Every craftsperson should work on improving their craft. So, how do you become a better writer? These are the things I’ve found to be very useful. I hope you do too.
In once read that Jacques Loussier, the jazz pianist, practised for 8 hours a day, when he was well-established and at the top of his game. If practice was good enough for him….
I try to write even when I have nothing to write about. If I have a major assignment to complete, or a chapter in a book I’m working on, I will often write a blog post as a sort of warm up exercise – my equivalent of playing scales I suppose.
Write something different
I hinted at this above. I find that doing different kinds of writing keeps me flexible. Because I have to keep mentally alert as well as agile, I find that switching from one type of writing to another stops me drifting into auto-pilot mode, with all the falling back on clichés that that can entail.
I think it goes without saying that writers need to read. If you’re a fiction author, you need to know what is being read, and what new techniques the most successful authors have been trying out. If you are a non-fiction author then you need to keep up with the latest writings in your niche.
Variety is the spice of life
When it comes to reading, I think writers need to cast their net as widely as possible. I don’t do travel writing, but I found that I learnt a lot from reading some travel articles. Ditto articles about the popular music scene, politics and the arts. A good way to read a lot of different kinds of writing very quickly I’ve found is to get hold of collections of articles, essays or short stories.
Use good reference books
I think one can’t over-emphasise the importance of good reference books. I think it crucial to be able to find the exact word you need, or to ensure that you don’t misuse words (even if many other people do).
Get published, for money
If you pitch an article or a story to an editor, and she accepts it and pays you for it, that is worth much more than being published without payment. I realise that there are exceptions to this rule, but if a magazine is going to part with some of its cash then it is unlikely to accept any old rubbish.
Read books and articles about writing
There is a danger that one could fall into the trap of reading so much about writing that there is no time left to actually do any! Nevertheless, I think it important to set aside time to read about the craft itself. Here are some suggestions: