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