Wednesday, September 5, 2007

How to become a great writer...

Most writers strive to improve on their craft. We constantly look back at previous writings to see where we could have written better, what we liked and what we didn't like. I proofread and edit like there's no tomorrow, or should I say no deadline.

Writers all have dreams of becoming a stand-outs in their genre. Fantasies or goals of becoming the next J.K., Stephen King, Pulitzer Prize, or Oscar winner always hover over us. Those goals or fantasies make us take that extra step in fact checking, that extra look in editing or that extra day to let the work "marinate."

We ask ourselves, what does it take to become a great writer?

One thing I've found is reading great writing helps. So many times I run into new writers, new freelancers and students who all ask the same question: how can I make my writing better? I say the same thing - read, a lot. Read all types of writing, even things you aren't interested in and see what makes that piece interesting. What can you learn from it?

Too often their response is "I hate reading," or "I don't have time to read." That's like a professional basketball player saying they don't have time to practice free throws. Shaq excluded.

The other piece of advice I give is: write all the time. The only way to become better at something is to work at it - constantly and consistently.

Lastly, join a writer's group. Writers can be incredibly picky, secretive and easily wounded people. We view our work as the product of divine inspiration, painful and joyous execution and meticulous editing. Then we let another writer review it and they rip it. Creatively and with understanding, of course.

A writer's group can be frightening at first and you need to find one that fits with you and your personality, but the idea is to have a diverse group in which to glean ideas, critiques (not criticism) and inspiration.

I recently joined a writers group and they are a weird collection of women, but their weirdness is my weirdness. Their sarcasm, life experiences and diversity appealed to me from the first emails, yet it was still scary to meet for the first time. However the support, contacts and feedback has been well worth any initial fear. A good group challenges you and cares about your progress. You can't get the kind of support writers give from non-writers.

Your thoughts? What makes a good writer?