As you start to explore writing with more confidence, you start to get passionate about the craft of writing. Just as an artist spends months and months learning to sketch a hand, or a sculptor making hundreds of woodcarvings, this practice grounds us. Write every day. It gives us a baseline, a foundation, a sense of security.
1. Tear into it
In her book, Practical Tips for Writing Popular Fiction (Writers Digest), novelist Robyn Carr suggests you study fiction to become a better writer. This is great advice. Read a book once as a dreamer, a second time as detective. Start looking at how other authors are doing it. How do they structure their sentences? How much dialogue do they use? What are the main plot points? Don’t just do it on good books but on those that disappointed you. Try to find the knocks in the engine.
Picasso said to copy others was necessary but to copy yourself is pathetic. That’s a good point. I’m not suggesting you copy or steal other stories – but to look at the structure behind the stories of others. You then start to use this to build your own stories.
Tip: Type out the first page or chapter of a novel you’ve read. You’ll be so close to the work, you’ll see the structure emerge first hand.
2. It’s in the detail
When learning our craft, we learn to pay careful attention to detail. We start to see how important it is to paint our words with the right colour, shape and size. The right detail makes your writing come to life, and helps us build a believable story world. Sometimes we forget that what we see in our minds as writers isn’t available to the reader – we have to make sure it’s on the page. We learn to gather and organise these so they draw the reader in.
Tip: Visit a coffee shop. Write down all the fascinating and mundane descriptive details. Fill a page or ten pages. Find the ones that give a mental picture of the place. Choose just five sentences from your pages that give the best ‘snapshot’.
3. Take off the training wheels
Reading and studying about the craft of writing can teach us a lot – and writing is about learning and improving all the time. But ‘studying’ can also turn into a form or procrastination. We don’t get back to our stories and put (perfect) theory into (sometimes-clumsy) practice.
We all have our own approaches to writing. No one can tell you how writing will work in your life and your career. This is something you have for figure out for yourself. But as they say: ‘Learn the rules before you break them.’
Tip: Have a Journalist Day. Find the one event in your day – or even a friend’s day – and write a 300-word article, poem or mini-story about it. Give yourself a 5pm deadline. Keep it. Get in the habit to writing to a deadline.
Making up stories is easy. Finding the language, structure and focus to shape your imagination into a novel, screenplay or short story is a lot of hard work.
If you enjoyed this post, read:
The Writer's Journey - Five exercises to get you started
- Five Creative Ways To Make Your Story More Powerful
- Three things every writer needs to stay in the game
by Anthony Ehlers