I’m often asked “what is your writing process?” Or “how does a writer improve their writing?” Or “what advice would you give a new writer?”
So it seemed like a good topic to cover in an article on my website 🙂
My current process is as follows:
I spend a lot of time reading and re-reading through this website: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com it has been an invaluable resource in my writing journey and I can’t recommend it enough.
While I personally was slow on the implementation, I can also say that the advice to keep writing is important. But… write with purpose.
Short stories are an incredible approach to practice writing. You cover all of the same components and processes on a much smaller scale which makes learning, pivoting, improving, and moving forward so much easier. It also makes it easier to grow an audience during your journey.
I also work through sections of writing with ProWritingAid and try to fix everything it recommends as much as possible. Then I go back through the section and fix what the editing program screws up.
This exercise helps to ingrain the “rules” which I can then break with intention in order to get voice and diction right, with my own style and flow.
While I read other books for enjoyment, I don’t read them so much for improving my writing.
Because there’s a lot of crap writing. And if you don’t already know the rules, you don’t know if you’re reading good writing or not. Bad habits picked up early are incredibly hard to break.
But I also got tired of the “greats” giving the advice of “do this” and “don’t do this” … “oh and please ignore the fact that my own writing doesn’t follow the advice I give, but don’t expect to be the exception”. So it doesn’t always help me to read the writing of highly successful authors either, other than perhaps for “here’s what not to do” haha.
It’s frustrating, but the fact of the matter is that you can’t always rely on reading the works of successful authors to learn how to be a better writer, even when they’re full of providing great advice.
Absorb the advice of many to increase knowledge in order to shape your own style. But don’t ever treat a “great” writer as “all knowing” – even Stephen King. He is brilliant, but still flawed. Plus, you’re not Stephen King and you shouldn’t be.
However, I will mention that I do agree that you should never write something with the attitude, belief or intention that “you’ll be the exception” – mostly because, right out of the gates you’re simply making things so much more difficult for yourself than is necessary.
Like I said, know the rules in order to break them, and only break them with clear intention, not from a lack of knowledge.
Next, I give my writing away to READERS – not writers and not critics – to get the feedback from the people who actually read, rather than analyze and dissect.
Because, at the end of the day, who are you writing for? Are you looking to get a passing grade from a critic or is your goal to engage and impact readers?
Your answer might be different from mine, and that may well change your approach and perspective. But for me, what readers have to say far outweighs what critics have to say.
But, it’s worth noting that this process was born out of working with a highly critical, developmental editor on my first book. And that’s an experience that I also highly recommend with at least one book or story, as well as ongoing spot checks.
Analyzing and dissecting a 95k book was definitely a lot of work. But it was also so rewarding and significantly improved my writing and my process.
But once you’re creating stories that people love, going overboard on the critiquing can actually run the risk of ruining what it is that your readers love. So be careful and trust your audience.
Also remember that the traditional publishing route is far more about salability and market than the quality of the writing. Read the final, published first chapter of Harry Potter and Twilight for proof of that. From the perspective of a writing critical eye, these chapters are not masterpieces and that’s after they were professionally polished.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t polish. You HAVE to polish. You’re wasting everyone’s time if you don’t. But find the balance when it comes to critical analysis of prose. There are more important factors when it comes to a good story. And the website I linked at the top of this article does the best job that I’ve encountered of diving into the things that really matter.
I love the entire process of writing. It’s work I love which makes it no work at all 😊
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