How to become a better writer, tips from famous authors
How one becomes a writer is a personal journey. Labor of opposing creative forces that end up in a structure, in something we hope, resembles a logical train of thought.
Being a writer is not sufficient. You want to better your craft. And so you should! Becoming a better writer means creating a fictional world that is more than just syntax and blossomy sentences. It’s about a deeper, more intimate understanding of language and human emotion.
So, leaving all this abstract nonsense aside, how do you become a better writer? This is the question that this article will answer in the following paragraphs. I will try presenting some tips and tricks of the trade by referencing some of literature’s greatest titans. Yeah, those literary monsters that you dream of being like. I’m talking about Murakami, Gaiman, Virginia Woolf, Cormac McCarthy, and many others.
Let’s take a quick glance at some of their tips:
Becoming a better writer is often the mark of continuous exercise. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with that visceral feeling of putting your thoughts to paper? If the answer is yes, then this article might be the one for you. Without further ado, let’s dive into some of the best practices that will make you, the creator, become a better writer.
In summary, what does becoming a better writer revolve around?
- Figuring out your own working schedule
- Making up a personal routine
- Avoid distractions
- Take inspiration from your own life
- Write down every thought
- Write freely
- Give extra attention to your story’s layout
- Don’t let yourself get too attached to your characters
- Show, don’t tell
- Focus on a single mood (extra feature for short story writers)
Let’s take a close look at all of them. At the end we’ll have a more clear view as to how they can be applied to spice up any type of writing.
Figuring out a personal schedule
Like mentioned before, becoming a better writer involves exercise. A lot of exercise. You have to write and rewrite until your pen begs for you to stop. You do not have to wait for creativity to sparkle in the background of your mind. Just write and it will come to you.
The presence of a routine greatly aids this practice. Many successful writers worked up a personal, often draconic, schedule to keep their minds sharp and vigilant. But how do you build your own routine?
1. Think of a working schedule. Figure out what time of day works best for you
Not all of us are full time writers. Some must still keep a regular job, that is until your novel or short story storms the world and becomes a bestseller. This being said, think of a time of day when you have the time, the proper conditions to work.
Toni Morrison, for instance, used to work in the mornings. Inspiration, for her, and frankly, for most of us, is very similar to a night-day cycle. Like the light in the morning, it appears and then slowly fades leaving room for the night. Stop and analyze your situation and figure out what is the best moment for you.
2. Become a better author by making up your own, personal routine
Confronted with writer’s block, Thomas Wolfe would often take night strolls on the Brooklyn Bridge to pursue an inspiration. Sure, maybe you don’t have that fancy of a bridge in your city, but the point is to associate a specific activity with your creative process.
This can have multiple benefits. It can help you relax and, in turn, better focus on the crucial aspects of your work. Don’t forget, to become a better writer, exercise is vital. Great ideas often don’t come when you are sitting at a desk. Murakami can back me on this.
3. Avoid distractions
Alone, only with your thoughts, adopt the silence. Avoid any possible distractions and focus solely on your work. As Neil Gaiman puts it, be nocturnal. This doesn’t mean writing only during the nights. It refers to silence, to be alone with your thoughts.
Night strips away the colors and details from objects, leaving only their soul to be seen. Similarly, by avoiding distractions, you face your own thoughts, uninterrupted by the outside world.
Your life, your story
By this, I mean that the primary source of inspiration for any great writer is his personal experience. Becoming a better writer means becoming able to filter this experience and tell your story to the world.
If we look at examples of extreme fantastical heights in terms of artistic expression, those too are to be found in the writer’s personal life. Take a look at Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. There may be no one more apt than him to mask his demons by creating fantastical creatures and sets. Moving forward,
4. Take inspiration from your own life
Your fiction is a reflection, although at times distant, of your personal experience. Use this experience! To paraphrase Hemingway, every story can be a great story if told sincerely. Don’t be afraid to be dull at times.
No great story is always exceptional, as no life is ever composed only of extraordinary moments. Fiction is attached to all four corners of your life, and as such, it must echo into your work.
5. Write down every thought
Don’t think about its quality; just let your thoughts flow through your mind and try to capture as many of them as possible. Disclaimer, by this I don’t mean for you to write as if you are a typing machine looking for a job. What I mean is that you shouldn’t think of quality just yet. You will assess that later when you sit down and edit the manuscript.
When writing a book, the idea behind this tip is that you’ll have a more precise image of your work as a whole. A great idea can come out of the banalest thought.
By writing down everything, you also get to explore more scenarios for your characters. Ultimately you get to choose which one of these scenarios works best for your story.
6. Be a better writer by writing freely
No, this isn’t the name of some Green Day/ Bryan Adams collaboration. It’s a handy tip for writing a book. It circles back to Cormac McCarthy’s advice on writing down everything.
You want to write naturally, with your own voice. Don’t overthink it; just express it. Many of us stop and think about each sentence’s value. This is a mistake. You don’t want a prohibition on your ideas or language. You want to express yourself as freely as possible.
Sure, some of them, or maybe even all of them, will only be worthy of the fireplace. Also, writing freely, fast, and sincere will help you establish your tone of voice and your own individual means of expression. Don’t get too caught up on the language. Break it if you must.
