Successful writers know they must constantly evolve and improve their craft. They know that reaching their full potential is a lifelong journey of hard work, patience, and dedication. But for those of us who need more immediate gratification, here are five things you can do—this week!—to be a better writer.
Monday: Make a promise to write every day this week. Promise to write for at least five minutes in the morning or the evening (probably, you’ll find yourself writing for longer than five minutes, whether you meant to or not). Five minutes a day…can you commit to that? At the end of the week, you will be five days closer to the height of your powers as a writer!
Tuesday: Compose a deep and honest evaluation of your writing. What are your strengths (setting, dialogue, action, insight)? What can you do to bring out and play up your strengths?
And what are your weaknesses (description, pacing, characterization, point of view)? What can you do to minimize them?
Each time you sit down to edit (as opposed to write), revisit your evaluation in order to be fully clear and honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses.
Wednesday: Choose a paragraph or stanza from your work (just one!), and home in on it. Really dig deep into your lines—don’t give so much as half a thought to the rest of the piece. Go through each word, one at a time, as if no other word existed but the one you’re focusing on. Do the same for phrases. Are you choosing active voice instead of passive? Are you using vivid verbs? Are your word choices as precise as possible? Think micro, not macro. Then you can bring the lessons you learn to your larger project.
Thursday: Take a crash course in deleting. Remember that paragraph you worked on yesterday, picking out the best words? Now, cut it down. Get out your red pen and slash away! Be brutal. What is the absolute minimum number of words that you can use to make a point? Learn more: Verbal Gobbledygook: Editing Extra Words Out Of Your Writing.
Friday: Being a good submitter is part of being a good writer. So this is the day that you vow to send a short story, essay, group of poems, or book query to a certain number of markets. Maybe you pledge to send to five places. Maybe ten. If you want to advance your writing career this week, you must make submissions. (Hint: Our Full Service is great for busy writers who want to submit but don’t have the time or patience with paperwork!)
So there you have it! Five concrete steps that you can take this week to become a better writer. As for Saturday and Sunday: Take time off. Unplug. And—this is important—read something that inspires you. Read deeply and often. Don’t read because it’s work or because you have to. Read because you love it. Let your books fill you up and nourish you. A writer who is not reading books is a car engine trying to run on air.
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” —Stephen King
For more tips to improve your creative writing, make sure you’re signed up for Submit Write Now! (if you’re not one of our 30,000+ subscribers already!). SWN is packed with information on the writing craft and the publishing industry, and best of all, it’s free! Whether you’re writing a memoir, a novel, personal essays, poetry, or short stories, we can help!
QUESTION: What will you do this week to improve your writing? Write it down here. Hold yourself accountable by making a promise in writing (and inspire other writers at the same time!).
Wonderful advice! The path of a writer starts with baby steps!
Saturday and Sunday’s advice will be easy to follow. Now, off to write for five minutes!
I’m a fiction writer, and at the moment I’m reading a lot of nonfiction in preparation for my next novel.
But this post reminds me that reading NOVELS is important–since I’m writing them. I’m going to make it my goal to finally finish the novel I’m currently reading by the end of the week.
I need to take the advice in this article! I read all the time, and I jot my random thoughts in a notebook that I keep with me 24/7 â€“ but I rarely sit down purposefully and write for a block of time each day. This article is a good reminder that, just as a marathon runner stays in shape by habitually running, a great writer stays in shape by habitually writing and revising!
Thanks for the good advice. I’ve linked to this article from my blog, where I share what I’ve learned so far from my creative writing course: http://annasayburn.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/developing-our-fiction-half-way-through/
Anna, Thank you! We’re happy to know that you found our article so helpful!
I’m always looking for good advice on how to make me a better writer. I loved this article, and I can’t want to sit down try each and every piece of advice given.
Good advice. I’ll be writing and reading as you suggest. I’ll also be extending it to a month and asking members of our writers’ union to committ.
I read ‘fahrenheit 451’ yesterday and was further inspired. Your reading advice is timely.
Kasi, So glad our ideas are inspiring! Write on! And of course please feel free to share the link to this guide with your writer groups. 🙂
Some great tips – this is just what I needed to start the New Year
I just came to know Writer’s Relief 2 weeks or so. I dedicated 40 days to form a writing habit; a tool to discipline myself and today I am on Day 37. The tips you share here reaffirm the importance of keeping the passion alive through discipline and commitment even just for 5 minutes a day. Thank you so much Writer’s Relief!
Rosnah, we’re so glad to hear that we’ve helped you reach your writerly potential! But we can’t take all the credit; your perseverance and dedication to your day-by-day schedule are what make you a good writer. The most important thing we can say to writers is to write, write, write!
Thank you for your advice. I am highly inspired. I will send you some of my poems shortly. You are a blessing to our world. God bless you.
Sometimes have a question presented to you is all it takes to find inspiration. Thanks to this question and the writing seminars that I attended this weekend I plan on polishing up some old poems and submitting them to the writers review board and also plan on completing a daily writing prompt if even it is a short one.
The article inpired me….didn’t know how to start in the first place…..with the timetable of 5 thingsto start with…i can get started now…..
By week’s end I will have completed draft one of Peanut Butter and Daddy Sandwich for paperback on amazon.com (it is currently on kindle)
Then the editing will begin and begin…
Helpful and sorely needed advice. I’ve fallen off the wagon and I must get back on!
I do have a bone to pick with Tuesday’s assignment: repeatedly I read advice to writers urging them to hid their weaknesses and practice their strong skills, when they should be doing just the opposite. Leave your strengths alone for the time being; they won’t get rusty. It’s your weak areas that need the exercise!
When I committed full-time to my writing career, I knew that I wasn’t ready to be published, so I looked at what needed improvement. My work was very heavy on narrative, so I tried writing stories that were only dialog. I was far too many descriptive terms and not nearly enough periods, so I focused on brevity. I was plastering on too much plodding establishment, so I tried jumping into the beginning of a story without explaining anything at all to the reader. When I had built up my weak points, I started to tap my old strengths again, and found that now I knew exactly how to use them.
Though my biggest passion in life is writing, I often struggle with finding the motivation and focus to better myself as a writer.
But I believe this will help start somewhere, especially with the novel I have in mind 🙂
Thank you so much for the advice!
Great advice, I have to spend more time on editing.
This is a very inspiring one. But I think writing is a wonderful art and different people have different parameters of craft and skills. I have written several essays, stories and a book on essay for school going students.
I will write every day this week while I’m looking forward to a weekend curled up with a book.
I am inspired to follow this guide. I hold myself accountable. If I don’t follow through then I will have to clean the stove this weekend.