Writing fiction is a craft–one that can be complicated. The road to publication is filled with competition. Even for the most talented writers, there’s so much to learn. From head-hopping, point-of-view, dialogue tags, beats, and inciting incidents, there are millions of terms we writers use to teach how-to’s when it comes to the rules. Then, add that in the fiction-world, rules can be broken.
This means that you need to know the rules so that you know when it’s okay to break them and when it’s not. How do you learn what you need to hone your craft? How can you improve?
Most of my suggestions are simple. Some are free, some are not–but they are all effective.
Read books in your genre.
Do you know what genre you want to write? If so, read those books. If not, read genres that interest you until you find the genre that works. Even so, it might take time to find the right genre for you.
The more you read, the more you write. While you read, learn. When I read a book I ask these questions:
What did I like?
What did I dislike?
What moment made me put the book down? Why?
What makes this author unique?
Did I like the protagonists?
The list goes on and on. When I read, I don’t do it just for the experience. I do it to learn. In my opinion, when you’re just starting out, surround yourselves with well-written books. If you start a book and it is jarring to you, set it aside. Later, as you improve, you can analyze why you didn’t like certain books and why you did like others.
Join writing associations.
In December, I joined the American Christian Fiction Writers. Writing is not a solitude endeavor. Writing associations allow you to connect with other authors and learn. I can’t even begin to tell you how much my writing has improved since I made the leap. It comes with a small annual cost, but one that is well worth it if you’re serious about pursuing this career.
Take advantage of critique groups.
I can’t speak for all associations, but the ACFW offers an e-mail loop for critique. You have the opportunity to submit your writing and critique others writing. Critique partners catch the tiniest instance of head-hopping or they’ll spot a plot hole that you didn’t. Now before I joined a critique group, I had family read for me, mainly my husband, mother-in-law, and sister. Their advice was great and got me off on the right foot. But in critique groups, you are with other writers–all of which know the language we speak.
One thing to remember is to always take their advice with a grain of salt. Don’t make the change unless it improves your writing. Don’t make the change if it’ll change your voice.
Critiquing others’ writing helps too. You learn how to spot mistakes quicker in your own writing. You also make connections with other writers that you never would have if you hadn’t joined the group.
Contests are a unique way to receive feedback. This year, I entered the ACFW Genesis contest. In each round, the judges score your writing based on a score-sheet. As the contest winds down, you receive feedback from professionals. Finalizing can also set you apart to agents and editors which can help you on your road to publication. The ACFW has another contest beginning in September.
There are so many writing courses out there. Some are expensive, some are not. I’m currently enrolled in Susan May Warren’s Novel Academy. She has a few different tracks and you can learn more through her site. I’m also interested in The Christian Writer’s Institute which gives several class options for affordable prices.
Follow Agent and Writing Blogs
Seriously. These offer some of the greatest tips. Here are a few of my favorites! As I find more, I’ll update.
Attend writing conferences.
I haven’t been to any yet, but conferences are a great place to meet fellow writers, make connections, attend classes, meet agents and editors, and grow as a writer. I’m hoping to attend the Florida Christian Writers Conference in February 2018. The ACFW conference is another one I’m interested in. This year, the conference takes place in Dallas, TX in September.
Here’s a more comprehensive list: https://stevelaube.com/resources/writers-conferences/
Write every day.
Make a minimum writing goal. If you feel a block on your current novel, write a blog post, or work on a short story. I’m currently writing one book, editing another, working on a short story, and then preparing posts for this blog.
If you’re interested in reading my short story, sign up for the newsletter here. In mid-July to early August, I plan to release it to you.
What has helped you most to grow as a writer?
Do you have any resources to share?