Monday, May 3, 2010

Learning Curves

Learning curves.

We all have them.

In fact, we've spent a lot of time talking about them in the context of political races lately. But today I'd like to refocus a bit, onto learning curves in writing.

I don't know where you are in your journey to publication. Most days, I'm not sure where I am in my journey to publication. But I know I'm farther along than I was a month ago.

Its a great feeling to know that.

So, back to the point I was trying to discuss--simply writing is an opportunity to learn what does work, and what doesn't. But to be honest, I tend to learn a lot more from reading other people's work and discovering how they do things. Most of the time it's subconscious learning.

In my daily reading, I don't carefully look to see how an author accomplishes their goals. I read the memo, or the brief, or the treatise or the case and I try to digest and retain the needed information. When I read in bed for a half hour before lights out, I don't look carefully to see how the author has made their characters three dimensional, or how they've paced their story. I read to enjoy the story. To relax so I can sleep.

The beautiful thing is, I still learn from it. A week or two later, I might have an idea to try something else in my writing. Can I pinpoint where the growth comes from? Sometimes. Most times not. But regardless, I grow and learn in my writing. And getting farther along on my personal learning curve is a wonderful thing.

What about you guys?

Where do you learn about writing most from? Is it formal classes? Critiquing others? Simply reading? Or are you like me—every bit helps, but mostly you can’t pinpoint where you’ve picked up the extra knowledge—it’s just there for you to use?


  1. Every little bit helps. I read lots of articles. On my blog I just posted about a particular article that truly impacted me as a writer. If you have some time, please stop by!

  2. Wendy,
    I stopped by. Great post! I loved the example you gave--it really SHOWED exactly what you were trying to get across. Well done!

  3. I'm learning a LOT by blogging. I only started seriously getting into it a month ago or so, and it's been useful.

    I also have read a stack of books on writing. I stopped reading them when it got redundant, and when I had to start buying them rather than check em out from the library, which I depleted completely.

    I read online. Read Strunk. Read him again.

    And I read GOOD (GREAT) writers. Every fifth book or so I'll read a pulp writer, just to see the difference, but for the most part I read only books that are well-written and that contain HEART.

    For instance, Dan Brown I consider a pulp book. Great plot and research and all, but trite without heart. I don't want to write like Brown, but I do want to study his use of plot and details.

    Then I read Sherlock Holmes and STUDY his use of dialogue. You ever study Doyle's dialogue? Freaking genius.

    And you wanna hear something ironic about Doyle: He told you the story rather than tell it, broke a golden rule and got knighted for it. It was his use of dialogue that got him knighted.

    That's how I improve and grow. That's my learning curve.

    - Eric

  4. PS EDIT: Doyle summarized and told his stories rather than show. That's the rule he broke, and he probably would've gotten a low B in a writing class because of it.

    - Eric

  5. I haven't taken a writing class in...well, forever. Most of what I know came from reading and writing and making friends with good betas.

  6. Everything helps. I haven't read many books on writing, but I've read many articles. Critiquing is an eye opener. And my favorite way to learn is by reading novels.