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How did you learn to write?

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Zelda View Drop Down
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    Posted: 11 Oct 2019 at 12:13am
Time for a happy writer's question!! How did you learn to write? I'd ask how you've "honed your craft," but I think that's so silly sounding! Big smile Let's please not hone. 

I learned to write as a middle school student who was passionate about her diary. I wanted to take whatever I experienced and narrate it, like he said this, and then this happened, and then I replied by saying whatever; and I'd write it like a book--like, literally, with dialogue and everything. It mattered to me (for unknown reasons) that I have perfect grammar and spelling. 

In school, I'd pay attention to my teacher's comments on my papers. I had a mind for it, even though subjects like science and social studies tended to do me in. I had equally good teachers in those subjects, but it wasn't going to happen. Not at all. 

I kept keeping my diaries, and when the age of internet came along, I started writing long emails to people in which I practiced the same writing basics. 

How did the rest of you learn to write? 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (4) Thanks(4)   Quote manifestlynot Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Oct 2019 at 1:35am
I entered my first writing contest in kindergarten and never looked back. I won first place that year and every elementary year after that, except for third grade when I didn’t score at all but still walked on stage a la Zoolander. Compared to that humiliation, collecting zeroes here is nothing!

But that’s more about how I learned to write competitively; how I actually learned to write was in 11th grade AP Composition. On the first day of school I turned in my summer assignment: a 15 page of gobbledegook that my teacher was kind enough to give me a C on. I had always been able to dazzle teachers with flowery language and wordiness, but not this one. We learned how to write an academic paper from the ground up, and I learned how to truly write for the correct audience.

In college I learned how to write collaboratively in creative writing workshops, and how to tell when criticism was constructive versus dismissive. I eventually went toward education and now work as a content writer in an educational company, which is a nice blend of my two passions. But my heart will always lie in creative writing - especially the competitive part of my heart Wink
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote chrissie0707 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Oct 2019 at 6:06am
I was a super dramatic and emo high schooler (i had pink hair and pleather pants...aaah, the late 90s/early 00s). I started journaling the EPIC trials of my teenage life, which turned to writing some seriously depressing songs and poems. Senior year I took creative writing, and that’s when I was finally like “hey I like this writing thing.” At the same time, I was also an artist. Always had been. 

I entered college as a fine arts major, but after one semester of Drawing and being given homework of drawing three pages of straight lines over and over (and being given a C grade when I’d spent the previous decade winning contests and awards for my art) the flame of my artistic passion was snuffed. For about two years, I didn’t much of anything creative. My mom got horribly sick, I had to miss a semester of my sophomore year, and I fell into a very real funk. During the break, I discovered this marvelous little thing called fan fiction. Completely by accident. And I thought to myself, Self, you get waaay too obsessed with TV shows and characters and remember that writing thing you started to like? What if YOU did this fanfiction thing? I then proceeded to spend nearly every moment of free time I had between classes writing stories in emails to myself in IU’s library, or staying up until 3AM banging away at my keyboard. I made my first group of friends who enjoyed and encouraged my writing, and I shifted my educational track toward this newfound passion. I’ve always liked to say my creative flow just switched lanes. I started pursuing a degree in Telecommunications with a focus on Design and Production, with the intent of writing for TV. Maybe directing. In a TV Production class, I led a group and pitched, wrote, and directed a two-minute scene as though it were being filmed as a live sitcom. Such a high. I took a Screenwriting class, and started turning some of my fanfics into spec scripts. 

Then I graduated and realized I was gonna need money to survive, and accepted a steady paycheck over actually pursuing this dream of mine. But I kept writing fanfiction, and eventually I found a second group of awesome people who not only enjoyed my writing, but now challenged me to write better, and differently. This is when I would say I actually started BECOMING a writer, about five years ago. My two closest friends began writing original novels, and I sort of hung back, desperate for the same sorts of ideas. I had nothing. I was a quasi-popular fanfiction writer, but could I actually be an AUTHOR?? I had a rough time with these thoughts, and resigned to myself that if my purpose as a writer, of the whole point of whatever talent I had was to help my best friends achieve their own writing goals, then I was okay with that. 

