Writing is a Life-Long Sentence

There's really only one duty a writer owes to
themselves and their readers - and that is to
constantly strive to improve.

Ask any seasoned writer and they'll tell you
that getting better at the craft is probably
the most fulfilling aspect of writing.

Because you are effectively getting better at
communicating your ideas - and placing your
world view into the minds of others. To me
this is an almost magical concept.

So - constant improvement - how does one
achieve it? Here are nine short tips:

1. Read Like it's Going Out of Fashion

You've heard it a million times before.
You can't love writing without first loving
to read. Read a lot. Read everything. Analyze
writing and writers. Study what works, what
doesn't, wonder why and learn from it.

Realize too that the published writing
you see has probably been worked and
reworked over and over to appear effortless.
Don't assume professional writers get it
down perfect every time. They don't. Their
work too has been analyzed, edited and
beaten into shape by themselves and other
editors.

2. Study Your Own Writing

Study every word, every sentence, every
phrase. Are you maximizing the effect of
your words? Could you say the same thing
a different way?

Don't just blindly accept your words as
perfect. Professionals know there is
always another way of stating something,
setting a scene, explaining an emotion.
Too many novice writers fall in love with
their words, refusing to accept there
might be a better way to get to what is
true.

3. Learn to Love Criticism

When we start out, criticism hurts - big
time. We've bared our soul. We've agonized
over our words and are proud of what we've
said. Off-hand comments about our work
can feel like a body slam, even an
attack on our capabilities, our character,
our integrity.

But that's not what is going on. People
love to criticize - it's human nature.
Even the best writers are criticized.
The point is to learn from criticism
and rise above it. Listen to what is
being said, make changes if necessary
but do it for you. You are the final
arbiter - but don't be blind or sulky
about it. Take it on board.

4. Read Aloud to Others

Reading out loud can highlight the
strengths and weaknesses within your
writing. Especially in the areas of
rhythm, wordiness and dialogue. It's
a great test.

Read to friends and family, yes, but
also read to other writers. Let them
make comments. Enjoy the process.

Try this. Read a short piece to a
group of friends/writers. Make note
of how your writing sounds to them.
Listen to suggestions. Make changes,
read it aloud again. Keep doing this
until everyone involved thinks the
writing - every word, every phrase -
is perfect.

5. Try Different Styles

It's too easy to get stuck in one area
of expertise. If you're a fiction buff,
try writing magazine articles or
screenplays. If you're a journalist,
try free-form fiction. If you're a
literary type, try writing advertising
copy. Don't limit yourself. All types
of writing are good in their own way
and experimenting with them can teach
you little tricks that help you become
a more mature, fully rounded writer.

Novice writers tend to think they
shouldn't experiment, that somehow it
might taint their art. Nothing could
be further from the truth.

6. Take Courses, Read More Books on
Writing

The process of being taught, of
exposing yourself to the ideas of
others, cannot be underestimated. Even
if you disagree with what is being said,
it all helps stretch you and give you
a deeper understanding of what is good
and right for your writing.

When you take lessons in writing, study
hard, do the exercises, listen to the
feedback, act on it and write some more.
Your writing will improve the more you
do it. Don't sit and fret over your
writing. Just do it.

7. Seek Out Good Advice

I quite often hear novice writers
complain that they're learning nothing
new about writing from the various
authorities they consult. They sound
disillusioned, as if there's more pertinent
information out there, if only they could
find it.

Odd, considering I've never met a seasoned
writer didn't love to debate the absolute
basics of word-play, grammar, sentence
structure and all the other little things
that novices seem to grow weary of hearing.

Remember. You can never hear good advice
too many times.

8. Give Back

Share your knowledge. Teach what you have
learned about writing to others. Too often
novice writers can feel there's some sort
of clique of professionals who don't want
to talk to them or associate with them.

We writers, whatever our abilities, must
learn to see ourselves as a community
with similar aims - to actively enhance
all our writing - to raise the bar and
to act for the betterment of all writers.

9. Constantly Want More From Yourself

Stretch yourself continuously. Find new
ways of expressing yourself.

Writing is sometimes a strange past-time.
A writing project that begins like an
adventure can quickly become an obsession
that ends up feeling like some self
inflicted curse!

But all writing experience is good,
whether it's fun or not. Not all of
your writing is going to be fun and
fulfilling. Some of it may be a hard
slog or a nuisance. This is okay.

If you want to succeed in writing,
it should become your life, your
passion, even your reason to be. It's
a fine and noble way of life.

If you want it, embrace it, and your
writing will benefit enormously. Go for it!

Best of luck and - whatever you do - keep writing.


Rob Parnell Best Selling Author of: The Easy Way to Write a Novel http://easywaytowrite.com/novel.html

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