I will keep this post as short as its title!
If you are learning Chinese, eventually you will start thinking about writing- not just “functional writing” (scribbling), but maybe adding something more- calligraphy.
Last Friday I visited a library and read a book “La lingua cinese e le sua principali caratteristiche” (review posted online https://www.librarything.com/work/15233876/book/111440620) supposedly about the key characteristics of the Chinese language, i.e. a “grammar”, but it was a pleasant surprise, as it was the most comprehensive book on the historical development of the Chinese written language that I found so far.
Pity that it is available only in Italian, and shows the signs of the time: published in 1998 in Italy, probably the printer did not have Chinese fonts available, and therefore the text uses only pinyin without any indication of tones and other markings, adding a barely readable appendix to each chapter with hand-written miniature characters.
If you care only about the “technicalities” of writing, “Learn to Write Chinese Characters (Yale Language Series)” contains a much shorter historical introduction, and then moves on to explain which writing tools you need, how to look for characters in a dictionary, and then radicals, along with stroke sequences (https://www.librarything.com/work/187043/book/111480022, but I will review it later).
It is a mere 130 pages long, but it is useful also as an exercise book.
As for the difference between traditional and simplified characters (something useful not only to foreigners learning Chinese, but also to native speakers from locations where simplified characters are less used): a table from 2008, containing 350+132+1753 characters is available online http://www.loria.fr/~roegel/chinese/list-simp-char.pdf.
You can find online plenty of websites offering to create or download stoke sequences, and on my Android mobile phone I installed few applications, including a Tetris-like game, but, frankly, it is more a matter of taste than functionality.
You can just look online, download eStroke with its database of stroke sequences (basic free, additional paid; available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iPhone http://www.eon.com.hk/estroke/), visit websites that offer to create (free) stroke sequences and learning material (from flashcards to paper with a grid and stroke sequence to copy), but probably that short book that I listed above will allow you to start quickly.
If you don’t like to read… search online for a 2-part course on Chinese writing delivered by the University of Utah, or look at the Acrobat files with the writing training material offered along with the ocw.mit.edu series of Chinese language courses, as well as the more limited set of character writing training material delivered along with the Headstart2 course (see links within the first article of this series).
For the time being, my personal aim is simply to complete my personal dictionary, and keep exercising with the 1400+ words that it contains (with few hundreds more to be added during August, mainly business-related), and complete this by the end of September.
Writing? A side-effect, currently covering few hundreds characters and combinations, but gradually expanding.
The next week a short discussion on 关系 (guan1 xi4), with some references to online material.
Meanwhile… have a nice week!
PS Please read the introduction to understand how to use this website 🙂