5 Steps to Being a Better Writer
This post can help writers and those who want to write gain confidence in the craft.
Be a writer
Writers’ write. If you’re going to improve your confidence in the craft, write every day. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing. Write what’s on your mind. Develop a response to a prompt, write dialogue. Don’t plan it, don’t worry about it, just write. It doesn’t have to be something you’re proud of—that you would share with people—it can be nonsense. It will lead to something good.
There are ways to get it out. Take notes whenever you have an idea in mind. Save them, perhaps in one place, where you can access them like items in a catalog to draw from later.
Make time to write. Set aside time every day of the week to get your contact out. Whether it’s 4:00 to 8:00 a.m., or midnight: get content out.
Give yourself time to write, or seal it to make it yours. You can be productive with just an hour of writing. But if you’re intent on building up your craft, put more time into it. Two hours gives time to develop a story, rewrite sections you trash, go deeper and push yourself to do new things with it, because what you’re doing in that two hours is going twice as far as what you think you can do. And that’s when your ideas come flying out.
This is not to say that you are going to be satisfied with what you produce in two hours. But two hours a day for two weeks might take you through a completed short story. Two hours of uninterrupted time spent on your craft can be rewarding, but it’s a seed for something greater.
Read every day. Whether you’re into Tolstoy or Rachel Kushner, just read. Think about what you’ve read, talk about it with people, note styles. Read writers who don’t interest you. Read garbage, read everything—it all comes to positive influence in your work. Even if it’s just a way to say that you write so much better than what you’ve just read. That’s your ego telling you what’s up. It will do that a lot. But look out, because it’ll get beat up once in a while, and the effects of those beatings last a lot longer than worthless praise.
Improve your content
Consider your audience.
Control the common phrasing of the day. Get rid of the filler. Note what you’re doing. Why have you made the choices you have? Why are you developing the plot in one direction rather than another? Answer these questions, they’ll make your writing stronger.
Common phrasing isn’t the way people talk, it’s the clichéd expectation of conversation.
Write powerful sentences by using direct living language that doesn’t mince or waste words and has a purpose to contribute to the plot. The reality of the world you write is contained in the language the characters speak.
Experiment. Don’t overdo it or censor yourself as you go. Let your writing come out. If an experimental paragraph is bothering you, leave it alone and rewrite it conventionally and then keep going. Go back to the experimental section later. You may discover that the experiment you tried will end up being the standard for your book. Always pay attention to your experiments and only erase it if it’s foul and cannot be used for anything. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. If you wrote four sentences of garbage but there’s a good idea in there, hang on to the idea. A bad sentence expressing a good idea is worth keeping. Put it in a notebook. Keep good ideas.
Make it clear
Experiment in your work and think of your audience. Keep it clear how your characters get from one place to another, how your story moves along. Once you create the logic, stay in the rules of the logic. Yes, things will clear up in the revision, but in order for the revision to go well you want to construct the skeleton of your book well so that it holds up during revisions. Otherwise you may be going through passages of content that you’re consistently making better in the revision, only to find a section that tapers off with no logical sequencing into the next section. This can be frustrating, it can mean many things; like having to rewrite characters in other parts of the book because the dialogue and action needs to be different. It’s best to be as consistent as possible going all the way through the text. So even if you’re writing an experimental novel, you’re doing so within a formula that makes it all work.
This is where your writing will go from bad or good to great. Read your work aloud. Read it aloud before you begin revising, so you can see the problems in the entire section you will be covering. Get feedback from people, especially seek it from people who are merely acquaintances or whom you don’t know. A good critic will say what’s working in the piece but focus on its problematic aspects. This is what you want! Your books not gonna get better by resting on your laurels. It’s going to improve by making changes. Readers who give critical comments are invaluable. Heeding their comments will make your content stronger.
Once you workshop a piece, revise it again. Revision is a many time process.
Submit your work
Get your work out there. Be prepared for rejection. A piece that’s rejected from a periodical is either not right for the periodical or no good. If it’s not right for the periodical, find a publication that publishes the kind of material you’re writing. Everybody gets rejected, don’t worry about it. You’re not a professional if you’re offended by rejection.
If your writing is no good it’s either a badly written story or it simply has mistakes in it that can’t be overlooked by the editor who reviewed it for their publication. If it’s the former, keep trying and you’ll write a good story. If it’s the latter, tighten up ship and only send out work that has been proofread by reading out loud. Proofreading is ideally done with a hard copy of your text, a ruler, pencil, and a highlighter. Go through the text making corrections line by line.