No, this is not some sort of politic rant. I’m simply talking about ROWE. It’s something every writer must adhere to if they expect to create good work. What is ROWE, you ask?
R –> Read
O –> Observe
W –> Write
E –> Experience
If you think about it, it’s pretty obvious. I’m sure most authors do all of the above without even realizing it.
The first teachers we have as writers, the first who really begin to shape our skills, are the authors we read when we are young. We didn’t even know we were in training then. But the way sentences were crafted, the way dialogue was presented, even the subconscious realization of point of view, all were seeded in us beginning with that first book we read.
But the learning process doesn’t stop there. The best writers continue to read everything they can. Learning, soaking it in, and just enjoying. Each book is like a classroom. Even the bad ones (perhaps even more so than the good.) We learn what to do and what not to do. What sounds right and what sounds forced. We learn that sure, sometime you can get away with short cuts, but we also learn that when short cuts aren’t taken how much better a story can be.
It has happened often, but it always surprises me when I hear of a writer who doesn’t read much. Mostly, this has been people I’ve met in old writing groups. And when I read their submissions, more times than not, what’s on the page is not very good.
We stand on the foundation of those who have gone before us. To ignore that is just stupid.
Reading is probably our most important tool, but it is not the only one. Good writers are able to see what others do not see. We observe life. We watch the interactions of strangers. We sit in a coffee shop and try to guess at the lives of those around us. When we walk into a room, we not only see the person waiting there for us, but we also see the couch that’s slightly askew, the stack of comedy DVDs next to the television, the dying flowers in the vase across the room. We may smell the chicken baking in the kitchen, or the scent of rain that has followed us in from outside.
We see place. We see character. We see life in levels others don’t even care about. This is what we do. This helps to make us better story tellers.
Hand in hand with observation comes experience. You can’t always do everything your characters need to do. But you can do things that will help you understand them better. If your main character is a risk taker, then jump out of a plane or take hang gliding lessons or just drive on the freeway for an hour. If she or he loves to travel, then travel. If your character shoots a gun, go to a range and take a handgun lesson. Know what these things feels like.
Drink the wine that they drink. Watch the movies that they would watch. Go to the places they would go. Experience your own life then use that in what you write.
And that’s the final thing for every writer. We must write. Every damn day. Even if it is just a paragraph that you toss in the trash as soon as you are done. WRITE. WRITE. WRITE. There is no excuse not to.