I was lucky enough to study creative writing, which really helped break me to the fact that there was much more to learn about writing than I knew. That a person could be incredibly talented in writing, but lack the skills to succeed.
After I graduated, I continued reading and studying the authors I found interesting and kept rereading their books, trying to figure out how I could keep improving myself and my writing. I personally think the two are linked, but thats a bit off topic. I began myself study as a journeyman writer.
It began with taking notes, and collecting books on writing. Seems simple right, but it started down a path that quickly led me to realize there was a big difference between myself and the writers that I followed closely. It wasn’t a matter of skill or dedication to craft or anything like that. I found it was a volume of work they were able to cover, and even how they kept improving their writing.
Turns out its not just pushing out manuscript after manuscript. Its not just working with an editor or landing an agent…those help of course, and can shorten the climb, but its establishing some helpful habits and attitudes that writer should have.
Lets breakdown how I started to form the rules of my writing.
Try everything you read or see presented to you, but only take what works for you.
I spent a few years trying to force myself to hold onto habits that didn’t combine well with my style of writing or even my personal situation. One of those habits is to write everyday. Though I agree that this is important, I am a sprint writer. I can cover a lot of content in a small amount of time and I really crave that type of immersion into a subject…so that doesnt really work with that type of mind set. I found my writing becoming dull and I was burning out. So I tried to twist it a bit. If I’m not sprint writing, I’m working on Mind Mapping, Outlining or editing.
Play to your strengths.
Remember that your writing craft is yours. First and foremost. So it’s up to you to make sure you can be successful. This means giving yourself the best chance to win. For me, I do much better in an issolated office when I’m planning and editing, but I do much better when I’m doing my first draft out with a lot of activity around. I do my self study in the mornings before my day job, while I use the afternoons and late night to get things done. Etc
Find what works for you and find ways to put yourself in the situation to make things happen. There are also times where things just don’t line up, those happen, just do your best.
Create a Workbook.
This serves two purposes, for one, you can collect useful writing tools and drills so that you can keep studying and improving. Two it allows you to track your improvement. I typically keep an active rotation of exercises that I’ve collected from books on writing, to ideas that have come up in writing groups and panel talks from conventions. I typically rotate these exercises every three months and have one of my test readers or another person in a writing group look over. This helps me really see where my writing is at, and gives me concrete examples that I can refer back to when I start feeling stuck or that I am stagnating.
There are more things that I like to do help improve my craft and as a person in general, if this post gets good traction, I’d love to do another brief list, or if there is anything you all would like to hear more about, I can do a more indepth piece on what I do or my specific habits. As usual, let me know by leaving a comment on this post or feel free to follow me on Facebook.