Writers are always striving to be better at their craft than they already are. I know that I am! Within the past 3 years that I’ve been working to be the best writer I can be. During this time, I’ve failed, succeeded, and discovered things about myself and my writing that I would never have thought possible.
With the end of my last submission run, I felt really frustrated. I couldn’t understand why my writing wasn’t gelling the way that I wanted. I didn’t know how to get to the point that I wanted to be as a writer. I began to be afraid that I’d hit my wall, that I’d never get any better ever again.
However, that wasn’t the case. I kept plugging away at it and learned some things along the way which I’d like to share with you. To those of you who are looking to get a little more of a boost from your writing, here’s some ideas:
Make note of interesting words and phrases.
I’ve started to keep a file on my computer called ‘Words About Things’. This file is full of different words that I’ve never encountered before, whether it’s a word that I find in a short story or something on a Word of the Day email. Writing these words down and being aware that they exist is an easy way to work on making your writing clearer and more concise—because building clarity is what words are all about.
Write flash fiction and short stories
I’ve been having a blast working on my novel, but sometimes I need something to test my ideas out on. Flash fiction is defined as a story that has 1,000 words or less and is a great way to improve your work. Because you have such a limited amount of space, every word has to count for something. It’s fun and helps you learn how to show, rather than tell and in addition to helping you overcome the writer’s fatigue that comes with working on a long project non-stop.
Short stories are also great for breaking away from your novel. These works are longer, typically anywhere from 1,500 to 5,000 words, and can be used to explore your world-building, secondary characters, or even work on weak spots such as story structure or dialog. Best of all, you’ll have a stack of finished work in a fairly short amount of time!
Feedback is an incredibly important part of a writer’s growth. Having your stories critiqued and learning what you’re good and bad at can help you hone in on your weak points. Also, it’s getting your work seen, something which not only spurs you on to create more things, but also puts your name out there among your peers as someone who’s serious about making great stories.
Create a learning regimen
I’m a huge fan of Ray Bradbury and I love his advice to new writers. In his book, Zen and the Art of Writing, he suggests that reading one poem, one short story, and one article from the science fields is the way to not only improve your craft, but to keep writer’s block from ever bothering you again. Talk about a win-win!
The things I’ve learned since following this regimen have been astounding. Lots of these little facts have been scattered through my writing recently and add an impressive amount of depth to my stories. This regimen also teaches me to love learning for learnings’ sake, a skill which many professional authors have been known to encourage in young writers.
Focus on a different type of writing
Sometimes, it’s just that you’ve hit your limit at what you’re doing with the knowledge you have. Step back from your process and look at it. Maybe walk away from whatever kind of writing you’re doing now and try a different kind. Non-fiction, scripts, memoirs, poetry, and experimenting with different genres just for fun are all something that can send your writing to the next level.
Give it time
Unfortunately, the most pivotal factor in growing as a writer is time. However, look at that time as something precious, something that must be used and enjoyed as much as possible. There’s no medal at the end of the race, no prize to whoever makes it there first. There’s just you and your writing and how you feel about what you created. You’ll get better the longer you stick to it, so have fun! Love what you do and the time will pass by before you know it.