Heyo everybody! It’s Monday again which means it’s time to grab some tea and ponder life like awesome sirs and madams.
Since the year is still young I want to talk a little bit on how to improve at writing, especially for those out there who might have made the New Years resolution to get better at it.
We pour open our wallets for craft books, look up articles on how to do things, but even if you do that sometimes the improvement you’re looking for isn’t what you’re getting.
So here’s a few things to remember if you’re in a rut..
1.) Reading Is Great, Knowledge Is Awesome, But Writing Needs Mileage
There is a point where we have to put the craft books, the articles, and the novels down. Don’t get me wrong, they’re invaluable for writing, but we have to remember that writing is an art.
We don’t expect a beginner painter to pick up ten books on painting and then to be able to perfectly make a Picasso-class masterpiece right off the bat. It unrealistic. Nor do we expect an archer to hit the bull’s eyes the first time after downing a bunch of theory books.
And likewise, we can’t expect to write like a god after reading the best-selling authors. The theories we learn are nothing if we don’t put in the work to practice them.
If you’re still skeptical, think back to your school days. When your math and science teachers explained something new to you, did you go home and know it right away and get everything one hundred percent right on the test? Probably not. That’s why they gave you grindy, tedious homework to bang your pencils on.
And that’s why writing also needs mileage.
2.) Target What You What To Improve On
Let’s be honest, no writer would shy away from improving on their writing, unless they had some serious pride issues going on.
But if you go around saying, “I want to improve” and then proceed to try to work on characters, settings, plot, inner emotions, and etc. all at once, you are going to explode your brain like a shaken Cactus Cooler.
If you try to do everything at once, you are more likely to do everything at meh level. But more importantly, if you’ve got your sights on one specific aspect of story-telling, it’s much easier to tell if your improving.
Personally, I have custom-made exercises dedicated to the specific skills that I want to practice. If I want to focus on characters, I might do a character sketch, a character peel, a voice sketch, or whatever suits my need at the time.
Of course you don’t have to do any of this, but if you are serious about digging in your heels and getting better, then you should pick some form of practice that you can tolerate doing for the long haul and doing more than once.
Why more than once? Because… 😀
3.) Repetition Is Key
I can personally attest to writing something, thinking I had the theory all down, and then the next day or so, it feels like my writer skills got amnesia. So then I end up back at square one feeling like I got worse at writing, when in reality it’s just that I didn’t work at it long enough for it to sink in.
And that’s why I say to find some form of practice you can tolerate doing more than once. It takes more than once for skills to click because as soon as you start actively doing something, you start making mistakes. And you can’t learn from them if you don’t make any.
And speaking of mistakes…
4.) You Should Try New Things And Get The Mistakes Out Of The Way
Understand that doing the same thing over and over again with no variety at all is a fast-track to stagnation station. If you want to get better, get into the habit of experimenting with your writing.
You don’t have to do this with your precious draft. I keep freewriting logs and word banks for this purpose and they do wonders.
Now, sure, sometimes I end up with crap. In fact, every session I produce some degree of crap.
But the crap ratio to good ratio usually isn’t that bad because I’ve been keeping this habit for a while. I still make plenty of mistakes, but the good thing about this is that if you let yourself make the mistakes somewhere else, you’re probably not going to put them in your manuscript.
Also when you stumble across the good stuff, you’ve got it stored somewhere you can always look at it. 😉