You need a foundation on which everything else is built. You need a solid, strong, lasting foundation. In a house, it’s that gray stone stuff. I think it’s concrete. I don’t know. I’m not in the construction business.
In writing, your foundation is grammar. How English works. How punctuation works. How words do things. How different words have different meanings. Tense. Parts of speech.
Then, the bones and walls of house. Strong verbs vs. weak verbs. Context. Word choice. What you say vs. how you say. Pacing. Character building. Setting. World building. Motivation. How plot works.
Then, you decorate. Characters. Character development. Side characters. Setting. Flare. Voice. Narration. Exposition. The arrangement of ideas to create something fresh and entertaining.
Before you start in with the idea that you’re going to write the next bestseller, first you need to know how the language you are writing in works. You need to know how fiction works; it’s not the same as nonfiction.
The best way to build your foundation and up is to read, read, read, and read. See how other writers have used the language to create worlds, characters, and tension. Study how other writers have used words, not just the plot and the character.
Don’t misunderstand. Plot is important. Character is important. But, writing is 40% what you say and 60% how you say it.
And I don’t mean that in “add an adverb” to the line. No. I mean it is the words that you choose to use to say what you want to say. People twist words to flavor situations all the time. The news does this constantly; they will use harsh, dangerous words to make a situation sound worse than it is, or use nice, calming words to make a situation seem lighter than it is.
Use your language to your advantage.