How much time have you taken – in between frantically cranking out stories – to consider what kind of writer you really are? We can considerably improve our writing, and our writing goals, by stopping to think about what makes us tick as writers, identifying when we are at our best, and defining our strengths and weaknesses. Once you identify your strengths, you can build on them. Once you acknowledge your weaknesses, you can fix them.
Here are six things to consider that will help focus your thinking on your internal development as a writer – regardless of the project you are working on at the moment. Whether you’ve yet to write a book or you’ve written a dozen, you will keep evolving as an author. You’ll always be learning if you keep your mind open.
We all write differently
The first task of a writer is to understand that we all write differently. You need to find your own processes, your own joys and pains, and keep them in mind while you absorb the experiences and lessons of others. Ask yourself these types of questions when you contemplate yourself as a writer.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What makes you work best and what stops you from working?
- Why do you enjoy writing?
- Do you have a special routine you enjoy or do you need to develop one?
- Do you write in spurts and then go silent until the words well up again?
- Where do your ideas come from?
How to fail
Once you decide to take writing seriously, you need to learn enough of the rules so you can do your best. Your knowledge of convention will evolve over time and as the words flowing from your fingertips compound. You don’t need to learn all the rules at once: the more experience you gain as a writer, the more rules you will become aware of and actively use. You’ll know when and why to use them and when to ignore them or break them in clever ways that lend novelty to your efforts.
More important, do you believe the secret to great writing is magic or rules – or some kind of balance between the two?
Many great writers have internalized the entire rule book to the point that they draw on it effortlessly. What is the role of exceptions to rules, and how important is this in great writing? Do you know when to use ’em and when to break ’em?
What makes a book?
If you are serious about writing, your next big task is to get stories down on paper.
- Attention to detail
- A catapult
Embrace your inner plotter and pantserTo go beyond your concept, you’ll need a plot. You’ll write it either as a plotter (someone who outlines and scripts), a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of his pants), or a combination of the two. Finding the balance that works best for you is essential, although you may find it changes over time and from project to project. Are you a plotter or a pantser or some clear combination of the two? What do you think works better and why? This is a perennial debate among writers, and the fact is there are different ways to get there in the end. You might even be a quilter – one who pieces together the parts of your story.
Take yourself outAs you go deeper into writing, you come to the crucial task of self-editing. Here it pays to really know yourself and especially your weak points, so you can shore them up. Key to this is to figure out how to put the right type of “self” into your writing and remove any unnecessary aspects of self that will reduce the reading pleasure of your readers.
Why have you written what you’ve written? Is it all for you, all for your reader, or a combination? Have you left in parts of “self” that were just notes for you, or scaffolds upon which you built that you forgot to remove? How do you find such “only for yourself” traces in your fiction so you can erase them when the time to do so arrives?
To Your Success,