When I first started writing I went to plenty of classes and conferences, hungry for every bit of knowledge that the pros had to offer. I took copious notes, recorded the lectures as often as I could, and saved every handout I ever got. In the end, that was all I had, notes, recordings and stacks of handouts. My own writing had not improved.
I’ve since learned that no matter how much money you spend on conferences, books, classes and so on; there is only one true road to better writing–practice, practice, practice.
Just like the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall. Practice is the key. Read every book you want on the art and craft of writing. Continue to go to conferences. Attend lectures as often as you can, but the bottom line is write every day.
Here are a few suggestions to keep you writing every day even if your time is limited:
1. Start a journal. It’s not the same as a diary, you don’t have to write every detail of your day. Use it to write insights and observations as they occur to you, story and character ideas, and settings. Use the journal to pose the “What if” questions.
2. Write a letter. What kind of letter? Any kind. Write a letter to the editor on something you are passionate about. Write a letter to a friend you haven’t written to in a long time. Write a letter to a deceased loved one. The type of letter you write is not as important as the writing itself.
3. Find writing exercises. There are many places on the internet where you can find these. Some may seem silly, but as you experiment you will find that they inspire you.
4. Contribute to a newsletter or start a newsletter, even if it’s just for your family.
5. Try your hand at flash fiction. And try the shortest form of flash fiction you can. A story in six words or 100 words or less. Make sure your story has a beginning, middle and end. This teaches you to write tight.
The more you write the more you learn to use an economy of words to express emotion, set a scene, or describe a character. After a while, you’ll find that you are writing faster and better.
Take the challenge and see what happens. You will be surprised. Even the best writer will see improvement in their work. A side benefit is the confidence that comes with writing every day. At your disposal you will find myriads of ideas you never thought you had to draw on when you come to the bane of every writer–the dreaded writer’s block. It won’t happen, or at least not as often. There will always be new ideas–new “What ifs” to inspire you.
So, how do you get to be a better writer? Practice, practice, practice.
What works best for you?
- Short Stories and Flash Fiction (fcmalby.wordpress.com)