Though I studied journalism at university over 20 years ago, I'm not a natural writer. To have prose flow beautifully from my fingertips takes effort, and several drafts. Over the last three years I have removed the rust from my keyboard to consistently write. Here are a few things I have learned because, if you want to improve in writing, I don’t think it’s a solo affair. 1) Get in a writing group. All types of groups exist, and I have found a few helpful (and a few unhelpful) groups along the way. It depends on your level and what you want. Prompts or free writing? Novels, poetry or life writing (or everything)? Reading your work out loud or a pre-read from the group and everyone’s edits/ suggestions during the group. I think a writing group should be a safe, non-judgemental place to get your ideas outside your house, and you have to try each one to get a feel if it fits or not. It also helps to have a good writing tutor (who is a published author) facilitating the group.
2)Read, read, read. I know, it’s a given, but I find I read less when I am writing because of the time and space issue. But if I want to improve, I need to read both fiction and non-fiction. You will notice a huge difference in how you read books when you are studying the craft of writing.
3) Know that writing is a craft. I have several crafts/hobbies (making jewellery, painting, etc.) and in all of them I can learn something new and grow. The same is true in writing. The best way to learn a craft is to be taught by someone else versus. I can read all the books on gardening I want to, but I don't really learn until I have a more experienced gardener show me how to plant and prune.
4) Connect with what’s going on in the writing world. I find out the latest trends, helpful tips, jargon, etc through subscribing to both hard copies and on-line writing magazines. It keeps me up-to-date on competitions, conferences and the all the debates in the publishing world. I also highly recommend Nathan Bransford, a former agent and a current author. He has a great site on writing and publishing. (http://blog.nathanbransford.com/)
5) Get a writing accountability partner. I will have a whole post on this in a few weeks, but we meet at least once a month and help each other in new goals, and achieving old ones. She also makes great cakes.
6) Get and receive constructive feedback. Help other fellow writers. I have writer friends in other countries along with my writing group and others. We help each other out with constructive feedback and edits (as we have time). And we all cheer each other on even with our ‘ouches’ (aka feedback) when we make suggestions.
7) Read GOOD books on writing. The understanding with this statement is that many books on writing are boring or prescriptive. My favourite is Bird by Bird written by Anne Lamott. I love it because it doesn’t feel like a book on writing, and it's not full of formulas. Stephen King's On Writing is a good one as well.
8) Write and don’t give up. I have to add that it is helpful to let things ‘breathe’. I write horrible first drafts, let it breathe a few hours, days or weeks, then go back and read through to correct and improve.
I’m still growing as a writer, and I don’t know if I will ever ‘arrive’, but this is where it all starts:
- 13 Things I've Learned About Writing (wonderofchildren.wordpress.com)
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