I’ve been telling myself stories since I was a kid. I’ve been putting them to paper for almost as long.
But before that, I was reading. Dr. Seuss, Alan Ginsberg, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Walter Farley, Carolyn Keene, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers, and many others too numerous to mention.
This is what I’ve learned from those writers – if you want to write, edit or have anything to do with words, you must read. Read everything and anything. Read the classics and the pulps, because the best writing will teach you style and the worst writing will teach you how not to apply it. Read non-fiction not just for the history or the biography, but for the ideas that will burble up to the surface and wait for you to catch them. Read articles for brevity. Read poetry for imagery. Reading will help you find your voice as you practice with the voices of others.
Above all, practice, practice, practice. Writing is about reading. Most importantly, writing is about re-writing. Re-write until you feel you can’t do it anymore. Then re-write again. And again. And just one more time. Find someone who knows how to read critically and be objective, someone whose opinion you trust and can rely on to give you constructive feedback, not just what they think you want to hear.
But in order to understand the dynamics of dialogue, character, plot and narrative, one must first read it by others before writing.
As Stephen King once pointed out in ‘On Writing’, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or tools to write.”