I'm a high school graduate (now 20) and I got Ds in every English class I ever took. I didn't hate writing, I just hated school. Anyway, I want to get better at reading and writing so I'm a little more prepared for college.
Where should I start? Where can I learn and practice writing?
This. If you don't have a job then you should be finishing a novel at least every 3 days or so. Read like a monster, write every SINGLE day (essays, short stories, novel, poetry, ANYTHING).
Even in the span of a single summer, that discipline will net you 40 novels and 120 pages of material.
study rhetoric. a few chapters of Aristotle rigorously studied go an incredibly far way. get out of the thinking that writing is a purely creative exercise: it isn't. like poetry, the best prose is painstakingly structured, but studying rhetoric can give you the critical detachment you need to read more effectively for determining what makes your favorite prose good, and what makes your prose bad. not to mention, rhetorically persuasive writing gets As in English classes very easily—at least outside of Ivies, the bar is so low that a student who can grasp the entire structure of his paper is leaps and bounds ahead. most kids struggle to tell you what the point of an individual paragraph was supposed to be.
Assuming that you're actually experienced and know what you're talking about, how should I go about studying rhetoric and analyzing writers? I want to learn more about it- the idea of thoroughly structuring my writing, understanding the purpose of every part of it, and analyzing writing critically seems very interesting and worth my time. I'm still in high school, and although I've been trying to focus on making my writing as clear and thorough and purposeful as possible I want to learn more about how to go about doing this.
Another thing you said that attracts me is studying authors. I want to read Aristotle and Plato and classical authors, but I also want to be able to understand them and get something out of it. It seems like just jumping into Greek and Roman writers will lead to me not actually understanding them and what makes their writing excellent. So how can I prepare for reading writing of that kind and how can I learn how to analyze or study it?
I'm currently learning more about Greek history and mythology not only because of this board but also because, based on my AP world history course, I'm very interested in it and want to read and understand the literature and minds of Ancient Greece. So I'm planning on after reading a book on mythology (I luckily found Edith Hamilton's 'Mythology', and that happens to also be recommended) jumping right into Homer. I'm confused as to where to go from there. I'm interested enough to likely get through a lot of Greek literature, like the tragedies and poetry and histories, but as I've said, I'm focused on comprehension and correct analysis more than anything.
Like I said, Aristotle is the place to start. His book: Rhetoric. it will tell you all about the kinds of arguments and appeals you have to make to write effectively. Try to use them in your papers until its second nature. Then, you can start to play with them.
Textbooks are cheap on amazon. If you're unemployed like me you can make your way through a textbook a week. I'm not claiming you'll retain everything at that rate but you'll definitely find yourself with a working knowledge of what you're up against.
If there's some things you're having trouble with like math or a foreign language that you're just hopelessly unprepared to take in school, the "_for dummies" books gave me extremely helpful reminders in algebra and spanish for five dollars each.