Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How to Become a Better Writer

I've been writing a long time, and while I'm not the greatest writer in the world, I know that I've improved over the last few years. A friend and I were chatting about what makes a writer better, what makes us feel that we are getting anywhere in the literary world? Is it getting an agent? Is it publishing that first book or finding a home for a short story?

Any of those prove you are getting better as a writer, but how do you even get good enough to accomplish the above things? What steps should you take to put you on a writing path that gives you everything you want?

I think the answers are simple.

1. Set goals. They don't have to be complicated or extreme. A writing goal is personal and should be something that is attainable whether in the short or long term. In fact, I think it's good to set both kinds of goals. Having a mission helps keep you focused.

2. Manage your time wisely. Family, work, writing, social. That's the order of importance for me. When I write, I like to make sure everyone knows that it's my time to be creative and I don't want to be interrupted. Email, Facebook, and surfing the web do not count as managing my time. I try not to do any of those things when I'm working on a story or manuscript.

3.Read. Yes, it may seem like a no brainer, but even as a writer, you should be reading. I think you should read all genres--don't just get stuck in the one you writer. Open yourself up to new experiences and you might discover a new trend in your own writing.

4. Check your ego at the door and let someone critique your work. Writing is a lonely business and often we don't get immediate feedback. Form a group of trusted readers who will be honest with you about your work and how good/bad it is. No matter what the feedback, consider it. Mull it over. Even if you receive negative reviews on a work, challenge yourself to see if the reviewer has a point.

5. Keep a list of ideas. I use a notebook and write down character ideas or plot outlines. Sometimes I forget about them and then re-discover them later. I have several friends who use various programs on their phones to keep track of their ideas.

6. Try to write as often as you can. Yes, I know that writers are supposed to write every day, but sometimes that just doesn't happen. Don't beat yourself up about it. Just try again the next day.


  1. Spot on, Mary Ann. Let me also add that if you stop practicing or if you stop trying to get better, you will get worse. I'm a perfect example!

  2. Great post. I'd also add that, if you read something you really don't like, try to analyse why you didn't like it. I find that this goes some way towards preventing me from blundering into the same pitfalls myself (maybe you'll think otherwise after reading one of my books, of course).

  3. I agree with all of your points! Great post.