I met a charming up-and-comer last week and wanted to allow her the floor for a guest post. Enjoy the thoughts of Valerie Thomas.
The 7 Ways to Become a Better Writer
Please note, the ordering of this list is not random. There is a definite progression from the activities I find help me most with my writing, to the ones that help the least. With that in mind—and the caveat that this is only the opinion of one starving author (okay, well maybe not starving)—please enjoy.
- This is the most obvious one, so don’t neglect it. There isn’t any wax-on, wax-off for writing; you just do it (kudos if you recognize the reference).
- Read books in your genre. This is almost as important as writing. As Orson Scott Card argues in his book How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, the only way to gain familiarity with the clichés and nuances of your genre is to read as many related novels as you can get your hands on.
- Get critiques, whenever and wherever you can. Critiques from peers, not friends or family, are key. It’s easy to think a work is good when no one else has read it, or to think a piece is so perfect it wouldn’t bear any more editing—but trust me, critiquers will find problems and places to edit for you. Please note that you shouldn’t simply accept critiques as fact, however; consider the advice for yourself, decide whether it makes sense to you.
- Read nonfiction, and books outside your genre. My favorite nonfiction books are those on the topic of becoming a better writer, but at the very least a writer should be familiar with the names Strunk and White, and read a few books outside their comfort zone every year. The reason being, romance novels occasionally need an action scene, mysteries sometimes require romance, and science fiction often pulls from every other genre. Instead of emulating scenes written by authors whose skill lies elsewhere, the best answer is to go straight to the source.
- Go on an adventure.Writing becomes much easier if you base things, as much as you can, on your own life and experiences (this is why Ender’s Game is set in North Carolina and Pretty Little Liars is set in Pennsylvania). If you have some interesting memories to put down on paper, your novel ideas will be interesting as well. So go out and get some.
- Develop your empathy. Believable characters come from authors who understand people, and empathy is our way to reach an understanding. If you want somewhere to start, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the best books I’ve read.
- Work on your spatial awareness. There are some successful authors who can’t picture their own scenes, but to my knowledge they are very few. In order to recreate a scene in the reader’s head, an author must first be able to picture it themselves, which is why a developed spatial mind is important.
Please note that television and movie-watching are nowhere on this list. I suppose, if they were, I might place them at a very distant eight. I personally enjoy both forms of media, but have yet to notice any credible improvement in my writing from watching The Big Bang Theory.
Do you think this list is incomplete, or that I got the ordering wrong? Do you have a good book or relevant source to recommend? Please let me know in the comments below.
Valerie Thomas is a twenty year old college student in Colorado and author of The Clique. Her blog can be found at valeriethomasblog.wordpress.com” Something like that should be perfect.