Growing up, I hated reading and writing. I received horrible scores in my English class. But as I got older, I became enraptured with creative writing. It didn’t happen until I was in high school and a partner and I wrote a short story for our class. I was immediately hooked on the idea of becoming an author, but I had a lot of challenges ahead of me that, at the time, I was unaware of.
At first, I thought I would just have a knack for it, but that wasn’t the case. I had to work hard at getting to the point that I am now, and I would have to say there is still room for improvement. For now, I want to share 5 actions, I’ve taken, to become a better writer.
The first action you should take as a writer is to conquer your fears. I’m not talking about skydiving, though that would be a great step later down the road. The most common fears, when it comes to writing, are as follows:
- Fear of not Being Heard
- Fear of Making Mistakes
- Fear of Wasting Time
You may be bombarded with voices in your head telling you that your story isn’t interesting enough or you start comparing yourself to other authors and believe that you can’t measure up. The fact is, yes you can! Now, will you be as successful? Who knows… But you’ll never know until you put yourself out there, and nowadays writing online you enjoy a certain amount of anonymity. Make mistakes! Write! Sit in front of your computer for hours, thinking… It isn’t a waste of time. While I write my fiction, sometimes I have to sit and think for a while to discover a major plot point. Or to decide exactly what a character’s motivation is. Sometimes I have to write for hours to finally figure out what I really want to write. Sometimes I delete major paragraphs that sounded good last week but are not so good the next.
Writing is a process, and the best advice I can give is to WRITE! Write, delete, mull it over in your mind, take a day off, but don’t give up if you have a story that you feel strongly about.
I hope you enjoy reading. I do and I don’t. I have a hard time, sometimes, continuing on with a book. Sometimes my mind drifts elsewhere and I have to take a break. This is ok, but you do need to set a time to read every day, be it fiction or non-fiction. There are plenty of blogs out there to read, and many are very interesting. Seek them out, read them, and comment. This is a good way to start your brand and get noticed by other readers and authors.
But most importantly, reading will help you become a better writer by reading how other authors write. You will read so many different styles and you’ll decide which style works for you. You will read some authors who write scenery really well or others who write expressive dialogue. You will learn from reading and you will mimic what you like until you find your unique voice. Set some time to read.
Duh… So writing is definitely the number one thing to do if you want to become a better writer. Take a seat, get comfortable and start writing the first thing that comes to mind. Do not worry about it sounding good. You can delete later. What I’ve found out from writing is that sometimes I start out writing something blah, and then some light bulb goes off and I start writing something glorious.
Do your best to write something every day. As I’ve mentioned, there may be days where you do sit in front of your chosen writing apparatus and NOTHING comes. That is ok. You’re only a failure if you stop trying. And failure isn’t bad either. It helps you decide what is worth fighting for. If your story is worth fighting for, WRITE it. Even if it takes 20 years, WRITE it. You’ll have bad days and good ones.
Setting goals is key. You’ll want to set time frames. Personally, I set aside 2-hour writing slots a day. 1-hour reading. Now depending on what I’m reading, I may take more time. Having a routine will help. Again, personally, I am the type who spurns routine. I have to mix things up sometimes. That’s not bad. If routine hurts you, don’t do it. But beware, routine is a structurally good way to get better at anything. If you can grind through the pain, eventually that pain will lessen every week. You will begin to do things you didn’t know you could once you focus your mind on the goal and not the pain.
If 1000 words is painful, DO IT! If you 2000 words is painful, DO IT! No pain, no gain. You have to push yourself to achieve. This may mean a ROUTINE. 🙂 But, I assure you, if you stick with it, you will meet the goal. Decide when you want to finish. Decide if that is feasible. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Make reasonable goals. But also know that failure is only fatal if you give up entirely.
Write what you know. If you don’t know, research. It’s why reading is important. I love supernatural stories. I’ve had several experiences growing up, but I still have a lot of research to do. Research is also a good way to destroy writer’s block. Often what blocks you is a misunderstanding of your characters or even the plot. Research can give you inspiration. What are you writing about? Do you know anything about that? If no, then google it. We all google it! Don’t be discouraged, learn something new. I know a lot about cryptids, but I still learn new things every day, because I’m passionate about it. In short: research what you like; write what you know; and enjoy what you write.
I hope this was useful to anyone out there struggling. I know all about the struggle, and sometimes I need a little reminder on how I can eliminate obstacles. By implementing these five actions, I’ve been able to keep my writing flame burning and will to succeed alive.