How to Become a Great Writer

Before I start today’s post, I just want to do a few reminders. Firstly, don’t forget to nominate someone for the Paying Forward Awards! And then, if you haven’t yet, please go guess a letter for my title reveal. I’ve also posted a clue, to make things easier. There are only five letters left, and I’ll be revealing the title tomorrow, along with the winner of a $50 Amazon voucher. So get on it. ūüėČ

And now, back to the post.

How to Become a Great Writer 

Last week, I did a post on what makes a writer. I’m seeing this as a continuation of that line of thought.¬†
See, anyone who loves a story has the innate ability to create one. 
But to create a story is actually a tiny part of the process. Good writing actually doesn’t come from the writing. Writing is to get the ideas down. Editing is where you’ll become good.¬†

Good writers are people who understand the craft of writing. So you’ll need to learn plot. You’ll need to learn characterization. You’ll need to understand why an adverb is never a good idea when a strong verb exists. You’ll need to know what “strong verb” means. You need to know how to heighten stakes. And where real conflict comes from.¬†And… grammar.

The good news is, any writer learns as he/she writes and edits. 

The bad news is, any writer will first need to work on a few stories that suck. I wrote seven unfinished drafts before the one I’m going to publish.

So to become a great writer, first become a writer. Write every day. Get into way of thinking where you’ll think in terms of the story and how you can make it good. (BTW, this is something that happens automatically as you learn.) Start with what you’ve picked up from the books you’ve read. What sort of character do you like? What’s the worst thing that can happen to him? That’s a pretty good start to a story.¬†

If your story doesn’t work out, that’s okay. You’ll probably find that you have an even better idea. Better yet, you now know not to make the same mistake as in the previous draft.¬†

Once the book’s done and you’ve done your first edits, get a second opinion. Either get critique partners or an editor. Or both. I like CPs because one, in editing someone else’s work, can learn a lot about what makes a great story.¬†

If you can take the critique you’ll get, see for yourself where you went wrong, and fix those mistakes, then you’ll be well on your way to greatness.

I reiterate: 

Greatness comes from learning from your mistakes. 

What do you think is a sign of greatness in a writer?

A to Z Challenge: Getting to Know You

Welcome back, new kids and veteran novelists alike. It’s lovely to see you all here. Today, I have something very important to share – and I think the vets will agree with me.¬†

You see… when you start writing a novel, you haven’t a clue about how to write. Or you have a clue. But you know what they say. A little bit of knowledge might just be enough to kill you.¬†
So what’s a new kid to do? You research the craft, of course. That’s probably why you’re even here, reading this blog. You want to learn from others.¬†
And let me say one thing. The blogging community is a great place to learn. No one here is really here to make money on their writing wisdoms. (Their books, on the other hand… hint hint. Nudge nudge.)¬†
But the people in this community is so generous with information. This, my dear friends, is a blessing and a curse at the same time. 
If you’re like me and you have an excellent sense of who you are and what you’re trying to achieve, it’s a blessing. Because if you search long enough, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
You guys who are a bit less specific don’t have it so lucky, though. It’s sort of like walking into a writing library and asking for a writing book.¬†
The librarian will just keep stacking books until you’re buried.¬†
And I’ve seen it again and again in blogs and comments.¬†
“I enjoyed writing up to this point. But there are so many conflicting rules to it that I don’t know how I’m supposed to write right.”¬†
Sound like you? Yeah… thought so.¬†
You there… the tiny little thing in the corner who gave up on writing because you read too much advice and don’t know how to write any more. This message is for you.
First, I have a list of questions that you need to answer me. Give me all the right answers, please. Do you…
  • Write in the morning or at lunch?¬†
  • Squeeze in bits of writing every chance you get? Or do you block off hours of writing uh… let me venture to say… joy?¬†
  • Require a road map in your writing or do you make it up as you go along?¬†
  • Write every day or when inspiration strikes?¬†
  • Pen or keypad?¬†
  • If pen. Blue pen or black?¬†
  • If keypad… Comic Sans or Times New Roman?¬†
  • Muse or no muse?¬†
  • Character driven or plot driven?¬†
Yes kids, the veterans are cat-calling for a reasons. These are trick questions.
The answers are all correct. So yeah. Your approach to writing is highly personal. And you have absolute carte blanche about how you write. 
But the point is that you have to find what works for you. And only you. 
You’re not J.K. Rowling. You’re not J.R.R.¬†Tolkien. You’re not Danielle Steele. You’re not going to write like them. Because odds are, your personalities differ.¬†
You are the person who knows what works for you. So stick with what you know works. Even if, in my opinion, you’re the insane person who plots all the way to the end in *shudder* blue ball point pen.¬†
I’m the insane person known for writing entire drafts in black fountain pen ink. See?! Look at some of the vets shivering. Thankfully, they’re too nice to call me nuts.¬†
But you know why it’s okay? Because the only way to write a book is the way you write to get the project finished.¬†
Nothing else. 
The point? Once you know your method, you can find what’s niggling. And then you go researching to find a solution to that niggle. Anything else, you’re welcome to disregard. ¬†
Even when it’s my excellent advice.¬†
So, vets… Why don’t you do me a favor and answer me the questions listed above? New kids, do the same. It’ll help you a great deal, I think, asserting yourself and your method.¬†

A to Z Challenge: Failure

Mmm… today I’m seeing some shudders amongst those not-quite-so-new novelists among you.

For very. Very. Good reason.

Because failing sucks.

Really does.

And I’d be incredibly sympathetic except for a tiny little insignificant little truth that we vets know about and you don’t. Stop giggling vets. I’m going to spoil your fun and tell them.

Brace yourselves, kids, it’s a big one.

There is no such thing as a failed book.

You know those half finished works in progress hidden under your beds and in boxes and drawers? Nope. They’re not failures. Not even the terrible ones.

Okay new kids, you can stop gaping. It’s really true. Ask anyone who’ve been in the game for a while.

The reason for this is twofold:

Firstly, a failed book is only a failed book once you’ve given up on a story for ever. And I guarantee that you won’t. The reason why I know is because of the second reason why failed books don’t exist.

Every new project you start is a lesson in what works and what doesn’t. So yeah. Some of your old stories will have sucked. But never all of it. Maybe there’s an awesome character waiting to come to life. Or the basic premise was AMAZING but you didn’t have the chops to pull it off.

Guess what. You’re learning. Every time you take on a new story, you’re learning. And if you have an open mind to what critique partners have to say… If you pay attention to the lessons other writers learnt (blogs are brilliant sources of this sort of information, by the way)… Guess what. You will learn even faster.

And once you have the chops, you have three choices. You can use everything you’ve learnt up to this point and write something completely different. Or you can go back to one of the previously imagined failed manuscripts. There, you can either rewrite the whole thing using your mad new writing skills, or you can recycle everything you can use and start something better with it.

So I’m asking you nicely. Please please stop being afraid of failing. Try being excited about learning instead. And if you have to give up on a project, don’t get rid of it. Don’t forget about it. Because something inside might just be what gives you a bestseller idea.

How have you used knowledge gained in “failed” writing projects?