Friday, 28 January 2011

How to Become A Better Writer

This post is a summary of some of the things that I have learned in the past few months.

Your first attempts at getting words down may not be your best efforts
You may disagree with me. But in my experience, the more you write, the more you learn about the crafting, structure, and re-arranging of words.  When you look back at the first novel or short story that you write, you may well think it's flawed later on. Much the same as each first draft will change a lot if you treat the process of writing professionally. Which leads me to...

Beta Readers are your friends
Yes, they really are. I used to shudder at the thought of showing a new-ish piece of writing to anyone else, but have realised that if you show a piece of writing to a selected group of friends, (preferably friends who also write,) and specify exactly the sort of feedback you wish to receive, this can save a lot of heartache further down the line. Leading on from that...

A good Editor is worth their weight in gold
I have found the editing process a positive thing. I get pleasure from the fact that someone has taken the time and effort to go through something I have written and tried to help me to improve it as much as possible. It is important to see your work as something that is able to change as time goes on. I have worked with four different editors recently which has taught me a lot. The thing to remember is, they are not slicing your work apart for the fun of it. They honestly want to help you to make a good story great.

If your "favourite story ever" is not placed in a competition, it doesn't mean you have to give up writing
Rejection is not an easy thing to accept as a human being. But it's all part of the writing game. The more you write and enter competitions or submit to publications, the easier it becomes to receive a "no". (Unless, of course, you're hormonally challenged, you're sleep deprived, or it's a Monday.) In theory, learning to brace yourself is an art in itself. If you submit a story for publication, for example, and you know there is one slot and possibly hundreds of people will go for it, be realistic. It would be impossible for everyone to be chosen, and perhaps someone else has written a story that is that tiny bit closer to what the editors were looking for.

Every story will find a home
A story may be rejected. Instead of thinking you are rubbish and should give up writing immediately and forever, put the rejection behind you and keep your story in mind in case another competition/ call for submissions/etc should arise which it is suitable for. At that time, you can look at it again with fresh eyes, possibly give it a tweak, and attempt to find it a new home.
Of course, some stories may find a permanent home in the 'story' folder on your computer.  There is nothing wrong with that.

Every writer should read as much as they can. Reading will not only help you to develop your own skills as a writer but if you are open-minded about what you read, you could find a whole new genre that appeals to you for future writing projects. Reading is particularly important if you are working on a novel as you will need to know about books in the genre that you are working on when the time comes for you to think about approaching a publisher or agent.

I have learned so much from the people that I speak with on Twitter. I basically wouldn't be writing this without them. If you are very new to the idea of writing, and have yet to discover Twitter, I would strongly encourage you to get on there. There are thousands of writers on there at any time. It won't take long for you to find a few who are generous about tweeting links and information. You could even follow one of my lists if you wish. I keep them up to date regularly so there should be something of interest to any writer in my list of lists.

The main thing is, if you want to write, don't just think or say that you will do it "one day": go for it and write! If you want to get feedback on your work it's easy to achieve if you put it on your blog and link to it via one of the many groups that have developed across the social networks. I regularly take part in #fridayflash, but I have heard of Tuesday Serial, #fictionfriday and I am sure there must be many more. The good thing about this is you comment on other stories and other writers will comment on yours. It's a great way to get constructive criticism and to develop your style for the future.

If anything in this post helps even one person, I will be delighted.

Thank you for reading.


  1. Thanks for this great post - so much wonderful advice!

  2. Great Post... And Great points... I agree 100%.

  3. I agree with everything you said, great post :)

  4. I agree with you about the good editor being worth their weight in gold. It's easy to get somene to compliment your work, not so easy to have someone really take it apart and point out the warts. It must be someone whose work you respect though and you better be able to take a punch.

  5. Not that I don't agree with your other points. :)

  6. Hi! I really like what you write here so I'm now following your blog.

    I also blog about writing, over at

    (We follow each other on Twitter, I'm amaranth_dreams.)

    Take care, and keep writing!


  7. P.S. I've tagged you in my post today.