Over the past few weeks, I’ve been blogging about the Parts of Speech, but I feel I need to change direction for a bit.
As submissions for my latest Anthology came in, and I read and evaluated stories, I found a lot of common errors – and so, I will be addressing those over the next few weeks.
Everybody wants to know the secret to success, and writers are no exception.
While there are a number of writers, who merely want to use writing as a vehicle to express their feelings, and then share them with friends and relatives – there isn’t a need to understand a lot of the basic concepts needed to submit work for professional publication.
Additionally, with the advent of self-publishing, many writers are slapping together shoddy work, putting into a novel, and calling it good. (After all, they are published – right?)
When I realized there were very few opportunities of being published by some big house, I realized that the only editor I would have was ME – or someone I paid. I then started taking classes on the editing process. It is amazing how much I now self-edit while I’m writing and I do my best to put my best work into a self-published novel.
Here are some tips to help writers turn out something that is polished and professional.
We often talk about all the things one must do in order to become a successful writer. From studying grammar to working through multiple revisions, from sending out submissions to building a platform, writers must wear many hats if they hope to succeed.
However, most of those tasks are irrelevant (and success is impossible) if a writer hasn’t acquired the basic skills necessary for doing the work. There’s no reason to worry about submissions, readers, and marketing if your writing habits and skills aren’t up to the task of getting the project done.
You might have a great premise for a story, but if you don’t know how to write a story—or if you don’t have the discipline to finish a story—you’ll never be able to bring that premise to life, at least not in a way that is effective or meaningful.
So it’s essential for young and new writers to develop beneficial writing practices to ensure not only that the writing gets done—but that it gets done well.
Essential Writing Practices
There are many writing practices that you can cultivate. Some will make you a better writer. Some will help you write more or write faster. It would be impossible to incorporate all of them into your writing habits, so you’ll need to choose which ones are best for you and your goals. However, some practices are more useful—and more essential—than others. Below are the writing practices that I have found to be most important for improving one’s writing and producing good work—the practices that are essential for all writers:
I’m always surprised by aspiring writers who don’t read. I mean, if you don’t read, then why would you want to be a writer? Reading is, in many ways, even more important than writing. It lays the groundwork for everything you’ll write. You’ll learn a tremendous amount of the craft from reading, and if you don’t read, it will show in your work, which will never move past a beginner’s level.
It should go without saying that if you want to be a writer, you need to do the writing. But many writers spend more time talking and thinking about writing than actually writing. Force yourself to do your writing, even when you don’t feel like it. Allow yourself to write badly and accept that sometimes you’ll write garbage. Even a short, twenty-minute writing session each day will keep your skills sharp and your writing muscles strong.
Study the Craft
You can learn a lot by reading and practicing your writing, but you can’t learn everything. There are aspects of the craft that you’ll only learn through more formal study. That doesn’t mean you have to run off to a university and take college courses, although doing so will certainly help.
You can learn the craft through local or online classes and workshops, by reading books and articles on the craft, and working with other writers (or an editor or writing coach). There is a lot to learn, and the sooner you start, the better.
Revise and Polish Your Work
As you make your way through the writing world, you’ll hear this advice over and over: Writing is rewriting, or writing is revising. A lot of people have the misconception that we writers sit down, place our fingers on the keyboard, and the words magically flow out perfectly. That’s not how it works. The first few sentences or paragraphs are often a mess. The first draft is garbage. But with each revision, everything gets better. That’s how you produce polished work.
Getting feedback can be emotionally challenging to young and new writers, who have a tendency to take it personally. Harsh criticism, no matter how constructive, can be a bruise to the ego. But you are not your writing. The criticism is not about you; it’s about your work. And without feedback, it’s almost impossible to get an objective view of your skills and the work you’re producing. Separate yourself from your writing. Take the feedback seriously and be appreciative, because it will help you become a better writer. Apply it to your work.
I’m posting this blog entry because I felt awful when I had to tell someone that their work wasn’t up to par and couldn’t be included in my Anthology. Most of these folks were self-published, and they thought their work was awesome.
They had wonderful ideas – but they didn’t have the writing skills to bring their idea to life.