No joke, within DAYS, I had the fabled shower epiphany ORIGINAL NOVEL IDEA. And then a week later, I found these comps. And now I have like NINE original stories I’ve written, and one has been PUBLISHED, and I have a DRAFT of the first novel of my own original trilogy (and lots more fanfiction on the side :P)

That might have been too much information. I’m not quite awake yet. 


Edited by chrissie0707 - 11 Oct 2019 at 6:37am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote Metchr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Oct 2019 at 6:33am
I used to draw as a child. Not the usual drawings but full scale science fiction battles. In the fifth grade I was introduced to Tolkien and I became a voracious reader. In middle school I was required to maintain a journal. Instead of writing short unrelated entries, I wrote a 30 page story; I was recognized by the English department at the end of the year awards in 8th grade as the most creative writer in the school.
In college, I started in engineering but returned to my English roots and earned a degree in teaching English. But writing just remained a fun past time. At my first teaching job, I created an in-school literary magazine to help at-risk students express themselves,,,and so on. I have been in education for over 27 years and have used my skills to encourage students to write not just for the required courses but for the love of writing.

For me, this contest has reignited a spark. Who knows where it will go from here. Maybe I will finally tackle the book that has been simmering in the recesses of my mind.    
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote ChillyToez Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Oct 2019 at 7:47am
Originally posted by chrissie0707 chrissie0707 wrote:

(i had pink hair and pleather pants...aaah, the late 90s/early 00s). 

Is it creepy to say that this little penguin now has a wee crush on you (in the most non-stalkery way I know how?) Ah, the days of wild hair & pleather pants. Late 90's for me was black dyed hair, a nose ring, & black eye-liner...but I also had pleather pants. LOL


How did I learn to write? I read. A lot. It's a whole other discussion about how reading changed my worldview, but it was certainly a catalyst to trying my hand at writing about 4 years ago.

So, I wrote. And read some more. And wrote some more. Compared, perhaps not analytically, but instinctively, the things I wrote to the things I read. And just practiced some more.

And here we are, still practicing, receiving & weighing feedback, and trying again tomorrow... hopefully getting a little better each time.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote chrissie0707 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Oct 2019 at 7:53am
Originally posted by ChillyToez ChillyToez wrote:

Originally posted by chrissie0707 chrissie0707 wrote:

(i had pink hair and pleather pants...aaah, the late 90s/early 00s). 

Is it creepy to say that this little penguin now has a wee crush on you (in the most non-stalkery way I know how?) Ah, the days of wild hair & pleather pants. Late 90's for me was black dyed hair, a nose ring, & black eye-liner...but I also had pleather pants. LOL

Big smile I had a black pair and a GOLD pair and I LIVED out of Hot Topic and thought I was just the coolest thing. My parents didn’t appreciate how cool and punk I was. LOLLOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote justmel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Oct 2019 at 8:19am
It's hard to answer this because my first thought was, I didn't learn to write.  I'm still learning.
 
But in the vein of the other responses: My fifth grade teacher got me started.  She didn't provide a lot of critique or guidance, but she gave us a weekly prompt that always sparked my imagination, and she loved the stories I wound up producing and told me I was going to be (or should be?) a writer. 
 
Then I took creative writing in high school and loved it, and then I took it in college and loved it just as much, if not more.  But I didn't get much instruction, honestly, in either class--not regarding how to bring a story to life with description and "showing and not telling" and so on.  I wish I had.  Those are things I'm still working on, on my own.  Dialogue comes pretty naturally to me, I think in part because I started keeping a journal while I was still in elementary school (around 1970) and I would write down entire conversations from memory.  Everything anyone said was fodder for my "story" about the day.  I originally wrote in mottled black and white composition notebooks (a la Harriet the Spy) but since about 1995 it's been almost exclusively in digital files, many of which have been lost over the years.
 
And I've always been a voracious reader.  I think you can't write if you don't read, and if you don't read widely, you probably won't write well
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote JeanlucPIc Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Oct 2019 at 9:19am
I feel like I am just learning now.

