4 Ways To Grow As A Writer

Everyone knows that to become a better writer, you need to write more. Practicing the craft does exactly that; allows you to hone your skills of putting words in the right order, building scenes and shaping characters.

The more you write, the better you get at it. But better writing isn’t the only skill that a writer needs. You also need to grow as a writer, so that each book you do write is an improvement over the last, and here are four ways that you can do that.

Learn To Take Criticism

Unless a reviewer or commenter is attacking you personally (in which case they are the one with the problem), criticism of your writing isn’t personal. It’s an opinion, just like the opinions that you yourself form when you read books by others.

Opinions aren’t something that you have to agree with and can be great teachers if you look for the lessons in them. Maybe that reader/reviewer was right about the beginning of your book lacking some action and that is something you can work on in the next draft or in future works. Learning to take all criticism with an open mind, making the most of constructive criticism to improve your work, and letting go of the criticism that isn’t helpful will ultimately help you become a better writer.

Learn To Criticize Your Own Work

When you’re reading a piece of writing that is bad, you know it. You can tell there is something lacking, the typos are obvious and plenty or the information is just clearly wrong. It’s easy to see the flaws and flow issues in work you haven’t written. If you can pick it up in others, you can pick it up in your own work.

As writers, we’ve all tried to justify why we’ve kept the dragging middle section even though everyone who has read it said it wasn’t great. The truth is, you ignored them because you loved writing it (there’s a reason they tell you to kill your darlings). In the first book in my YA series, there are some action sequences in a dark wooded area. Writing those scenes was surprisingly enjoyable as I’d never written action before. My beta readers, however, were confused about where the characters were standing. It all made sense to me (I had, after all, read the scenes a million times), so I could have easily put it down to them just not ‘getting it’. Instead, I choose to grow as a writer and look at the scenes with a critical eye and rework them until there was no doubt about what was happening. By the time I was then working on the fourth book in the series, I was able to self-critic the action scenes and make them clear from the first draft.

Compare The Old With The New

They say you shouldn’t compare yourself to other writers, but the one writer you should skip that advice on is yourself. Compare the writer you were at the beginning of the first draft, that bright-eyed, cheery, optimistic idiot who didn’t know the hell of writing a book. Not like the seasoned, humbled, frustrated, hardworking artist that you’ve become now that that first draft has turned into many and you’ve come out of the editing-other-side with a well-earned manuscript that is probably good enough to get somewhere (but which you will think is the worst thing ever written).

If you want to see how far you’ve come as a writer, read the first page of your first draft and then the first page of your latest draft. The differences will astound you. You might not have felt like you were improving as you wrote, but the tricks you learned, the mistakes you made, the plot twists that surprised you, the background characters that became your favorites, and the ideas you can’t believe (or feared) came from your mind, have allowed you to grow into a better writer.

Stop Believing That Everything You Do Is The Worst

While self-doubt and impostor syndrome is tough to beat and are a sure sign that you are a writer and not just a wannabe, believing that absolutely everything you do is the worst is just as stupid. There will be days when everything you write flows to the page like liquid gold. The images actually made it out of your head and into your book in the way you wanted, the way you intended, and you are so ridiculously happy with yourself that—for that moment—you are the greatest writer in the world! Self-doubt is part of the artist package, but if you constantly think everything is the worst, why are you writing in the first place?

Writing is hard but it is also rewarding. You do it because you have to, but you also do it because you love it. Emptying your head of words, imprinting your soul on the pages of a book, weaving words, and bringing people and places to life on the page is one of the best things you can do with your life. If you aren’t feeling like that when you sit down at your keyboard—at any point—then not only are you not growing as a writer, but you should be considering why you want to be a writer at all.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar to you, use them to grow and become the kind of writer who can stare down self-doubt (most of the time), see how far you’ve come with each draft, self-critic the scenes that need it the most and take feedback as a learning curve. That, after all, is the best kind of writer to be.

— K.M. Allan

Follow me on Facebook where I share the blogs and humorous memes that have helped me grow as a writer, and on Instagram where I balance my self-critics with inspirational quotes and writing prompts.

