I was reading before I could string words together on my own. My parents read to me, even asan infant. By the time I reached Kindergarten I was familiar with all the major Bible stories,Norse myths,Aboriginal (Native American) creation stories, and classic fairy tales. I wasreading American history and classic Greek myths at seven, Dracula and Call of the Wild at
eight, The Andromeda Strain and To Kill a Mockingbird at nine. As a teen I was devouringseveral books and novels every week.The most common advice you will hear from authors, in my experience, is simple: Read. Readeverything. By reading, and having an openness to any form of written thought, you are openingyour mind not only to challenging, thought-provoking ideas, but you are also learning the waysgood authors manipulate the language to express old ideas in novel ways, or new ideas inunforgettable prose.
Assembling the Toolkit
The carpenter has hammer and saw, the mechanic has wrench and caliper, the wordsmith hassubject and predicate, verb and noun, articles, adverbs, and ablatives. Before an author canfashion compelling prose, she must have mastered the basics. She must know the differencebetween simple past tense and past perfect tense, she must be able to explain the distinctionbetween nominative plural and possessive singular.
I don’t use Spell Check.
But whenever I write, I have four dictionaries at my side: The
Unabridged Webster’s, the Canadian Oxford, the Petit Robert, and El Pequeño
use Spell Check because after having read thousands of books, I should be the expert. Since Iam an expert, I should not defer to anything less than an authority, and the only recognizedorthographic authority is a major dictionary. Spell Check has a limited range and offers incorrectadvice at the most inopportune times.Every profession has its nitty-gritty academic requirements. In my profession, we mustdemonstrate mastery of the written word. If I do not evince unrestrained expertise in ourlanguage, my readers will know it. My ability to convey complex ideas will be compromised bymy ignorance of the full range of available linguistic structures.In the thousands of critiques I have offered over the last six years, it has been my experience thatthe single greatest stumbling block to wannabe writers is the dearth of basic, nuts-and-boltsunderstanding of the English language. If you wish to write books people will read, there issimply no way around the fundamental obligation to develop a robust expertise in the writtenexpression of ideas.
About the AuthorPearson Moore
is the author of “Cartier’s Ring,” a historical novel set in
16th century Canada (http://www.pearsonmoore.net). He is best known to the LOSTcommunity, with some 102 essays and two thought-provoking published LOST guides tohis credit.