Author Topic: How do you improve on your writing?  (Read 11014 times)


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How do you improve on your writing?
« on: November 15, 2010, 06:56:49 PM »
what are the steps you take to improve your writing. What do you believe it takes to make those improvements.

It sounds like an easy question, but I would like to know.

Offline 510bhan

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Re: How do you improve on your writing?
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2010, 07:12:12 PM »
Crikey - that's a biggie. One might be getting to grips with the nuts and bolts of syntax grammar etc to see how you can play with expression in different tenses, different persons - it can make a difference to the perspective of the piece and create either distance or intimacy.

Extending vocabulary so that you make the right word choice for what you want to say.

Layering - something I would like to know more about.

Having a go at different styles - factual and fictional prose, different styles of poetry to see if you can observe the rules and break them effectively, plays/scripts as a means of setting scenes appropriately and creating plausible dialogue.

Finding your comfort zone and making the best of it by taking the occasional step out of it.
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Re: How do you improve on your writing?
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2010, 07:32:02 PM »
Interesting, Sio.

Thank you for replying

Offline Jelena

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Re: How do you improve on your writing?
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2010, 07:50:49 PM »
I read a lot. I used to just read for the fun of it but now I notice that I pay a lot more attention to the style, the choice of words, or how certain things are described and things like that.

Also, and maybe because english is not my first language, my thesaurus and I have become close friends. lol.

I'm the same way about Layering - would like to know more.

I think one thing that really improved my writing was for me to find my own voice. And the nano helped a lot with that. When I compare my writing now to how I wrote a year ago its a huge difference. I was/am writing on a fantasy novel that takes place in a sort of medieval place and I thought I had to make the characters talk like they did back in the day. But I was never really comfortable with it. It sounded forced. The more I wrote the more I changed it to what I now know is my own voice and that really improved my writing a lot.
Nano Madness once again...


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Re: How do you improve on your writing?
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2010, 08:01:04 PM »
Thank you, Jelena.

Both of you have raised fine ways of improving.

Offline Don

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Re: How do you improve on your writing?
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2010, 10:43:24 PM »
Tempered -

If you are talking simply about the craft of writing (as opposed to the art of storytelling,) then here is the one thing that is universally true: writing improves your writing. You have to write everyday.

Sio and Jel make excellent points. Expanding your vocabulary and reading everything in sight will provide you with new tools but only writing allows you to put those tools to use. There is simply no substitute.

Don -

I have a motto: when in doubt, go for the cheap laugh.

Offline Strawberry

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Re: How do you improve on your writing?
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2010, 11:00:18 PM »
As simplistic as it may sound, I feel that I improve my writing through reading and, well...writing.  I devour books, and I'm always writing...I don't hesitate to try new things with my own writing.  By doing these simple things, I feel like I grow and become  You know, the writer I'm meant to be. 

Offline Hugh

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Re: How do you improve on your writing?
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2010, 05:04:38 AM »
Hello Tempered. One way to improve your own writing is to critique other peopleís. When I started running writing groups, over the first couple of years I wrote over a thousand critiques. I learnt more about what works and what doesnít than in the previous forty years as a hobby writer.

It is much easier to see how to improve someone elseís work than your own, so the more you do it, the more you subconsciously apply it your own writing.

Apart from that, I canít add to what has already been said. Hope it gives you something to think about.



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Re: How do you improve on your writing?
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2010, 06:38:37 AM »
Hello everyone.

thank you for your time.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2010, 08:23:06 AM by Tempered »

Offline Gyppo

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Re: How do you improve on your writing?
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2010, 06:53:44 AM »
This started as a quick answer, but grew.  If you've only got a couple of minutes, I suggest you come back and read it later.

The words we write are only the tip of the iceberg.  There has to be a lot more underpinning that visible portion.

As others have already said, read.  Read a lot.  If you are the sort who instinctively reads everything within sight, the back of cereal packets, the ingredient lists on food, the back of bus tickets, details on the side of lorries as they pass you, etc, then you've got an advantage over others.  In that case you'll be one of those lucky souls who can't not read.  You don't read just to find out certain facts, you find yourself indiscriminately hoovering up words just because they're there.

You'll also be interested in all sorts of things.  I was tempted to say everything, but I suspect we all have areas where we flat out refuse to go unless deliberate research demands it.

Curiosity kills cats, but it rarely kills writers.  It may give you sleepless nights on occasion, but it rarely kills.

The point behind this indiscriminate and generally factual reading is it helps fill what I've always thought of as your own 'word well', or 'info-pool'. The fast moving shimmering ideas flit around near the surface in schools like minnows, and the bigger slower ones - which sometimes take years to grow to maturity - root around at the bottom.

