Note: Please forgive, but I just realized MailChimp did not send out this post the first time. For that reason, I’m reposting it today, 9 May. After that, we’ll be back on schedule with two final posts to close out the Microsoft Word for Writers series. My apologies for any confusion. Thanks.

Hey Folks,

Learning. One thing that’s common to all of the professional writers I know is that they never stop learning.

It’s why I spend a half-hour or so every day checking blog posts of writers I admire, like Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Steven Pressfield and JA Konrath. (You can find links to their sites in the right sidebar of my website at HarveyStanbrough.com.)

Do I attend endless writers’ conferences in which the same presenters with different faces spend half their presentation time name dropping and the other half parroting the same tired (and often wrong) information? No.

Nor do I attend presentations by writers who have published fewer than five novels or fewer than fifty short stories. I seek advice from and learn from those who are more advanced than I am. I recommend you do the same.

So what are valid sources?

1. Writers who tell good stories and whose work you admire. If you’re very fortunate, those writers offer advice in the form of a blog and/or actual instruction. But even from those writers

  • Don’t assume they’re right about everything, especially for you and your work.
  • Don’t expect them to hand you a fix-all, everything-is-wonderful solution to all your writing problems.
  • Go in with an open mind. Listen to everything, keep what makes sense to you, and toss the rest.

2. Writers who are hugely successful.

3. Short stories or novels that are so well written they take your breath away or otherwise startle you.

How do you decide from whom you should learn?

1. Read a cross section of their work.

  • If they write short stories, read several, especially if they write under different pen names. Read at least a couple from each pseudonym.
  • If they write novels, and you prefer novels, read at least two, preferably in different genres. Bear in mind, a good writer will tell a good story regardless of length.
  • If you enjoy what you read, study it to determine why.
  • Note: Always read for pleasure first. If the story grabs you, try to figure out how during a second pass. I’m currently studying one of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s short stories.

2. If possible, talk with the person before paying for more formal instruction. Does the person come across as honest and knowledgeable?

As a way of giving back, I’ve started a new daily blog over at FrostProof808.com.

For those of you who would like to be prolific professional writers, it’s a place where you can learn by example.

At FrostProof808.com you get an inside glimpse at my daily life (you’ll see that it isn’t all writing), an almost daily Topic of the Night on writing, and actual day by day writing numbers.

As I’ve mentioned here before, about a year ago I first became aware of Heinlein’s Rules (no, they’re not only for SF writers) and a technique called Writing Off Into the Dark.

The convergence of that set of rules with that massively powerful writing technique changed my life completely. I am not kidding, and I am not exaggerating.

At FrostProof808.com I provide proof of that change and a daily accounting of my work(s) in progress. If you aspire to be a prolific professional writer, if you aspire to reach the level where writing the next story is the most fun you’ve ever had, drop by and check it out.

It’s free. And it’s the perfect companion to this blog.

By the way, right now there’s an excellent post on Heinlein’s Rules at FrostProof808.

Next time, Microsoft Word for Writers: Odds & Ends, the penultimate post in the Word for Writers series.

‘Til then, happy writing!


PS: One of Gervasio’s magic realism short stories is featured in a beautiful new online magazine called Mystic Illuminations. Go. Read. Enjoy.

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks! If you can’t make a monetary donation, please at least consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. Again, thank you!