I never really studied English while I was in college. Thanks to some AP credit from high school, I was able to skip most of the intro classes. The only English class I ever took was on Creative Writing. I enjoyed it, but it was more of a "just one more thing to get done" class than anything else. I got my degrees, moved on in life and here I am - 24 years later.
Now that I've gotten into writing once more, with intent to actually sell my words, rather than amuse friends, I feel as though I've got a great deal of catching up to do. While I've always been a voracious reader, there are a lot of "classics" which I thought I was missing. After some weeks of research I'm pleased to discover that I'm not in that bad a shape.
I did, however, pick up a couple of books with intent to study and have just finished that exercise.
"Becoming a Writer" by Dorothea Brande (1934) and "The Rhetoric of Fiction" by Wayne C. Booth (1961)
There were some hilariously anachronistic words of advice in both of them, yet the fundamentals remain the same, even today.
I spent hours turning yellow page after yellow page, typing up notes into Evernote. Took a fair portion of the long weekend, to be honest.
When I finished with both books, I realized that while the "specifics" of writing may have changed a great deal in the past 80 years, the foundation has not;
1. Be original
2. Use good grammar
3. Make compelling characters
4. Make the reader care about them
5. Tension is the only thing which will ever force a reader to turn the page
6. Make the story worth the reader's time
7. Repeat as needed