Nothing matters until you’ve finished your first book. Anyone who gets you there is a hero. The single most important tool I ever found for learning to write was a series of twelve double-sided tapes called “Let’s Write A Mystery” by a guy named Ralph McKinerny. His whole process was to tell you the basics while writing a book right alongside you on his tapes (all of which sounded like 1950’s science teacher lectures.)
The book that Ralph writes during the process is included in the box with the tapes. To my tastes it’s maybe the shitiest book I’ve ever read. If he’d wanted to, he could have shown off the talents that helped him write dozens of successful novels. And yet, somehow, his willingness to write crap right there in front of you, all the while telling you to stop worrying about whether your stuff is good or not but just get your damned pages out, somehow that’s what helped me write my first novel and prove to myself that I could be a writer.
Ralph McInerny was a theologian who wrote books I never bothered to read and who had largely opposite values to me (he once wrote a screed protesting Barack Obama speaking at Notre Dame.) He died in 2010 and I never met him. He was the best writing teacher I ever had.