WordBird Tips: Becoming a Better Writer in 2018
We’ve finally kissed 2017 goodbye, and people are looking forward to 2018. If you’re like most people, you’ve set yourself some goals for the coming twelve months. Popular New Year’s resolutions include getting better shape, eating better, and reading more books.
If you’re like me, your resolutions may be focused a little bit more on your career goals. Maybe you’re hoping to finally sit down and write that novel. Maybe you’ve already written a few things, but you want to keep improving.
Writing’s fun because you can never perfect it. Every writer, no matter how experienced or how talented, can keep learning and improving throughout their careers.
If you want to become a better writer in 2018, use some of these handy tips.
1. Read More
This may seem counter-intuitive at first glance. You said you wanted to be a better writer, not that you wanted to be a better reader. Your goal isn’t to read more books.
Or is it?
A writer is a reader, first and foremost. The more you read, the more you’ll learn about writing. Our teachers are the masters (and disasters) of our field. We can read, learn, copy, mimic, and experiment when we read.
If you want to be a better writer, make reading more one of your goals.
2. Make Time
This is one I struggle with myself. If you want to be a better writer, you need to make the time to improve. Writing is one of those crafts you never perfect, so you can put in 10,000 hours and still be an amateur.
You’ll just be a really good amateur.
If you’re serious about improving your writing, make a concerted effort to set aside your time. Whether it’s five minutes a day or an hour, set aside a chunk of time and guard it jealously. It’s your writing time.
Practice makes perfect after all!
3. Get Some Critique
One thing I’ve learned over time is the best writers ask for criticism. Whether it’s because we’re our own worst enemies or we’re masochists, we’ll actively seek out criticism. Writers are particularly drawn to constructive criticism.
The best theory I have on this is most writers have imposter syndrome. We write, but we’re never really sure exactly how good we are at it. It’s a bit of a stereotype even: the writing cycle starts with a confident writer, followed by a sudden collapse of confidence and the unshakeable conviction what you’ve written is complete trash.
The good thing about this tendency is it pushes us to improve. You can’t fix something if you don’t know what’s wrong with it. You may have a sneaking suspicion there’s problems in your work, but without feedback, you’ll never know exactly where.
Try joining a class, an online group, or even a writer’s circle. You might also ask for beta readers or even look up an editor. Be sure the critique you’re getting is honest and sincere. A false flatterer is about as bad as a slanderer.
4. Head Back to School
You don’t need to hop on the bus, but you may consider signing up for an online course or even enrolling in an adult education, continuing education, or post-secondary school course for creative writing.
You might consider these options to knock the dust off your grammar and spelling as well. There are many great grammar resources out there. You don’t need to fly blind. If you don’t know something, look it up or ask!
5. Invest in New Tools
Writing on paper and pen is well and fine, but it does actually add to your time. You need to later convert what you’ve written into a typescript. If you simply write your novel using a word processor to start with, you can eliminate this step entirely.
(There are reasons to prefer pen-and-paper to the screen, and I advocate using this old-fashioned method in at least a few situations.)
There are some fairly fancy tools out there. Scrivener, Ulysses, and more all promise to help you make your writing better. Whether or not you need all of their offerings is up to you. A word of caution: Don’t get distracted by shiny things here. Yes, Scrivener’s capabilities to include character profiles and setting notecards is fun, but do you really need it? George R.R. Martin might, but your novel may not have so many characters.
Another great tool? Speech-to-text software. If you can get a good one, you can turn a lot of your “downtime” into uptime. Your commute can become more productive, or you can dictate your novel while you’re washing the dishes or cleaning the house.
Perhaps the most important tip for becoming a better writer is just to write. So many people hold themselves back. They daydream about writing a novel or telling a story. Some may start, then pitch their efforts, believing they’re not good enough.
Just write. Nobody started out good at this. There was a point in time when we didn’t understand language, when we couldn’t speak English, when we couldn’t read, when we couldn’t write. We all had to learn it. And you can keep learning and finessing your use of language.
Trust me. I sucked at writing when I started. I was eight, and I wrote dumb stuff, like, “Danny the Parrot was sitting in a tree. Denise the Ocelot reached out and clawed him. Danny squawked loudly. ‘Hahaha,’ Denise laughed.”
Compelling shit right there.
I’ve improved tremendously over the years. Even now, I look back at the things I wrote in my last year of university, in my first year as an editor, and I cringe. Heck, I can look at stuff I wrote last year or last week and cringe.
It takes time and effort. So put in the time and effort. You will not become a better writer by not writing, just like you won’t become a better golfer by never playing golf.
If you’ve been hoping to become a better writer, now’s the time to take the leap. Keep these tips handy, and you’ll be well on your way to reaching your goal.