Two things you can do to improve your writing TODAY
Growing as a writer can be an intimidating process. Where and how do you start? How do you know if you are any good? What concrete steps can you take that will actually make a difference?
Luckily there are two concrete, attainable objectives you can set for yourself today, that will make you a better writer.
- Read more.
Want to be a better writer? Start by cracking open a book.
I have always liked to read. At some points in my life I have read more and at other points less. On average I probably read between 20–30 books a year, but this past year I set the goal of really committing myself to reading. I wanted to read a book a week, or 52 books in a year. Over the course of that year I watched my writing improve as I devoured book after book. Every book tought me something new. Some books were masterclasses in craft and other showed me exactly what not to do, but either way I always learned something.
I treated books as malleable works, rather than set in stone. I asked myself what worked and what didn’t and why, and how I might have done things differently. This put me in the driver’s seat as an active reader, rather an a merely passive consumer. I learned to read like an editor, which in turn helped improve my own writing.
That said. How do you read like an editor?
I learned a very important lesson as a child from my mom. She always told me that if I didn’t like the ending of a book, to write my own. And I did. I learned to read stories as though they could actually be deconstructed to my liking. This taught me to answer three questions. 1. Is this working? 2. Why or why not? 3. If not, what would you do differently? Asking myself these questions and learning how to provide constrcutive analysis of a work taught me to read like an editor. Training yourself to actively read, rather than passively consume is a great step towards improving your own writing.
2. Stop being isolated
Writing is an isolated and lonely hobby. it’s literally just you sitting alone, making up fake conversations between people who don’t exist. If it wasn’t so freaking cool it would be lame.
While writing is certainly a profession best suited for introverts, it shouldn’t be something you do alone. If you want to improve you need to be connecting with other writers and getting consistent feedback on your work.
Find a CP, get involved in a writing group, swap work with randos on Twitter, offer to beta read, seek feedback from people whose criticism you trust.
Start working with other people who share your goals and passion. Not only will this make you a better writer, it will also encourage you to keep going. Find a support network of likeminded writers who are on the same journey as you. Or find a mentor who is where you want to be someday.
Don’t be afraid of feedback.
I get it. It’s scary. For a long time I was just too plain insecure to share my work with other writers. I thought surely they would be writing Tolstoy-esqu masterpieces and I would be laughed out of the group. And maybe some writer’s groups or CPs are like that, but they aren’t all like that.
Find a group who likes the kinds of stories you like to tell. If you write romance, find other writers who love romance too. Find people who you just vibe with. Trust me they are out there.
I found my CP– an amazing writer and someone I now call a friend– on Twitter. She was a total stranger and she could have been anyone. We decided to swap work and we just instantly connected. Now we are each other’s biggest fans and our strongest support network. It is because of her that I am a better writer today, than I was six months ago.
You have to be willing to put yourself out there to reap the rewards of a great CP. Close yours eyes, take a deep breath and just reach out to someone. Who knows they may end up being your biggest advocate.
Also, just know that there are tons of other writers out there that love what they do the same way you do, it’s just a matter of finding them. And when you do it’s pure magic. It is nothing short of amazing to connect with other people who are passionate about the same things you are. It can lead you to people you might otherwise have never met.
Growing as a writer can be as simple as reading more and putting yourself out there a bit. Those two things can make a world of difference in improving your craft and addressing blindspots.