I have recently been faced with this question and I find that my response is not as black and white as I had originally supposed. Yes, you can teach someone the fundamental aspects of writing: thesis, introductory paragraph, syntax, diction, body paragraphs, topic sentences per paragraph, and a conclusion. But what about teaching someone to think like a writer? The love/hate relationship with writing that leaves one elated or deflated? Do you believe being a good writer is an innate gift, or something that can solely be taught? I do understand that some people need to be pushed to realize they do have the gift for writing, but what if it is not there, can it be induced?
As with any subject you can't teach someone who doesn't want to learn. You can teach someone how to achieve the goals of their writing. I think this idea of a good writer is an idea that has to be revisited in light of medium. Certain platforms are more conducive to various types of writing. I favor helping someone to develop their unique voice. Just like speaking and any form of communication, it is important to reach the audience that you want to reach. When rap first came on the scene, critics did not consider it to be music. Now it is accepted worldwide. Going back even further Beethoven's work was considered to be a cacophony, Picasso underappreciated etc. Digital communication has changed the status quo on traditional rules of writing. I think there are three basic guidelines for effective writing: Who is your audience and does your piece reach them in an authentic and meaningful way?
Are your ideas strong and expressed effectively?
Have you remained true to your voice? I recognize that sometimes people feel frustrated with editing errors but writing should be done with heart and while writing conventions can be taught, I think that transmission of ideas are the most important part of communication. Generating ideas can happen when people research their topic thoroughly and gain knowledge by examining all sides of an issue or genre. It is like movie making. When you look at a movie like While You Were Sleeping, it is a pretty conventional rom-com. But it was a hit because all the conventions were well played. It is bringing the writing conventions together with great ideas that make for effective written communication. – Munjeera7 years ago
Good to whom? I love Vonnegut and shake my head when I see Catch 22, which I despise, recommended for Vonnegut lovers. I love Bob Dylan's writing and roll my eyes when someone brings up Jim Morrison as a poet. I'm intrigued by John Calvin's views on predestination, but laugh when Oliver Stone "implies" - well, what word do I use for that heavy-handed hack? - the fatalism of Nixon's paranoid megalomania through flashing microscopic cells on screen. One man's meat is another man's organically-fed vegan pet. – Tigey7 years ago
In all honesty, I did NOT want to use the word "good," but if I didn't, I felt as though people would just focus on the fundamentals of writing, and then think if course this could be taught. – danielle5777 years ago
There are whole books dedicated to this notion. Academics like Peter Elbow and Stephanie Vanderslice have committed large chunks of their career to exploring this thought. I don't know that a single web article can give this subject the attention it needs. See Elbow's "Anyone Can Write" or Vanderslice's "Rethinking Creative Writing." – Tarben7 years ago
Danielle, You pose a timely question. If you put it in the context of what challenges writer face today and what advantages are present due to online writing I think you may have a topic someone will pick up on as a compare/contrast piece. I find writing today much more enjoyable as I can reach a large audience, in real time and it is not impossible to get published. I also try to have a fun voice, academic voice and a persuasive voice depending on who I want to reach. Let me know what you think. – Munjeera7 years ago
While I don't know how the writing experience can be taught, I think a good source for showing aspiring writers what works and what doesn't would be the book "How NOT To Write A Novel," which humorously gives examples of bad writing - from poor grammar to inappropriate use of certain tropes in fiction - and explains why they're bad. Awareness of what doesn't work could be an excellent tool for bettering a writer's work, even if they feel they have no talent. Even if the writing is nonfiction, writers could still benefit from some of the advice the book has to offer (such as "don't use words you don't know the definition of," "Don't be repetitive," etc.). Sometimes common sense isn't all that common. – PressXToNotDie7 years ago
I do think with effective work and communication teaching writing styles can get better and more efficient for new writers. – sadafqur7 years ago
Teaching someone the framework to write with is the easy part. Teaching someone to express themselves effectively? I think not. Perhaps they teach themselves as they go along, practicing the act and acquiring the skill. – nwh527 years ago
I think everyone can write. But, it really comes down to whether people want to stick with it. Like all things in life, some people are just don't match with certain things. However, I do think that writing is one of those things that people convince themselves that they can't do. It takes dedication and time to learn writing as a craft. Outside of the just grammar, I think we can encourage people to be open to writing and foster an environment that allows them to find their own desires to write, but I think that's about it. – eugeneleec7 years ago
Not to be over the top, but I think you'd have to question what it means to be a writer. You can teach someone how to write, sure. You can teach them how to write stories, articles, screenplays, etc. However, I feel like that just makes them someone who writes, not a writer. Writers want to express themselves and you cant teach someone to want to express themselves through writing. – elisetheastronaut7 years ago
There are so many ways in which one can be a writer. Anyone can learn to write well. For some, writing is not difficult to grasp. Others have a harder time with it. Then there are those with a special gift or an innate need to write. For me, writing is survival. – ajforrester757 years ago
Thinking like a writer can totally be taught. I learned. Before I was taught I just looked at the story to determine if a book was good. Since I learned how to think like a writer, I've started to look at the craft of the writing even more than the story. The elements of writing can be taught, but I do not think the artistry can. – good1bl7 years ago
I believe a talented writer is someone who have loved writing for many years. It takes alot of skill and imagination to become a writer and it can be taught but to be a unique skilled writer you need prior experience. – bdh2027 years ago