Author’s Corner: What’s the Best Way to Write?

I get many questions about the best way to write. I always answer that by admonishing the asker to read, read, read. I can never say that enough. The best way to learn how to write is to read … anything and everything.

Read every time you’re waiting somewhere … when you’re sitting in the doctor’s office … when you’re trying to fall asleep. Immerse your brain in words all day long. The variety will give your own work more depth.

Read things you like repeatedly. The second time through, try to identify what it is about the story that captures your attention, and use that knowledge to craft your own work.

Author R.L. Herron

Author R.L. Herron

Write one word at a time. This may be the most important piece of advice anyone can give you. Don’t think about writing hundreds of thousands of words. Aim for the next word, and then the next one. Just sit down and do it. One word at a time.

Think of your perfect reader and write only for them. Write a story that person would like and ignore what the rest of the world thinks. No one writes a book everyone likes, but this method does your marketing for you. If you write solidly for one reader, everyone who’s like them will love your books.

Write every single day. It really does get easier the more you do it. You’ll have days when it takes hours to hit your word count, days when it takes no time at all, and days when you can’t seem to write a thing. Set an appointment with yourself and sit down to try every single day, without fail.

Find something you love about your work. Writing what’s popular will sell more books, but you have to find some middle ground between what will sell and what you love. Being an author is hard enough. There’s no sense making it even harder by writing something you hate. Of course, if zombie love stories about skinhead motorcycle gangs in Scotland during an alien invasion in the Middle Ages are something you love, all I can do is wish you luck.

Interesting, believable dialogue has been mentioned several times in reviews of my stories. I’m delighted and actually quite proud of that. However, when someone asks me how to do it, there’s only one thing I can say …

Listen. That’s not a joke. If you seriously want to learn the secret to good dialogue, listen to the way people talk … really listen. I do it so much it is second nature. If you haven’t consciously done it before, take the time to listen to the conversations you hear around you.

Listen to people talking to each other in the checkout line at the grocery store. Eavesdrop on the conversations at other tables in restaurants. Listen to friends talking at social gatherings. Jot down interesting words and phrases.

When you listen, it shouldn’t take long to notice the poor grammar, misplaced modifiers, mispronunciations, sarcasm (both intended and unintended) and allusions that people include in their routine conversations with one another.

When you pay attention to people speaking, the first thing you’ll discover is that no one speaks the way your grade school grammar teacher told you they’re supposed to (sorry, Mrs. Bliss). You’ll discover believable dialogue is no big secret … it’s just not necessarily proper English.

People get the “poor grammar” and sarcasm part. We all speak in a way that’s less than perfect. It’s when I talk about allusions that most people ask questions. They want to know more about what an allusion is, and how to use it.

It really isn’t hard to describe. See my next article.

About R.L. Herron

R.L. Herron, the author of multiple works of fiction, including several Readers' Favorite medal winners, lives and writes in Michigan with his lovely wife, and a finally-paid mortgage. His books are all available on Amazon and online with Barnes & Noble. Visit Author R.L. Herron's Website, Broken Glass.


  1. Anthony Ambrogio says

    Reading and listening are two of the most important things a writer can do. As you so eloquently put it, an ear for dialogue begins with USING your ears and picking up on all the conversations around you. And reading (a LOT) is essential for a writer. It provides models for you in terms of both style and content. You create great dialogue by listening to the rhythms and patterns of people’s speech — and then you learn how to PUNCTUATE your great dialogue by reading other writers. (I can remember when — ’way back in elementary school — we had a lesson in using quotation marks, and so many of the kids moaned and groaned about it. I couldn’t understand why. Didn’t they READ? The way to do it was right there in front of them on practically every page of every novel!)

  2. Thanks for the corroboration, Anthony. Read a lot…and listen to real conversation. It will make you a better writer.

  3. Judy Hackstock says

    You are so correct! Good writing comes from observing the world around you in all aspects. And voracious reading of others’ efforts also makes sense.

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