Writing: Art or Technique?

This issue comes up on writing forums a lot: is writing a form of art where individuality is important or is it a set of techniques to be learned?

You can probably guess from my “writing laws” where I stand on the subject. 

Any form of creativity involves some degree of art, and I have no desire to stifle the individual.  On the other hand, there are certain acceptable standards.  If you can’t meet those standards, please, please don’t self publish your work.

The fact is that writing requires a lot of work.  You need to learn the craft and then hone your skills.  If you’re not a savant (and, let’s face it, you’re probably not), you need to put in the time necessary.  There’s no substitute for years of practice.  If you haven’t spent a decent amount of time writing stories and studying how to improve your writing, you’re probably producing crap. 

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help yourself.  Assuming you can string words together to form grammatically correct complete thoughts with the right punctuation, simply do the following three things: Learn how to show.  Learn how to add tension.  Learn how to add emotion.

You won’t suddenly become an awesome writer.  You won’t be an expert.  But, you will see a remarkable improvement in your skills.  Your work will become readable.  When you post for comments, the critiquer will be able to help you with the details of plot and characterization instead of telling you that it’s unreadable.

Some would say that learning simple rules and techniques stifles your individual voice and your creativity.  I say that the opposite is true.  Learning how to write frees you from trying to figure out how to tell your story in a form where people will actually read it.  Instead, you can concentrate on that story and on your characters and on the stuff that really matters: creating.

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