I’ve been meaning to do this post for a long time, but one thing was stopping me. There are actually a lot of posts that I’ve meant to do and haven’t because one question was stuck in my head: What makes me qualified to write this?
None of my works have been published, I don’t have an agent, and, let’s face it, I’m only a teenager. I’ve decided that none of these things are important, or they shouldn’t be. The thing is, I’m a writer. I write.
Not only that, but I write a lot. And I learn from my writing. I improve my art. I’ve been working at bettering myself as both a person and a writer for basically my whole life, and while I’ll never reach perfection as either thing, I think I’m finally confident with myself. I’m happy in my own skin. I can look in the mirror and walk down the street feeling like I know myself and I’m proud of my accomplishments, and of the goals I strive toward.
If you are yet to reach this point of self-assurance, or if you’re happy with who you are as a writer but also realize that there’s always room for improvement, read on. Here are some tips on how to improve your writing.
- Realize that there’s always more to learn. There are many ways to learn more about writing, from reading books on the art to opening your eyes to the world around you. One of my problems is that instead of focussing on the present moment and becoming attuned to my surroundings, I look ahead. I think about the future, what I’ll gain from it, what I might lose. I consider all of the things I can do later on, all of the benefits of adulthood when it comes to both lifestyle and my writing career. I wish I were better at seeing the opportunities that surround me every day. All of the opportunities I might not have later on. So try and open your eyes and absorb all that the world has to offer you, because you can learn a lot from it. Also, here are some of my favorite books about writing. There are only a few (I’m picky…), but they have changed my writing life forever. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Edit Your Novel by Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson, and On Writing by Steven King. Also, I follow Vivian Reis on YouTube. If you want to watch some helpful writing videos, I can’t recommend her channel enough!
- Write the first draft for you. Like Terry Pratchett said, ‘The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.’ I always used to make the mistake of going too deep into the first drafts of my books. So deep, in fact, that I never finished them. Recently I’ve gotten better at that, and I’ve finished three books in less than a year. Two of them were slightly below the average novel length, but I learned that this wasn’t actually a bad thing. I had the basic storyline down; all I had to do were fill in some spaces and add some descriptions and character development here and there. Just write your story, and work on prettying it up later. A very helpful quote for me is by Jodi Picoult, and I always have to remind myself of it when I’m writing. She said this: ‘You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.’
- Get inspired. Figure out what inspires you before you write. I enjoy brewing a warm cup of tea in my Ravenclaw mug (Ravenclaw forever!) and maybe a snack, and I listen to the Hobbit movie playlist on Spotify while I write. It helps to put me in my own little world (plus it’s classical, which helps me focus- except for ‘Blunt the Knives’ and ‘Misty Mountains’), plus what’s better than a little snack to nibble at in between writing awesome stuff?
- Fall in love with your characters. If you can really get a feel of who your characters are, they’ll help lead your story. You need to make them unique if you want your story to be unique. The better you know them, the more realistic they’ll be. Try and look at the world from their point of view.
- Try something different/Avoid cliche plots. As much as we all love stories about tyrannical, futuristic governments that are split into different groups that unite against the dominant oppressors with the help of a strong-willed female main character (yep, I’m talking about The Hunger Games and Divergent if you caught my drift), we’ve seen it already. Of course, the storylines of said books were very different and well written, so I’m not saying that you can’t do well with that kind of plot. Just be careful that your plot is original; people won’t be interested in reading something they’ve already seen, and a publisher will likely turn it down if it’s too similar to an already popular novel/series. Come up with something new, and don’t be afraid to be different. That’s what people want.
- Talk to other writers. Discussing writing with other people who enjoy it is a great way to get better at it yourself. Join a critique group (online or at your local library), head over to Nanowrimo, or check out my writer’s forum here on WriterbloK.
I’ll probably do an updated version of this post soon, because I’ve had a lot more ideas about writing improvement that have escaped my mind. I hope this was helpful!