Friday, September 19, 2008

Becoming a better writer

How to become a better writer?

A big question I've been struggling with over the last few weeks. After attending Donald Maass' excellent High Tension Workshop, I worked to use what I learned. But working with my w.i.p. turned out to be difficult. It's a novel. It's long. It's complicated. It seemed like I was adding yet another couple of layers of complexity as I had to be consciously adding what I'd learned. It had yet to become subconscious. This felt overwhelming.

Until I figured out that I needed to "step out" of my w.i.p. and practice what I learned on a short story. Less emotional attachment, much, much shorter, and I picked a story that was character driven instead of plot driven to use the new tools. This helped, considerably.

Attending workshops, classes and conferences is only one part of honing a craft. Then figuring out ways to APPLY what you've learned is the second part of becoming a better writer.

What do you do to improve as a writer?


Anonymous said...

Study, study, study. Practice, practice, practice. Read, analyze, read some more. Repeat.

Hoping to go to Don's High Tension workshop next year...sounds like it was well worth it, as all of his are.

Sounds like you've cracked it - good luck applying it to your WIP!

Conda Douglas said...

Good advice, Beth. And of course, I'll add the old standby: write, write, write!

I sure hope I've gotten "it". Don makes it clear and seem easy--but of course, it just seems easy, otherwise everybody would be a fabulous author!

Kathy McIntosh said...

You both nailed it. I can only add what others have said, "Never ever ever ever give up." Tenacity is a virtue in this business.
(And besides writing is fun...almost all of the time.)

Conda Douglas said...

Yes, we sometimes forget we write for the love of it, don't we? And persistence does pay off, in my experience. No, I haven't published everything I've written but I have published!

Swubird said...


Of course, one thing I do is read a lot. I read everything from how-to books to fiction novels.

For character development, I read the old classics - things like Steinbeck. I also highlight how the various authors handled descriptions of people and places. I even keep a Description Folder in my laptop so that I can access it in a moments notice. If I am on the road, or in the middle of writing a pierce, and need a description, I look to see how they did it. It will usually give me an idea.

Reading, writing, studying - that's the heart of my personal improvement strategy.

Happy trails.

Conda Douglas said...

Swu--I really love the great idea of the "Description Folder"! How about a folder of fantastic dialog and action, etc.? And you simply listed the top three of the best way to become a better writer: reading, writing and studying!

It shows in your stories.