(Sorry I’ve been missing for a while. I had a rough week or two of exams and papers, and this fell to the wayside. I’ve also been contemplating changing this blog’s structure a bit, but I’ll wait on that until I have more free time.)
They say the best thing you can do to improve as a writer is to write. That is definitely true. It’s like anything else – practice makes you better. Imagine you have some kind of writing muscle in your brain. You need to keep that toned!
Reading is also a good way to improve your writing. It shows you what works, what doesn’t, what you like, what you don’t… we frequently learn through imitation, and picking up snatches of other people’s styles can help us discover our own.
There’s one thing I don’t see a lot of people encouraging that I think is really helpful: editing.
No, I don’t mean editing your own work (although that helps too). I mean looking over something by someone else. How can you do this? It’s easier if you’re in school. I’m in a creative writing class where we workshop each other’s stories. I’ve also become a reader for the undergraduate literary magazine, which means going through lots of submissions to find the decent ones. In both of these scenarios, I get to look at what writers do well and what they don’t. Even better, in discussion I hear other people’s opinions on the same things. Yesterday we debated the merits of a rather grating meta narrator and agreed that anyone using the phrase ‘a single tear’ needed to be thrown into the reject pile. Having disagreements over a piece is good too. Sometimes I can learn more about what doesn’t work, or sometimes we simply have different tastes. In the end, though, I pick up a lot about what makes writing ‘good’. Then I can take those lessons and apply it to my own work.
I’ll tell you one thing – I’m far less nervous about submitting to our literary magazine next year.