Become a Better Writer

A Not So Gentle Reminder You Used to Suck as a Writer

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–Sondi Warner, Writer/Blogger for Wrought Iron Reads

NOT SO GENTLE REMINDER

I think of myself as a hungry writer. I can’t get enough of what I do, which should come as no surprise, since I was a voracious reader as a youngster and greedily consumed everything I could get my hands on. (Feed your children books. It’s a healthy diet.) So, when I decided to make this my vocation, I came to the table with a desire to tell the best stories possible.

I’ve been writing for what feels like forever, and a certain degree of arrogance tries to rear its ugly little head every now and then because, frankly, this isn’t an easy job. 😉 Many feel they have a novel in them, but not everyone can actually produce one. As a ghostwriter I’ve written a plethora.

Granted, there is a difference between putting together pop fiction versus penning timeless literature. Obviously, the latter is more all-consuming than the former. But, hey, good writing is difficult, no matter the genre.

Whenever I get too full of myself, a nice big slice of humble pie is on the menu, and I revisit old material to put me back in my place. If you’ve dredged up drafts from the past, then you know what I’m talking about. Sure, sometimes we shock ourselves with our former wit and magnificence, but most often we cringe through every syllable of the re-read. Remember, you used to suck as a writer. Or, at least, I did.

And, if all goes well, I’ll be saying the same thing about my current writing ten years from now. The objective at every level should be to master the craft, and to do that, we have to acknowledge there’s always room for improvement.

During my latest foray into the Writing of Nevermore, I found such gems as  purple prose, grammar mishaps, and dialogue snafus, and which is why today’s motivation is… *cue the drumroll*

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IT GETS BETTER!

But you really do have to work for it. Here’s my experience:

I took up ghostwriting as a quick way to earn extra cash. I went from dabbling in the business in my spare time after working my regular 9 to 5, to crush a whopping 40+ hours of writing per week when I made this my full-time job.

In fact, I like to joke I have no clock-in or clock-out time. I write, edit, market, research, plan and learn more about the industry 24/7, unless you count the three or four hours of sleep I squeeze into the equation, which you probably shouldn’t because I get my best ideas when I’m asleep.

But, I digress.

I hope you don’t follow my bad example of overwork and crappy sleep habits. What I do want you to take from this is the importance of practice. Not ten minutes a day, not every other week, but steady, dedicated hours set aside for sharpening your skills. The more you write (and actively seek to improve your writing), the better you’ll become.

Tracking your progress allows you to monitor how far you’ve come, establish the amount of effort necessary to go further and determine your strengths and weaknesses. If you fuel up on old drafts, you’ll find the impetus to keep going, while simultaneously giving yourself a good laugh. We call that a win-win. 😉

So, when I’m having a particularly bad writing day—not hitting my target word count, under-motivated to continue my grueling schedule, overwhelmed by deadlines—I take a break and see what utter rubbish I wrote in the past to put into perspective why I can’t give up now. I have to keep going to get better.

Whether you’re an aspiring author struggling to complete your manuscript, an indie waiting for your big break or a seasoned veteran floundering under deadlines, do yourself a favor and admit you used to suck as a writer, too. I promise, if you keep at it, it gets better.

SEE YOUR PROGRESS

Here are some ways to give yourself a blast from the past when you need it.

  1. Keep a journal. Not only will this remind you to make writing a part of your daily routine, but also it will help develop your voice and style. Fill the notebook with memories, doodles, favorite songs, rants, sermons, etc. Just make sure you fill it from cover to cover and hold onto it to look back at how you’ve evolved over time.
  2. Put together a scrapbook. Did you keep memorabilia from your high school years? Those old notes to your bestie, love letters to your crush, short stories and poems for English class can be compiled for a walk down memory lane. Believe it or not, your earliest writing is some of your most honest and can reveal tips to improve your tone and pacing in present-day. If nothing else, you’ll be highly entertained by your childish hijinks.
  3. Write a letter to yourself. Every January 1st, write down your predictions for how the year will progress. Practice humor and wit or deliver a sobering, solemn look at your future. Make sure you write with an eye towards grammar and mechanics, but don’t forget to add whimsy and wishful thinking. Seal the letter in an envelope, not to be opened until December 31st. When you write next year’s letter, focus on doing a better job than the year prior.
  4. Keep a log. Before each project, re-read your last work and write down any areas of weakness you encounter. Don’t be a scathing critic. You simply want to identify rough patches so you don’t make the same mistakes. Keeping a spreadsheet of problem areas will help you pay closer attention and target these sections in your next project.
  5. Make a time capsule. Pick your best stories from the past five years. Place them in an envelope and put them in a safe. Five years from now, pick another set of your best and compare these to your old work. Spot the improvements, and then try to top your best the next round.

I’d like to know your methods for tracking your progress and improving as a writing. Tell me about it in the comment section below or Tweet me on Twitter @WIRUniverse, #GentleReminder

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6 thoughts on “A Not So Gentle Reminder You Used to Suck as a Writer

  1. “Many feel they have a novel in them, but not everyone can actually produce one”

    That is probably because many of us who feel we have a novel in them also feel our novel is likely to be crap 🙂 I mean in my mind I’d like to think I’m the next Cormac MCCarthy, but in reality I’ll probably be more like Sydney Sheldon.

    What demotivates me from writing a book is that lack-of-talent fear plus the committing to the effort to write something only to be faced with a publisher reading it and going ‘nuh’. Or getting it published and the public going ‘nuh’. Or worse – the public loving it and buying it in droves but reviewers hating it. I don’t think I could live with the shame of having left the world of literature with something like The Twilight Saga no matter how much money I made.

    So… any advice on how to get past that mental keyboard-block?

    Cheers,

    Dave

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now, when have you ever done anything that EVERYONE liked? 🙂 And, when have you ever done anything perfectly right on the first (or sometimes even tenth) attempt? How you most certainly won’t make it is by never trying. 😉

      Like

      1. Oh I know, it’s just… a book is such a big thing. It’ not like say a blog where you put yourself out there after a couple of hours work and get some feedback pretty immediately. Or any other kind of try-fail-try-fail process like for example auditioning for movie/tv roles where you can just keep turning up.

        A book, especially your first one, is going to be a big commitment. Typically you will also pour all your best ideas and funniest lines because you want it to succeed. After you won’t know until the end if you have any talent for making people want to read you. And if it gets rejected there is always the Dr Seuss Factor where it took him 27 rejections before he got his first book published. How do know your work is good enough to try another publisher? Arrrghhhhh LOL

        (I *may* be over-thinking this a little)

        🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I challenge you to write a 25K-word short story and post to Wattpad. See what feedback you get. 😉 Report back to me next month, and tell me how you do, and be sure to share a link to your Wattpad page on our Wrought Iron Reads FB page at http://www.facebook.com/wroughtironreads and my personal FB author page at http://www.facebook.com/sondi.writer. I’d be happy to read and share so you can get the necessary boost to KNOW what you already know: There’s no time like now. You can do this.

        Liked by 1 person

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