I have been drawn to humour and satire since I was a kid, and have worked very hard at getting better as a comedy writer since I was a teenager. It has meant writing for radio and TV shows, as well as hundreds of commercials and speeches. That type of writing comes naturally to me and I have just focused on *ahem* honing. 

I stumbled on the flash fiction competition and decided I would try to learn something new (I am in my 40s and not too old to pick up a new skill). 

Suspense: EXHAUSTING!
Ghost Story: CONFUSING 
Crime Caper: FUN! FUN! FUN!
Response to "Open Letter to White People" thread: NOPE (even though I had a thoughtful point of view, there's just some genres that I have not learned yet.)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote lisafox10800 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Oct 2019 at 10:03am
(Thank you for this thread, @Zelda!)

Like many others, I started my writing journey as a reader. When I was very young (fourth grade?) my godmother would pass me her Readers' Digest Condensed Books to keep me occupied. She'd sit on one side of the couch reading, me on the other side, totally engrossed in the pages. Also in fourth grade, I was given a diary for my birthday by my teacher, Sister Mary Ellen. I wrote in it every day, and about four or five journals later, kept going through college.

And then there was "Composition" class in elementary school. My favorite time of the week. 

And then the poetry started in high school. I wrote hundreds of pieces - all so very dark. I'm too old to be called "emo" but I definitely fit that definition back then, and throughout college.

And then there was the New Kids on the Block romance "novella." We won't talk about that one.

In college, I majored in journalism. I hung out in the basement of the Student Center at the newspaper office, where I was Features Editor. I spent many, many late nights working on the literary magazine - even had my own issue senior year. Took a creative writing class and my teacher hated every single thing I wrote. But I kept going.

Then real life hit. I was told that I couldn't be a professional poet and I needed to get a real job. It crushed me and I turned to corporate America for comfort. Threw all my energy into climbing the ladder. Threw away any aspirations of creative writing.

Then 40 hit. And my midlife crisis. And an ad for NYCM on Facebook. Absolute divine intervention because I never click on Facebook ads. I entered FFC in 2016, held my breath as I posted my story on the forum, and marveled at just how helpful everyone was with their constructive criticism. These people really knew their stuff. I drank in every comment, and applied my learnings to each and every piece thereafter. And still do. 

Because I'm still learning how to write. I think I always will be. But, boy, the journey has been fun.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote jennifer.quail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Oct 2019 at 10:18am
I just wrote. I started writing in second or third grade (third, I think) writing down a dream I had. That was around the time, I think, I figured out writing was a job people did, books didn't just appear (I was and am a bookworm and read constantly.) I got a little elementary-school-district fame because I wrote to my favorite author, Marguerite Henry ("Misty of Chincoteague" etc) after reading her books A Pictorial Life Story of Misty and Dear Readers and Riders, where I sort of grasped for the first time this was what she DID: sit at her table and write stories that people read. Mrs. Henry very kindly sent a personal letter, answering a lot of my questions, and even sent a photo I'd asked for of her and Misty and Friday. The idea that this was what she DID was just mindboggling, so I kept writing things--fan fic, stories about me and my friends in the vein of Saddle Club (did I mention I was also horse-crazy?)

In high school, I blew through Creative Writing and was already writing "novels" in notebooks (protip: if you're 14, don't try to be Allan Drury. You're not.) One of my English teachers let me do an independent study senior year where I spent the class period working on my writing. 

College was a bit harder--I didn't major in English as it didn't seem very useful, though if we had minors I probably would have had one by the time I was done. I was crushed not to get into creative writing freshman year (you had to 'audition' and it was very hard for any freshman to be accepted) but I did get in junior and senior year, which was excellent both for forcing me out of my genre comfort zone as one professor did not permit 'genre' work of any kind and getting critiqued in a group. 

After that, I kept writing, including my first sale while in grad school (a vampire story), and just picked away at things. I don't know that at any point I "learned" to write as much as I just started and got better with practice. 
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