As humans, we don’t always think straight. Thank God for that, or else we would all be rectangles. Writing freely is more than just a tip for writing a book. It may finally be the most valuable one in becoming a better writer altogether.
Layout and characters
Until now, we talked about the more artistic, liberal, so to speak part of the process. Composition, characters, layout, these all refer to structure. You want your story to rest on a solid foundation before trying to publish and sell it.
Every good story has a solid construction behind it. It doesn’t matter if there are multiple narrative threads. In the end, you should try answering at least one of your main questions. If you want to read a more detailed analysis on how to structure and create great conflict and unique characters, on Flipsnack’s blog you will find many helpful articles on the subject.
If, for example, you are interested in a more graphical approach, then maybe structuring your work into a graphic novel would make sense. Think about the scope of your work and then find the best medium that can best translate your vision.
We talked about coming up with a working schedule for your writing. Think of this step like a working schedule for your story. To nail things down, you’ll first need to:
7. Think of your story’s layout
You have the main guiding idea behind your story. How does this idea translate into conflict? Which are characters best suited to carry on this idea? What are your opposing views, and how do these ideas breathe life into your antagonists? These are only some of the questions you have to keep in mind when coming up with your story’s layout.
There are many ways of organizing the structure of your novel, play, scripts, etc. In my opinion, the easiest one is the Three Act Structure. Throughout three acts, a complete story should unfold. If, for example, you are to write a novel:
Don’t worry, words ending in -esque, are suspiciously less complicated than they appear. Fitzgerald refers to taking a naturalistic approach, in the sense of Zola, when figuring out your layout.
Even though you don’t plan on spending thirty pages describing a typography machine, like Zola’s French counterpart, Balzac, it helps that you plan your work as thoroughly as possible. In the end, you’ll pick up only the relevant parts for your story and characters. Speaking of characters.
8. Don’t get attached to your characters
Remember Game of Thrones? Remember how each and every one of your favorite characters was brutally sent into an eternal state of rigor mortis? Yes, we all do.
The point I am trying to make by mercilessly making you remember the show is that your characters serve a purpose beyond them. Or, in any case, they should. They are there to carry the story, the message of your prose.
Finally, when all is said and done, when talking about compelling, mind-blowing, emotionally penetrating prose, you should always:
9. Show, don’t tell
Let me rephrase that. Try painting a picture for your reader instead of spelling out the whole dictionary. The mark of any good piece of writing is its immersive quality. This may be the ultimate step in becoming a better writer. And no one better emphasized this aspect than Chekhov, the great Russian playwright.
Bonus feature for short story writers
Novels have a higher dimension and offer you the room to experiment with various moods and feelings for your characters. When thinking of a short story, it’s best practice to keep it as concise as possible.
10. If your goal is to write a short story, then focus on a single mood
There isn’t much transformation your characters can or should go through, given the limited space and time. Choose a mood, and stick to it.
Expanding your horizon
Becoming a better writer has various ramifications. You may be a voracious reader, but your interests are other than writing a novel or a screenplay.
Following these guiding principles can benefit you, regardless. Maybe you’re a content writer, a freelancer looking for an upgrade in style or format. Writing is to be found at any corner, and every corner deserves a good writer. Following some of these ideas, there is no doubt that an improvement will be noticeable in your writing.
By improving your writing and becoming a better author, you can also build a stronger brand. If you are that professional looking to improve his or her brand, please take into account some of these suggestions.
Sure, some of the above tips have a more direct implication for prose and fantasy writers. But their meaning and utility can always be extrapolated. Think of characters, for instance. If you own a business, then the characters are your clients. The way you speak to them and how you sell your business by telling unique stories will make a difference in the end.
The spiderweb of the internet is full of content, so make sure you find a way to stand out from the faceless crowd. You can be better. You will be better than them. I know it sounds like a speech from Rocky, but it’s true. Practice makes perfect.
So whatever your occupation, be it freelancing, content writing, content marketing and so on, be sure to read a lot, be sure to exercise a lot, and lastly, be sure to incorporate as much useful information as possible. This is the whole idea behind this article. Become a better writer by becoming a unique writer.
You are now a better, more complete, author. Time to publish and sell
These are only some of the few, albeit relevant, practices for becoming a better writer. There are many others that can further help improve upon your technique. You can join a workshop, take a night-class. Do anything that you think will help you in the long run.
The main thing to keep in mind is that when it comes to writing, exercise is key. The road is long and frequently you’ll face rejection along the way. By no means am I trying to send a gloom and grim message. Before beginning to feel like Icarus, burned by the sun, remember that there are plenty of options available for you to get your work published and out into the world.
At Flipsnack, we provide just that. A complete publishing solution for your manuscript. Be sure to check that out.
Becoming a better writer cannot be subsumed only under some tips for how to write a book. It’s much more than that. It means understanding your audience as well as understanding yourself. Writing is a process involving all the facets of your life and experience, and as such, be sure to integrate them into your work.
Fiction, ultimately, is just another shape of one’s reality. How you choose to manipulate it, how you choose to dilate your thoughts in your characters’ shapes, will mark its success or downfall. Just don’t stop. If, at any point, you have been visited by the demons of creation, then, by all means, follow them. You may just write the piece that you’ve always wanted to read.