As an author, I’m constantly trying to improve my writing and perfect my style. But, I’ve never taken a creative writing class or attended a writing workshop, and I don’t intend to.
I know that sounds really odd, but I have a good reason, I promise! So far, I’ve published three books and four short stories, and even won some awards along the way. I’ve developed my own style, which seems to be working, and I don’t want to lose it. I don’t follow any rules or guidelines when I write, and I fear that after taking a course I would begin to overanalyze and lose what I have.
That being said, my writing isn’t perfect. I’ll be the first to admit that there is always room for improvement. So, how do I improve without attending classes or workshops?
Read books in your genre
Read, read, read. But think of it as research instead of entertainment. Don’t just read your favorite author and devour the book in a day. Try authors you’ve never read, both indie and traditional. Re-read your favorite authors, but go slower than you normally would.
Analyze and take notes
Write down what worked for you and what didn’t. Did you think they weren’t descriptive enough? Did you like the way they formed their characters or plot? Did events progress too fast to be believable? Was a certain word or description used repeatedly? Was the dialogue spot on?
Compare your notes to your own writing
This can be difficult because you have to be honest with yourself. Evaluate your writing without prejudice. Admit to yourself if you did some of the same things you didn’t like about the book you just finished. Make a note of things you should improve on, and apply that to your writing. Did some aspect of your writing match something you liked about a book? Make a note of that as well.
Put all of your notes and research in a binder or a folder on your computer so you can find it easily. Reference it when you’re writing and/or editing to help remind yourself of the things you wanted to work on. Eventually, certain changes will become second nature to you, which is an extremely rewarding feeling.
Listen to and organize criticisms from others
This includes praise you might get as well. When you have your editor or beta readers pursue your manuscript, they will find things that you couldn’t see yourself, which is a good thing! Pay attention to these notes. And I would suggest to put these notes in two separate categories:
Notes specific to one book
Notes that can be applied to all of your writing
For example, let’s say a beta reader pointed out that you didn’t use any contractions, which made the reading slow and disjointed. That correction could be applied to all of your writing as something to remember or fix. If you did it in one book, you’ll probably do it in another.
Maybe someone else pointed out that you had a contradiction or inconsistency in your plot. That would be filed under your notes for a specific book as something to fix. HOWEVER, you can certainly keep that concept in mind for the future as something to be more careful about.
Sorting through other people’s comments can be tricky. Many suggestions will be appropriate, but some might not be. When taking your notes and deciding which criticisms to take on in your editing, stay true to your story and your voice. If something truly doesn’t match, it’s ok to not take on the suggestion. It’s a difficult concept at first, but the more you do it, the easier it will become. I promise!
Taking on both of these tips will help you improve your writing and develop your style and voice. The thing to remember is that they’re both ongoing! Don’t stop either one! There will always be something to learn and apply to your writing. As a result, you’ll constantly be improving and honing your craft!
Have you tried either of these tips? What did you learn that helped improve your writing? Do you have any other suggestions on how to improve your writing without attending a class or workshop? I’d love to hear your comments!