Writing takes work. Some of being a successful writer is talent; more is disposition (i.e., a stubborn will). Luck factors in, but I haven't figured that part out yet, obviously. However, right on top of all that is practice. There are so many areas in novel writing to master. Some people have a natural ability in some of skill areas, but generally, you need to find a way to develop your skills yourself so you can become a truly great writer. How do you do that?
Sometimes, this can be tedious. But if you really love writing, practicing your skills can also be a lot of fun. So write, write, write. Write all kinds of writing. Write every day. JUST WRITE.
Of course, there's more to it than that. You have to focus on uncovering the parts of writing where you need to improve. So here's my three-step look at how to do that.
1) Pinpoint the different parts of writing through the works of your favorite authors. What it is about their writing that you like so much? Most likely, they have a specialty area or two where their skill shines through. Find those. Recognize them. Use them.
To give you an example, my writing idols are J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Anthony Horowitz, and Hans Christian Andersen.
J.K. Rowling to me is the goddess of children's fantasy because she has a multitude of strong areas. The one that captures me the most, however, is her worldbuilding, which is a major weakness of mine. The world of Harry Potter is insanely real with incredible detail, the kind of world that you can step right into and lose yourself in. And she knows even more about it that she hasn't even told us!
Suzanne Collins has a strong, relatable voice in The Hunger Games. The fact that she has created a main character who is strong and vulnerable, dangerous and virtuous, hard-hearted and kind, is an incredible thing.
Anthony Horowitz I admire for his clarity and creative logic, both in his spy series, Alex Rider, where he demonstrates a knack for inventing spy gear, and his fantasy/horror series, Gatekeepers, where he combines incredible concepts from literature into a clear storyline.
Hans Christian Andersen I partly idolize because we're similar in a lot of ways, LOL, but I also admire his ability to incorporate his own life and beliefs into his work, which is legendary now in fairytales like "The Princess and the Pea" and "The Little Mermaid."
With that brief analysis right there, I've already pinpointed six specific writing skills!
2) Figure out the areas in which you are gifted and the ones you need to improve on. For this to happen, you must have some kind of finished work to look at. Go over your writing, skill by skill, and see what it is you've done well and,,, not so well. This should become pretty clear over time, once you've got a few different pieces to work with. Peer critique is also helpful here.
3) Make improvements and expand your experience through writing challenges. This is actually one of my favorite things about writing. Not only do I get to express myself, come to understand things I haven't before, and enjoy a whole new creation, but I get to try new things. I set a challenge for myself with almost every novel. Generally, it's simple or small, just about expanding my experience, because the more you practice, the better you get. A lot of my challenges have to do with point of view, for example.
Here's a list of all the novels I've finished, whether I'm currently still working on them or not, and their chosen challenges. (Updated 5/24/15)
#DragonStory -- completing a novel
#IceEnchantressStory -- writing a villain death, writing an original novel
#FourElementsStory -- writing from multiple points of view
#SplitStory -- writing a disabled family member
#ApocalypseStory -- writing from first person point of view
#MiddleSchoolStory -- writing a realistic novel
#FairytaleStory -- writing a story retelling
#DreamlandStory -- writing a romantic betrayal
#PsychicStory -- writing partially from a male point of view, writing a non-villain death
#PsychicDystopiaStory -- switching up the characters' appearances
#ChosenFourStory -- writing a full series, writing a full book from a male point of view
#ProphecyStory -- writing a traditional, religious-based epic fantasy
#FibromyalgiaStory -- writing a mixed genre/media piece, writing a disabled main character
#AfterworldStory -- writing in present tense, writing a non-white main character
#OCDStory -- writing from a speculative point of view
So there you go. Keep pushing forward, my friends, so that you can increase your skill and become better writers.
(For a post on how I challenge myself otherwise over the summer, click here.)
If you're a writer, how have you challenged yourself to improve?
Previous: My Fashion Taste
Next: An Open Letter to JK Rowling
Why I Hate James Pat...
The Lesser Evil: Femi...
PTSD and The Hunge...
Guest Post: 5 Fandom...
My Mayo Clinic Experi...