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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tools to Become a Better Writer

If anyone were to ask me what to do in order to improve their writing and get them on the way to publication, I would tell them three things.

1) Read, read, READ!
2) Get a critique group.
3) Attend writer's conferences

Numero Uno: I am all for college.  I actually have a lot of years of schooling, so I tend to do shameless plugs about getting a college education.  Here goes: Get one! Both stories I've written that have been picked up for publication would not have existed if not for my college education.  Did it do me good? I think so!  That said, no one gets published because they have a college degree.  Your writing must stand on its own.  Period.  What's the best way to educate yourself in writing technique?

Read, read, READ!

Read anything and everything you can get your hands on.  Read every genre of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, even screenplays.  The better grasp you can get on different approaches, angles, and styles, the better off you will be as a writer.  You will also learn a lot about yourself and your own writing desires by doing this.  If you want to write, you MUST read!

(Maybe sometime I'll do a blog about the books that have most influenced my writing.  Any takers?)

Number two: Critique groups are a hotly debated topic among both published writers and would-be published writers.  There are some who swear by them and others who would rather stop writing than use one.  Mostly, these opinions are due to individual experiences.  For me, I'm one who swears by my critique group, but I must add an asterisk.

* There are definitely critique groups that do more harm than good. The reason I swear by my group is because they're awesome! More specifically, they work for me.  I work for them.  We are awesome together. To make a critique group work, you have to find the right one. You have to find people that you like and trust, and that trust you.  They have to be sensitive to your feelings, but also willing to give you the harsh--but constructive!--criticism when it needs to be given.  They also need to "get"  your writing.  Sometimes, through no fault of anyone involved, writer and reader just don't click. If you write horror and the people in your group prefer chick lit and have no experience whatsoever with the horror genre, there's going to be problems.

One last note about critique groups: your attitude as a writer will go a long way. If you go into your critique group believe that your writing is awesome and couldn't possibly be improved--in short, if you're looking for a captive audience rather than a critique--your going to have some problems.  Go in with an open mind and a positive outlook for gaining valuable insight and improvement on your piece.  If all people in the group do this and strive to build each other up, rather than the opposite, your group can't help but be a success!

(Shout-out to my awesome group! They keep me honest, positive, learning and laughing.  We have WAY too much fun together!)

Trois: Go to writer's conferences.  Okay, I know conferences are expensive and time-consuming, but nothing beats them! Networking with other writers and industry professionals is so fun and so empowering.  And the sheer volume of information they throw at you: you won't get that anywhere else. I can't stress how only two measly conferences changed my writing so much--enough to get me published, actually.

After joining the League of Utah writers, I went to their annual conference and LOVED it!  The feeling of having hundreds of kindred-spirit writers in the room is indescribable.  There are events, workshops, classes, inspirational speakers, industry professionals, (fantastic food! Just sayin'.) and more.  The next year, I was stoked to go again.  I sat in on a class about how to show and not tell.  It was a simple, one hour class that showed you how to take your writing from good to great; to show rather than tell; to avoid passive voice; etc. I don't know about everyone else in the class, but it just clicked for me.  I went home completely overwhelmed, feeling like I'd have to completely re-write everything I'd ever written.  Okay, I didn't do that, but I did do an overhaul editing cycle on all three of my novels.  And guess what?  Within a few months, two out of three (the only two I've sent out, yet) had been picked up for publication.  That was a direct result of going to this conference.

Enough said?

Website for League of Utah Writers: luwriters.org

So, if you want to write awesomely, read, get a critique group, and attend conferences.  Publication is only a rough draft away. Sort of. :D

How would you other writers answer this question?


  1. Great post! I was wondering how did you find your critique group?

  2. Thanks! I went to college at WSU in northern Utah and my critique group came out of the classes I took. These are friends of mine that went through the program with me and who I've known for several years, now. I know not everyone has a pool to fall back on like that, but I do think camaraderie is essential in finding a group. You need to trust one another and genuinely like one another. That will guard against hurt feelings and make the constructive criticism easier to digest because you trust one another. If you're looking to start a group, I might try advertising at a local college to English students, or using a writing organization such as League of Utah Writers (or whatever's in your area). These are organizations where you'll find others who have the same goals as you and who are likely to want to join a critique group. Thanks for reading and good luck! Let me know if I can help! :D

    1. Thanks for the advise. I'm trying forums and stuff, anything to help. I'm bad with criticism and, as of yet, haven't let anyone read anything creative that I write which is bad but I'm hoping to finish my second draft soon and get someone to look at it. Again thanks for the advise. I like reading your posts about writing!

    2. No problem! Just keep at it. You'll get there eventually. As long as you persist, you can't help but succeed. Trust me! :D

  3. I totally agree with this post! We have to make time to read, and critique partners are vital. Conferences are great for connecting and learning--congrats on your sales as a result!


  4. You're right that writing must stand on its own but it never hurts to learn more about the craft. Not a writer but I play one on TV. Good tips