Keep Learning

Do you ever feel like you’re not really progressing with your writing? Perhaps you’re at the start of your writing journey, but it’s hard going. You feel unconfident and unsure: you want to move forward, but you don’t know quite how. Perhaps you’ve been writing for years and years, and you’re in a bit of a rut. You feel bored, stagnant: you want to take the next steps, but you’re afraid of leaving your comfort zone. One of the most important things that you can do as a writer is to keep growing. Here are 21 ways to grow as a writer, whatever stage you’re at. See what you could try this week. Get Started 1. Read something — and think about it. How did the author grab your attention on page one of that novel? How did the blogger keep you reading post after post on their site? 2. Learn a new word. If you come across one when you’re reading, look it up, and find out what it means. 3. Tackle a writing exercise. Use a book (or website) with prompts, or flick through a magazine and pick an image to write about. 4. Write as often as you can. That might not be every day — but it should at least be every week. Once writing becomes a habit, you’ll find it much easier to make consistent progress. Practice As Much As You Can 5. Correct a persistent mistake. Do you constantly confuse “its” and “it’s”? Do you muddle “affect” and “effect”? Spend some time learning the difference. 6. Practice one element of writing. Try writing dialogue, or description, or killer opening lines. Lots of writing books have exercises to help you. 7. Keep a writing journal. After each writing session, jot down your thoughts: how did it go? What worked (and what didn’t)? Did anything surprise you? 8. Go through your writing folder. Look back at something you wrote months or years ago. See if it might have potential for development (and see how your writing has moved on since then). Seek Help and Support 9. Share your writing with someone. Perhaps that’s a family member or a trusted friend. You don’t need to ask for their feedback — just let them read it. 10. Get your writing edited. Pay a professional to edit an article, blog post, novel chapter, etc. Look through all their edits carefully, and see what you can learn. 11. Join a writers’ group. This is a great way to meet other writers, get feedback on your work, and learn more about the craft of writing. Shake Things Up 12. Try a new form of writing. If you only write in third person, try first person. If you only write prose, try poetry. If you only write serious non-fiction, try a humorous piece. 13. Read something outside your comfort zone. That could be literary fiction, biography, erotica, westerns … anything that you normally wouldn’t consider reading (or writing). 14. Write in a new location. Try a library, a coffee shop, a park… and see whether you find it easier to be creative when your surroundings are different. 15. Attend a writing course. There are so many options, from afternoon workshops to degree programmes to foreign holidays — take a look at what’s available! Aim for Publication 16. Enter a competition. There’ll be dozens of websites, magazines, and writers’ groups running competitions in your country. 17. Pitch your book idea to a publisher. Even if your book proposal gets turned down, you’ll have gained valuable experience — and you’ll have a detailed plan that you can use for a self-published e-book. 18. Submit articles or short stories to magazines. (With articles, you’ll normally need to pitch first; with short stories, you’ll normally need to send the complete story.) Going Further 19. Get testimonials. If you’re a freelance writer, or if you’ve written a non-fiction book or product, ask your clients/buyers to for testimonials — this is a huge help in encouraging new business. 20. Set yourself a challenge. Maybe you want to get published in a national newspaper, or see your writing on a huge website, or win a competition. 21. Self-publish your work. In today’s digital world, it’s easier than ever to get your writing in front of readers. Think about starting a blog, or putting your novel out there in e-book form. Therefore, to be an excellent writer, just keep improving and becoming increasingly good at your craft. Not only will you be a happier writer as a result, but you will also feel much more able to cope with the ups and downs of the job. Until next time! Irene S. Roth