How to Learn to Write Well

Oct 8, 2012 | Better Writing

Last week I received an email from someone who wanted to write for a living and was considering enrolling in a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program. She asked if I had any suggestions about where she should go.

I ducked that question because I don’t know about individual MFA programs. But I do know something about learning to write. There’s only one way to learn to write, and that’s to write a lot.

In the olden days, there weren’t many MFA programs, but there were newspapers. And many writers, like me, learned the craft by writing short stories. There was a market for pulp fiction back then. The market has changed, but the basics of learning to write have not.

The only way to learn to write is to write. Reading about writing will not work. Subscribing to writers’ magazines and checking out writing web sites won’t do the trick either. Neither will going to writer’s conferences. You have to write.

The only way to learn to write well is to write a lot, get good feedback, and write better next time. There is no magic to this and it’s not a new thing. You need good feedback, whether it’s from the teachers in an MFA program or an editor on the job. And you need to take what they say to heart and then do better.

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