Being a writer is a skill that almost anyone can cultivate. There are some who hold a natural aptitude for using language and rhetoric artistically, but they are not the only ones who can be successful writers. Writing, similar to many other things, comes with practice. You can’t simply pick up your pen and notebook, or sit down at your computer and have literary gems fall into your lucky lap. It’s been known to happen, but not on a consistent basis. As I’ve been going on my journey through loving and learning writing, I’ve found and been told some important things that help you become better at this craft.
Grammar and Editing
This is important part of writing, because if no one can understand what you’ve written, the writing won’t have much significance to anyone but you. You don’t have to be a professional at grammar, but you should be able to use punctuation fairly well, and understand the difference between homophones, such as ‘there,’ ‘their,’ and ‘they’re.’ There are things you can get away with such as starting a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but,’ or ending a sentence with a preposition. The most important thing is that your writing has clarity. This is where editing comes in. Sometimes we make errors while we are writing, and we might read over it once, and then move on. Ideally, however, you should look over it multiple times, paying attention for misspellings, punctuation errors, any spots where the readers might get confused, among other things. It’s also beneficial to have other people read over it, because even after reading your own writing five times, you might not pick up on something. You want to have people help you who aren’t going to try to rewrite your piece, but who also aren’t going to tell you it’s perfect every time. You want to ask people who are more experienced or at least on the same level as you.
If you write, you must read. They definitely go hand in hand. As you read books, you gain a few skills that can help your writing tremendously. For one, you gain a larger vocabulary as you read different books, especially when you get into book series that focus on science fiction, crime investigation, and the supernatural. Vocabulary expansion is great because you’ll find that you have more to say when you aren’t using the same word over and over again in a passage. You can even take more initiative with expanding your lexicon by getting a word of the day. That’s actually why I started posting words of the day on my blog. Another fabulous thing about reading is that you end up learning your own preferred writing style. As you read your favorite authors, you will find that you like some of authors’ techniques better than others. It’s not uncommon for readers to emulate their favorite author’s writing style, and that’s okay. Over time, you will develop your own unique technique.
This is the one thing you can’t get around if you do want to be a writer of any sort – actually writing! This is something that you have to practice on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter if you absolutely suck in the beginning. That’s called progress. You have to fight past the initial awkwardness and ill put together nature of your work when you first start. Eventually, you’re going to pump out something that is going to surprise everyone, including yourself. And then you might return to writing mediocre pieces for a while, before you start putting out really great stuff again. It’s a constant job to try and do your best and improve. One thing that you should also keep in consideration is that you don’t have to share every single thing you’ve ever written. I have plenty of stuff that I keep to myself, and may never see the light of day, due to one of two things; either they are not completed yet, and I want to do some tweaking to it, or they are only for me. I keep a journal and at least half of the stuff I put in there is never going to be put out publicly, because it’s just supposed to be something for me. It’s perfectly fine to do that, because writing isn’t just for entertaining others, and you still practice your writing in the process.
I honestly think this is about as important as actually practicing writing. You have to be able to become an observant person. Once you gain this trait, you’ll find that your writing will become much more believable. You’ll be picking up things like personality, human behavior and archetypal behavior (look up archetypes if you’ve never heard of them.) You’ll be able to represent these things in your writing because you’ll know how to build your characters better and have them have more fluid dialogue and actions. Perception also goes into depicting emotions and behaviors attached to them. You have to become aware of emotion not only in other people, but also in yourself, as you go out and experience different things in life. As a writer, you have to go through emotional turmoil. You can’t rely just on the things that you have witnessed and remembered. You have to draw from your own human experience to fully understand the emotions and situations you are trying to portray. That’s when your writing becomes more than a documentation of human behavior. It becomes a living breathing thing.
If you’re willing and able, go out there and make a writer of yourself.