49 thoughts on “4 Ways To Grow As A Writer

  1. All sound points. I once belonged to a writers’ critique group. A young lady asked to join. After a couple of sessions she mentioned that she didn’t like anyone using red ink to make comments, suggestions, etc. So, we honored her request. She lasted a couple more sessions, arguing almost every point of constructive criticism the rest of us would offer. She dropped out of the group without a word. Never saw or heard from her again. True story. 🙂

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    1. I agree with the red ink comment. I was an English language teacher in Korean elementary school for a long time. Red pen was everywhere. It really discouraged the kids. We are programmed to think red is bad. Red equals stop, or danger. I always used blue or green pen to correct their work. I hope it gave them the sense of moving forward, rather than stopping. Of course the lady in your group was clearly bothered more by the comments than the color! 😀

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  2. Yes!!! Love this! Especially: “Learning to take all criticism with an open mind, making the most of constructive criticism to improve your work, and letting go of the criticism that isn’t helpful will ultimately help you become a better writer.” Such an important skill. I’ve trained myself over the years to say, “Thanks so much for even reading this thing and taking the time to offer ideas. I’ll for sure give them some thought.” Every little piece of feedback, even the advice I don’t follow, helps me see things in my writing through others’ eyes.

    Thanks for the link back to “Don’t Kill Your Darlings,” btw! ~Julie Tyler

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    1. Thanks for reading, Julie. Love what you say when you get feedback. It’s such a great way to thank someone for their feedback without having to take their ideas if you don’t want to, but also doesn’t sound rude or like you don’t appreciate it. Will have to remember it for future use 😊.

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  3. Great post. Seems to me the core argument here is learning to say “I suck, but that’s okay!” 😀 I’ve grown a thick skin over time, and that allows me to be much more efficient with my submissions. I get a rejection, I do a revision of the story (usually not changing much) and send it back out. It’s almost a ballet now. You can’t be discouraged by criticism, even self-criticism, because it is an essential tool for improving your work.

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  4. Criticism is an opportunity… I was trying to tell a fellow writer that just last night… but his story’s introduction (a first draft, written in a day) was great and should not be changed. We gave up, I hope he sees this blog (but not my outing of him!).

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  5. Thank you KM Allan for the tips on writing where perhaps I need to soul search with my draft going nowhere but I like the idea of comparing the start and end. This post is very helpful to my future as a writer.

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  6. I take criticism very badly because so far all the criticism i’ve received is in the lines of “You simply cannot write” or “This is absolute crap” or the best one yet “You’re portuguese, write in your own language because you can’t even speak english.” There’s absolutely no explanation of why my work is crap, except for someone who told me the characters were all a cliché and sounded the same (which I actually meant them to, it was purposeful) or another reviewer who said my writing was too slow paced for her liking and it became very boring and difficult to read, as my sentences were far too long, and the paragraphs never ending. But beyond that, all I get as feedback is that the books suck, the stories are boring, the writing is crap. What am I to make of that, how am I to grow as a writer from that? Unless I change my writing style completely – and then I wouldn’t be me – I have no idea what to take out of these critiques. A story being boring I think is a question of personal preferences, I find most sugary romance novels boring as hell, so I don’t read them, but am well aware there are some very well written out there – Bridget Jones is well written, even though it’s not my thing. I also feel like a fraud constantly, and the only moments when I am not agonizing over what right do I have to write – especially in English, being portuguese! – is when I am actually writing and thinking only of the story. As for comparing the first page on my first published novel to the first page on my current WIP, hell, what a huge difference! Not so much when I compare the first page of my second novel to any other first page, I still feel that those words were some of the best writing I ever did, despite having gotten a bit of criticism on that first page, I was advised to change it all. I didn’t follow the advice and perhaps I was wrong to, but I still think that’s some of the best writing I will ever manage to do.

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    1. Wow, Ruth. To get criticism like that, I understand why you’ve been feeling the way you have. It’s hard to take lessons from criticism that makes you feel bad, but it sounds like you’re growing as a writer despite it. If you feel as if your writing is improving with each book you complete, then that’s what matters. I bought your book, Unnatural last year, and what I’ve read of it so far has me hooked. Keep going and keep improving, that’s the best that we can do as writers.


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  8. Great advice. Even if it feels cringy to re-read early writing drafts, I agree it’s worth doing once in a while before moving on to the next stage.
    I’ve ‘binned’ a lot of my early writing. I know I’ve definitely grown since those days and it was quite freeing to delete the old and focus on the new. Just like cleaning out an old closet, it freed up brain (and computer) space, and allowed my improved abilities to flourish. I don’t have a problem with throwing away words – they’re all practice towards the bigger goal.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Marie. I envy you being able to throw away your words, I’m such a word hoarder 😂. Totally agree with you on the last part, all words written are practice toward the bigger goal.

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    1. Very true. Some days it seems like everyone around you is getting publishing deals while all you’re getting is rejections. It makes you question if you’re good enough and brings up all that doubt. You’ve got to focus on your own journey though, and work on what you have control of, which is improving your own work. Thanks for reading.

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  9. Good, solid advice. Self-doubt is one of an author’s greatest weakness. I am guilty of this a lot of times. Sometimes you just got to churn out those writing to develop yourself as a writer. Practice makes perfect.

    Have a nice day.

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