This post came across my Facebook Newsfeed from the Lovecraft eZine.
Lovecraft’s first point is the recognition of what judicious reading can do for the aspiring author. I would go so far to say that if you consider yourself a writer but right now are not in the middle of a book or just starting one you obviously do not care very much about your style. There is no magic potion, no book, conference or class that gives you all the skills you need to write a great piece. You must assimilate all that you can. That does not mean just literary works or even works of impeccable style. You need to learn what not to do as well. Just shut up and read.
Another important tip is the one about finding your muse in nature. To make your writing really stand out it needs to come alive. You need to infuse it with all manner of description, sights, sounds, smells, that will draw the reader in. No matter where you are you should tune yourself to the surroundings, make a mental note of what you see and smell and anything that stands out as you can and will find a place for it in your work. The same goes for people watching. I love going to Las Vegas. I don’t drink, party in clubs, gamble (maybe a little), but I love sitting in the casinos and malls watching the people who go by. Who are they? Where did they come from? What do they like, dislike? How do they live? These people are all potential characters if you pay attention.
At the end Lovecraft gives us a list of the 20 most common errors he comes across from aspiring writers. So here the guides and attention to grammar do come in. The rules exist not to thwart creativity but to allow it to spread and reach others. You cannot make a reader love your story but you can make them hate it if your style fails to convey to the reader, in the most efficient way possible, the story you are telling. We all learn a little from those we look up to, even when we are not expecting it.