Two years ago, I tried a digital minimalism experiment to simplify my life. I'm surprised at how much worked, and I'm not surprised what habits continue to grip me.
Way back when I submitted my first novel for publication, I was certain getting published would happen quickly–a year, tops. I believed talent would take me places.
Confidence is a good thing. It pushed me through a lot of hard times.
But reality came knocking quickly, and with it came humility.
When I realized getting published might take longer–much longer–than I thought, I questioned if I had any talent at all. Had I been lying to myself?
I kept hearing the advice to write more. So, I did. Practice means improvement, right?
After a few more rejections, though, I had one of those lightbulb moments I didn’t want. It shook me.
What if improvement wasn’t automatic?
I slowly came to the realization that I was repeating mistakes that I didn’t know were mistakes.
I started buying–and studying–books on the writing craft. I studied grammar books, blogs for aspiring writers, blogs written by publishing professionals, anything that might help me. I was determined to improve. Determined to live my dream as a published author.
The thing about writing? There is no right way. What works today will be tomorrow’s “don’t do this” rule. That’s okay. A good story, a good storyteller will stand out. But until you know how to get the story on the page in a compelling manner, you’ll struggle to keep a reader interested.
Writing more will improve your writing. But it will get better more quickly if you’re intentional about it. How? By reading books by authors you like and analyzing why you liked them, by taking the time to study basic writing craft techniques, by enlisting a critique partner or two, and by applying what you learn to your own manuscript.
Literary agent, Janet Reid, had a terrific blog post this week titled, “How Do You Get Better.” In it, she had four tips. Number 3 resonated with me. “Force yourself to WRITE the assessments of books you’ve read. Having to explain something in writing really helps you clarify things.”
I used to do this a lot. I would read a book and spend time figuring out what I liked or didn’t like about it. After a while, I’d recognize techniques authors used while I was reading. These little mental notes happen to me all the time now, and they continue to help my writing.
If you do the same thing over and over, improvement is NOT automatic. But most writers want to improve, and they obtain more knowledge and skills as they continue to write. So be patient with yourself. There isn’t an expiration date on your dreams!
Are you a better writer now than you were when you started writing? How did you improve?
Join me and Barb Roose on Monday, April 5, at 7:00pm for a Facebook Live interview to discuss her new women’s Bible study, Breakthrough, releasing April 6!