain this talent without being aware of it. Others study
it to better their prose. Regardless of whether you’re born with what it
takes or if you learned along the way. The craft is essential…it is what
will bring every author to success. What exactly is the craft? Good
question. If you look it up it is referred to as an art, skill, an
occupation requiring special skill. I like to think of it as a way of
writing. Here are some helpful reminders on learning to write well. I
found them to be invaluable:
If you’re into writing and into writing well then you have heard it far
too many times before. You “show” don’t “tell” what your characters are
feeling. “He was angry” vs. “He clenched his fists.” This is one of the
most important rules I’ve learned.
the passive voice
from your vocabulary. The passive voice is usually near words such as:
was, were, and had. Be on the lookout for passive verbs. Sentences
should be written in the active voice (subject first, then
action). i.e., Ruby likes Ernie NOT Ernie is liked by Ruby.
Take out all unnecessary words. Examples: There were, some,
started to, began, that, tried to, really, could, that, then. Try
not to be predictable. Don’t repeat the same words.
rid of most “ing” verbs.
The ones that have another verb nearby. Original: He was
playing ball with his son. Replace with: He played ball with
his son. You’ll notice a lot of “ing” verbs have the word “was” before
it. Was is a passive verb.
out most adverbs.
One or two is fine, but it is necessary to not chose “ly” ending words
in place of descriptive words. “ly” words tend to “tell” and NOT
“show.” Using adverbs indicates you are an amateur. Use action rather
the protagonist’s objective.
What is his/her sole purpose? What motivates the lead character? Every
lead character has a goal, what is it that he/she wants to accomplish?
If this is clear at the beginning, readers will care about what happens
to the lead character. They’ll be willing to push things aside in their
everyday lives to find out what happens next. Wouldn’t you want to know
if the lead attains her/his goal?
include a character chart for your records.
A chart is essential for information such as: eye color, occupation,
personality traits, pet peeves, goals, fear, etc. Anything that is
needed to know. This will help keep the story accurate. You don’t want
your lead to have blonde hair one chapter and be a brunette the next.
Think of it as a summary of describing a person. Do this for each
of your characters. I found it to be very helpful.
Breathe life into all your characters. Make them real in
your story world. Make the reader care. No room for “cardboard
characters.” They should be unique with realistic goals. Create trouble.
How will the lead character respond?
Each scene should move the plot forward. No “Hi how are you?” small talk
or unnecessary dialogue. Debating on a scene? Which one adds more
conflict, more questions?
Remember to use shorter sentences and apostrophes. i.e., “I am not
happy.” Instead write: “I’m not happy.” People usually talk in this
openings and chapter endings.
You must grab the reader in order for it to be a page-turner. How do you
do that? Can you end with a question? Maybe conflict? Remember nothing
should be “easy as pie.”
draft, write from the heart. Second draft, write with your mind.
Have you ever seen the movie Finding Forrester? If you haven’t
gotten the chance yet, I suggest you rent it today. The lead character
learns of this advice, a very true and helpful technique. It’s one of my
all time favorite movies. It will touch your heart and inspire you. Pour
your heart out the first time around (first draft). Don’t worry about
grammar or punctuation. There’s time for that later. Let your creativity
flow. Put your editing cap on while writing your second draft. This is
your chance to nitpick and look for errors.
ending will break you or make you.
It is up to you to compel your readers. Chose your last line carefully.
The best endings stay with readers long after the book is closed. Read
other books and see how the masters end their stories. Learn, but do NOT
but definitely not least, every story MUST live off of conflict.
We are glued to movies who breathe life with conflict. Books are no
different. It is conflict that makes us turn each page. Without it the
story becomes boring. And boring is the exact opposite of what it should
be. Whether it is external (physical) or internal (psychological)
struggles, it MUST exist. NO conflict, NO struggles, NO story. DO
NOT make it “a walk in the park” for your characters.
Keep learning. Keep reading, whether it is books on the craft or
books written in your favorite genre. The more you read, the more you
learn. The day you think you know it all is the day someone will
teach you something new.
You may visit my website at:
and visit the “writing links” page for more helpful tips.
Favorite book on writing:
Self-Editing, Writer’s Digest Books, ISBN# 978-1-58297-508-5 Plot &
Structure, Writer’s Digest Books, ISBN# 978-1-58297294-7
Gail Gaymer Martin,
Writing The Christian Romance, Writer’s Digest Books, 978-1-58297-477-4
The Successful Novelist, SourceBooks, INC., ISBN# 978-1-4022-1055-6
Debra Dixon, Goal,
Motivation & Conflict, Gryphon Books for Writers, ISBN#