Writing is a craft. To become better at writing, you have to improve in many different areas. Some will come naturally to you and these are your strengths, but some will come a little harder and these are your weaknesses. If you’re finding something difficult, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer, it means you’ve found an area for improvement.
Mastering a skill relies not on a fixed level of innate talent, but on the ability to reflect upon your own strengths and weaknesses. Your strengths must be nurtured so they shine brightly in your work and display the very thing that makes you unique, and your weaknesses must be gradually improved upon so they no longer hold you back.
Before we go on, we must understand one thing; being a writer is a journey, not a destination. If we focus too much on mastering every aspect of the craft, we’ll never be happy. There are many potential readers out there with a wide selection of tastes, and it is our very quirks and differences in ability that allow us to cater to this insatiable appetite for original and refreshing work. Let’s celebrate the fact we all have different skill sets and have consistent opportunities to learn new things and improve each and every day. After all, how boring would it be if there was nothing left to learn?
To grow as a writer, you must identify the weak areas in your writing and this is no easy task. Luckily, we’re here to help! There is a simple and effective way to discover what your own weak areas may be. So what can you do to pick out those troublesome areas and get to work on improving them?
Listen to your beta readers
If you’ve not got any, why not? It’s really important that other people read your work so you can receive helpful critiques. In fact, this is one of the easiest ways to quickly discover where your writing might be lagging behind. Feel free to ask them questions about what works or notice when several of them pick up on the same thing. If there’s a problem with an aspect of your writing, they’ll let you know. This is an invaluable step in the writing process that you simply can’t afford to skip.
What areas might need improving?
A novel is made up of many different parts, all of which require different skills to write an edit. You will most likely be better at some and worse at others. Ask your beta readers to consider things such as, characterization, plotting, pacing, action, dialogue and description. There are more, but these are a fantastic place to start and any experienced beta reader will be well versed in each.
It’s completely normal to have problem areas in your writing, but once you know what those areas are, you’ll be far more likely to improve at them.
Perhaps you already have an idea of your weaknesses and are ready to get to work. In that case, pick one of them and set some time aside this week to go back to the basics and improve your abilities.
How can you strengthen your weaknesses?
Now that you’ve identified an area for improvement, you’re ready to get to work. Here are some things you can do to bolster your skill set:
- Listen to the Book Editor Show (ok, ok, other podcasts are available)
- Read articles and books on your problem area
- Look for writing exercises to strengthen that particular skill (plenty are free and only a Google search away)
- Take a class
- Ask other writers for advice
- Pick up your favorite books and see how other people do it
There’s lots of resources out there to help you become the best writer you can be, the first and most important step is to identify that problem area. So why not make it your goal this week to uncover what it may be, pick one bullet point from the list and see if you can make a little progress. Oh, and remember, enjoy the journey! As always, keep writing, keep learning and build a better book.
Peter Turley is a writer, editor, blogger and podcaster living in the North West of England where he grew up. He reads, writes and edits fantasy fiction and co-hosts www.thebookeditorshow.com with Clark Chamberlain. Follow him on Twitter @PDTurley