Monthly Archives: March 2014
So, do you want to become a better writer?
That’s why you clicked onto this page, isn’t it? Or are you just clicking whatever takes your fancy? Regardless of your motivation for coming here, I’m sure this post will teach you some new things. Whether you’re a non-fiction writer reviewing travel books, or you’re a fiction writer looking to become the next Tolkien or Arthur C. Clarke, I’m here to help. Here are three down-to-earth ways to make people take you seriously in your potential career or hobby.
Oh, yes indeed. The amount of people I meet who say something like, “I’m a writer, but I hate to read” is astonishing. That’s like saying you’re an architect but hate to study the layout and structure of buildings. Of course you need to read! Granted, there are some writers who do this whose work is not terrible, and the same goes for painters and practically everything else. Sometimes they enjoy the hobby and not the history; sometimes they have the bones but aren’t interested in putting any meat on them. And in some cases that’s okay, but the vast majority of the time it’s not, especially if they wish to improve.
Even if you don’t want to read, it is so vital to the writer to do so. A writer can understand in what way a particular genre is written and how sentences are structured in modern-day fiction and non-fiction. It exercises their imagination; it allows them to find ideas for stories they never would have come across otherwise. Like an architect not wanting to study buildings, so the writer not studying books will soon allow their own work crumble into mere rubble. To not read is to invite trouble. An architect needs to know fellow architects’ work to draw inspiration from them to come up with something new, to know which materials are best for which job, and so on.
And don’t just think that if you already read then you can skip this point. If you already read, challenge yourself to read something you don’t normally read, or even never read: a newspaper, a children’s book, a non-fiction book about the human body. Not only are these books good for reference when needed, but they’ll expand your imagination and mind, may give you a few ideas, and will teach you some facts.
Yup. Again, this is a fairly common reality. I hear often of “writers” who say they’re writers but can’t specify what they’ve written, or won’t show their work at all, to anyone. Most likely, they like the idea of being a writer but not the work of being one. Writing can be difficult, especially when you’re starting out. But perseverance is key. They say you need 1,000,000 words written before you have a distinctive writing style, or ‘voice’, and that you need 10,000 hours to master a skill. That’s a lot of writing. Better get to it, eh?
But don’t panic. Some people think that you’re only a writer if you’re published, or if you’ve written something political or worthy of praise i.e. something that’s not science-fiction or fantasy. This is nonsense. If you write things, then you are a writer. It’s as simple as that. And it doesn’t have to be a novel: you can write short stories, flash fiction, reviews, and so on. Even if you want to write a brilliant novel that you know you have somewhere in you, don’t think that jumping into the deep end is the best way for you. It worked for me (the first two projects I ever completed were short stories, and the third was a novel), but it might not work for you. If you don’t yet feel comfortable creating a massive alternate world or whatever, then that’s fine. Just stick to lower word count projects. That way, when you do end up writing a novel, if that’s what you want to do, then your writing voice will already be taking shape, and your experience will pay off – trust me.
This is probably the least well-known of all the ways discussed in this post, and it’s overlooked even in some writing circles. Critiquing other people’s work is important. Why’s that, you ask? Well, by critiquing other writers’ work, you can see problems which pop up often in writing and how you can then avoid them. It teaches you what’s good and what’s bad in your view, simply because you know what you like and don’t like. Doing this will also accomplish the second way to be a better writer: writing. Even writing a letter to a friend is writing, or making that shopping list. It all helps to work your muscles, both physical and mental.
To critique work, you must meet up with other writers. Have a look in your local area, and perhaps a little farther out. Are there any writing groups in your area? If there are, go to them. You may not like them (I hated mine), but at least try. You’ll meet like-minded people and you’ll be surprised by how much you can talk about. If a writing group is not an option, then you can always join an online forum, which is what I turned to after deciding I didn’t like my local writing group. There are a few out there, and typing in “Writing forums” on a search engine will bring up plenty of choices. Try a few and see which ones you like. Maybe you’ll settle into one, maybe two. But through joining an online community, you can get that distance which writers need to have their work critiqued, and you’ll make some new friends along the way, too.
So there you have it. Three ways to become a better writer. If there are any which you are not currently doing, I suggest you begin doing them. You will see a change in your work, and it will allow others to take you more seriously. Enjoy the craft of writing, but realise it’s just that: a craft. It takes work if you want to be better at it, and hopefully this post has shown you how to take yourself another step of the way.