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How to be a Better Writer
How to be a Better Writer
When you make the decision to write a novel it might seem like a monumental task in front of you, something equivalent to climbing a mountain or walking across the country. There are so many different factors to consider that many people are never even able to get started. Don’t fret though, as you read through these blogs in the coming weeks I’ll break down the writing process so you can easily and quickly write your story in a compelling and breathtaking manner. Before we get to that though, I want to cover a few tips on how to be a better writer so that the fans will love your work as much as you do.
The first tip to improve your writing is to read more. Turn off social media blurbs and read real and deep content. Read books, read short stories, read articles, read blogs and read anything that requires extra thinking on your part. The more you read the more you will absorb the writing process. Find books that are similar and notice how authors use different ways to describe the same thing.
Read books from a genera that you don’t like. If you’re going to write science fiction, read some romance books. If you are writing young adult, read some mystery thrillers. The point is to notice the similarities that are consistent in all good books. You could sit through more English classes and listen to a dry professor ramble on about it, or you could go out and experience it through books.
By reading books not just in the genera that you are writing you broaden the context of your writing style. Don’t try to copy any one person’s writing, find your own voice, but notice what makes certain novels best sellers and others flop. Find a current best seller that’s flying off the shelves and read it, then find a similar book that didn’t really sell at all, a book that has a lot of bad reviews. Compare the two and notice what worked in the good book and what didn’t in the bad book.
I don’t want to rattle off a number of writing rules such as show don’t tell, connect emotionally with the reader or write what you know. You can get hundreds of those rules from textbooks written by people who’ve never landed on the fiction best seller’s list. Read as much and as often as you can. Notice the differences between good books where the words just pop off the page and you’re creating worlds in your mind inhabited by amazing, compelling characters and books that are dull, plodding and you don’t care one way or the other whether all the characters reach their goals or not. Reading good fiction is the best writing class you can have.
There are a lot of other ways to enhance your writing. Some simple exercises and experiences can increase your competency ten-fold. The first is a writing exercise that I did when I first got into writing. I would pick a movie that I’ve never seen that I knew was based off a book that I hadn’t read yet. I would watch the movie and pick a scene from it, taking that scene and writing it out as I think it would appear in novel format. Once I was satisfied with how I had written it, I would get the book and compare what the author had written against what I had done.
I would notice what the author had focused on compared to what I did. How did they describe what was going on? How did the characters react to the events in the scene? When I first started this exercise my writing would be very different from the original author. After a few times, and some other exercises I’ll explain in a moment, my writing was getting very close to the original. I was able to tell what was focused on and what didn’t matter. My work with the characters was getting better. I noticed that my fiction writing overall was improving by doing this work. This exercise was key in allowing me to see how to enhance the important items and hide the extra stuff that needs to be there.
A variation of this exercise is to watch a movie and try to create the screenplay for it. I’ve done this for a number of movies, watching them, transcribing them back to screenplay format before getting a copy of the screenplay and comparing it to what I’ve written. These two exercises have helped my writing more than anything else. There are so many cool things that start to happen when you compare your work to what was very successful. You can see what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. It’s a fun exercise that will greatly improve your writing.
Another exercise that is fun to do and can really improve your writing is to go out into the world, perhaps a nearby park or a coffee shop, and just observe everything for a moment before writing it out. Describe the scene on paper as if you wanted to take a reader there, say right before your protagonist walks into the scene. Or maybe, describe a tranquil and picturesque nature scene right before an alien attack happens. Write out the scene, introduce the reader to the people who are there.
Once you’ve finished writing the scene out, find someone to read it before you take them to the location. Did you convey the area to them? Does the area match the pictures that the reader had in their mind? Can they see what you were writing and how you arrived at your descriptions? Think of it this way, have you ever read a detailed review of a place only to arrive and find it’s nothing like what you had pictured from the reviewer? That’s bad writing. Your writing should be able to quickly and easily convey the area so if the reader visits what you were describing it feels to them like they’ve already been there.
The third and final tip for today isn’t so much a technique as it is a challenge. You need to challenge yourself to write every day. Each day you should write at least 2,000 words. This will allow you to progressively become a better writer. You’ll see your writing evolve as you go along, noticing where you need to improve and what is working great. If you make sure to write 2,000 words every day, in one year you will have written 730,000 words. That’s over eight regular length novels.
You don’t have to write eight novels though, nor would I recommend it. The writing can be anything. It can be extra backstory about one of your characters. It can be details about an upcoming battle you’re going to be including in a story. You could be working on short stories, blogs or news articles. The point is to write every day. I have written at least three novels this way that I will never publish. They simply aren’t good enough from a story perspective. Do I consider those three novels a waste of time? No. They were excellent learning tools. It helped me develop some interesting concepts. The best part is, I can take what worked from these stories and use them to enhance other stories that need something extra.
Think about writing like going to the gym. If you lift weights on Monday but then don’t go back to the gym for a week, it’s not going to help very much. The work you did will be for nothing. Now when you lift every day, each day working a different muscle group in a rotating order, you will develop muscle and get fit. Your mind is the same way. If you want to be a great writer you have to keep reading and writing every day. As the old saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect.’ You need to keep at your writing.
When you start out writing you might only have one or two different book ideas. Doing these exercises and writing every day will help you to come up with more ideas. You’ll quickly discover how much there is to write about. If you’re doing the exercises and working at it you’ll notice that each book you write is getting better. This is how the professional writers work at it.
People always love to point out to me a writer or someone who simply sat down, started writing their book and had a smash hit on their hands. Why can’t they just do it like that? Why go through all this extra work? For every author you show me that had a first time best seller with very little work I’ll show you thousands of authors who didn’t get anywhere until their second, third, or even tenth book. Put the effort in to get the skill and it will show in your writing and your fans will appreciate your work all the more.
Thanks for reading. Come back next week when I share some more great tips on how to improve your writing, including how to solve the mystery of writing great dialog. Be sure to head over to my webpage, www.leifericksonwriting.com to see how these writing tips have helped my work and buy my books today. Thank you.