This pool can never be too full, but if you don't top it up on a regular basis it gets a bit empty, and that's when your brain goes blank and the ideas start to dry up.

Sometimes it doesn't truly get empty, it just becomes a bit stagnant because you've slipped into indifference and can't be bothered to stick your arm in and stir it up a little.

This is where targeted research comes into the game.  You have a vague idea about something.  One of those bigger ideas wants to come to the surface, but it's not complete and is reluctant to show itself.  When you realise something is missing you research quite intensively and narrowly, and suddenly the missing parts slot into place and the big idea surfaces, casually scattering the small ones like a dolphin scattering whitebait in a harbour.

Weeds:  There are also weeds in this pool.  They are the treacherous little thoughts such as "Why bother?  There's nothing new to say about this subject."  Sometimes there'll be a lot of weeds, like a goldfish pond which has been ignored for years.  The light no longer reaches the bottom, which silts up with indifference.  The big ideas are still there, but they've grown sluggish from lack of stimulation.

If you use your info-pool regularly and keep it well stocked there'll still be enough weeds to offer a bit of caution at times, but not enough to stop you thinking clearly and imaginatively.  So rake it out every now and then, by sitting down and writing lists of stuff you find there.  Some of it will be old and useless, and you can chuck it out to one side along with the weeds.  The more lively ideas however will refuse to die, dive back in, and start breeding.

But you must keep filling it with new stuff, by reading and observing.  Even partially understood ideas, half heard conversations, and tons of other ephemeral 'stuff'.  It all swirls around in there and makes new ideas, new concepts.

For some of us this is instinctive whilst others need to work at it, but the good news is the more you work at it the easier it gets until it becomes an ingrained habit.

So give your own pool a stir.  See if it needs restocking, or just weeding out.

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Re: How do you improve on your writing?
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2010, 07:04:54 AM »
Yes, true, Gyppo.

thanks for your thoughts
« Last Edit: November 16, 2010, 08:22:20 AM by Tempered »

Offline Big T

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Re: How do you improve on your writing?
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2010, 07:12:40 AM »
Well observed Gyppo.
Unfortunately I am reading all the time, I say unfortunately because it is always work related and not the least bit - I use the word hesitantly - inspirational. However, I know my professional stuff inside out, so your theory is proven. It's just so boring!

From the literary side I think a little dredging is needed in my pool. Over a year ago, about the time I dropped off MWC, I reached your 'why bother' stage and that's where I stagnated ... coming back here is helping my recycling process. These are not words for words sake, not intended to heap praise on MWC ... but merely to state a fact.

I WANT to write, be imaginative and creative, I want (and need) someone to tell me "Wow, that was good or interesting" or, or ... whatever .... improve this, try that. Methinks I'm rambling now.  :)

Bottom line ... Listen to what the man says. I've been there and I didn't like or enjoy it.

Thanks Gyppo.
Sorry for hijacking the thread!
« Last Edit: November 16, 2010, 07:14:14 AM by Big T »
Big T  :o


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Re: How do you improve on your writing?
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2010, 07:20:31 AM »
Interesting Big T

Glad you made it back to writing.

thanks for your thoughts

« Last Edit: November 16, 2010, 08:21:35 AM by Tempered »

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: How do you improve on your writing?
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2010, 10:49:59 AM »
Just wanted to say that I agree one who wants to write needs to read a lot.

I also have always been a big reader and yes, like Gyppo mentioned, when nothing else was at hand, I read every word on the cereal boxes, soup cans and even laundry detergent. It was like food for a starving soul.

But, I also re-read books (two or more times) that have struck a chord with me. In great part, I do this because I enjoyed it the first time. But also because each time I read it, I spot something that was missed the first time when my focus was on the story, not how it was told.

Please note, I don't suggest you try to pattern your work after that of another author. But seeing how other writers deal with various types of characters, scenes and whatever else, taking note of the way they are developed, can often spark ideas for your own work.
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Re: How do you improve on your writing?
« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2010, 12:58:55 PM »
For me I would say learn more about grammar.  Ensure you have the right words for the meaning you wish to convey and read as much of other author's published work as much as you can and learn from as many writers as possible and don't be afraid to be critical.  Even published authors are not perfect.  Compare yourself with other writers, what is it they have got that you haven't?  What do you admire in those writers.  Is it descriptions?  Perhaps it is their ability to keep the reader reading and why is that?  Analyse!

Most of all enjoy what you are doing and don't procrastinate.  Get on with it.

Lin x