Samantha Ortiz On Writing With Balance, Discipline, & Passion

Greetings fellow writers and readers!

I was excited to get the opportunity to write to you all today. I am a fledgling amateur writer who -- for the first time in her life – can take the time to make her writing more than just a hobby.

Writing has always been in the background of my life. Growing up, I was an avid reader, and around ten years old, I decided “Hey, I can write something of my own!” So over the next two years, from ages 10-12 I wrote my first novel. It was something like 300 pages long, with a rambling story and probably horrible structure, but it taught me so much!

I remember reading it over with my father while he suggested better ways to use descriptive language. Or pointing out how many times I used “all of a sudden” or “suddenly,” (I still remember it was something like 72 times). Later I went back to him and said, “Dad, why didn’t you just tell me how bad it was!” and he replied “And what? Crush your dreams? I would never do that! But it was a great opportunity to teach you.”

And I’m thankful for that. Because what I want to talk about today, runs along those same lines.

How do you become a writer? You write. And you read.

Why Reading Is Important

It’s important to study our craft. If you don’t input, you’re going to struggle with output. Plain and simple. For instance, right now I have two books I’m reading: How to Write a Novel in 90 Days by Sarah Domet (instrumental in me learning how to outline!), and Story Trumps Structure by Steven James. But that’s not all I mean by reading.

I can’t tell you how many grammatical patterns, plot devices and descriptive techniques I learned naturally, just from reading. I remember when I was in grade school I got marks off in an essay because I was spelling things like color, “colour” and flavor, “flavour” and anyway, “anyways” because I had been reading too many British authors at the time and it had confused me! Haha!

Our subconscious learns from doing. And what better way to learn to write, than to read what others have written…submerging ourselves in prose and letting our brain soak it up. As we become more advanced, we can learn more consciously. For instance, I never read a Margaret Atwood book without learning something. I will consciously study how she writes action, how she characterizes, how she subtly unveils a plot, or leaves little clues along the way. J.K Rowling is a genius with small detail. That’s the trick to her creations – she doesn’t just tell a story, she creates a world. Orson Scott Card is an absolute master of exposition, characterization and “time-jumping.” Most of his books start with a young character and see them grow into adulthood.

In short, there is no end to what we can learn from other authors. Not to mention, my freshest ideas and moments of inspiration come after reading a great book. Not a reader? Here’s a challenge: perhaps you haven’t found the right genre. Do some exploring and see if you can sink your teeth into something new.

Why Writing is Important

And, of course, the best way to learn to write…is to write! I have finished four books in my life, two of them in adulthood, the other two when I was younger. And I can tell you, each has been a learning experience in its own.