Thursday, August 29, 2013

How to Become a Great Writer

Before I start today's post, I just want to do a few reminders. Firstly, don't forget to nominate someone for the Paying Forward Awards! And then, if you haven't yet, please go guess a letter for my title reveal. I've also posted a clue, to make things easier. There are only five letters left, and I'll be revealing the title tomorrow, along with the winner of a $50 Amazon voucher. So get on it. ;-)

And now, back to the post.

How to Become a Great Writer 


Last week, I did a post on what makes a writer. I'm seeing this as a continuation of that line of thought. 

See, anyone who loves a story has the innate ability to create one. 

But to create a story is actually a tiny part of the process. Good writing actually doesn't come from the writing. Writing is to get the ideas down. Editing is where you'll become good. 

Good writers are people who understand the craft of writing. So you'll need to learn plot. You'll need to learn characterization. You'll need to understand why an adverb is never a good idea when a strong verb exists. You'll need to know what "strong verb" means. You need to know how to heighten stakes. And where real conflict comes from. And... grammar.

The good news is, any writer learns as he/she writes and edits. 

The bad news is, any writer will first need to work on a few stories that suck. I wrote seven unfinished drafts before the one I'm going to publish.

So to become a great writer, first become a writer. Write every day. Get into way of thinking where you'll think in terms of the story and how you can make it good. (BTW, this is something that happens automatically as you learn.) Start with what you've picked up from the books you've read. What sort of character do you like? What's the worst thing that can happen to him? That's a pretty good start to a story. 

If your story doesn't work out, that's okay. You'll probably find that you have an even better idea. Better yet, you now know not to make the same mistake as in the previous draft. 

Once the book's done and you've done your first edits, get a second opinion. Either get critique partners or an editor. Or both. I like CPs because one, in editing someone else's work, can learn a lot about what makes a great story. 

If you can take the critique you'll get, see for yourself where you went wrong, and fix those mistakes, then you'll be well on your way to greatness.

I reiterate: 

Greatness comes from learning from your mistakes. 


What do you think is a sign of greatness in a writer?

21 comments:

Patsy said...

I'm pretty strong on the making mistakes part - if I'm half as good at learning from them then I must be making huge improvements all the time!

I think a sign of greatness might be always doing your best instead of thinking 'that's close enough, it'll do'.

Phillip Schmidt said...

Iam just about 10000 words in to the first book in a quartet I am writing. I do have an editor. She has given me great reviews so far. I like the CP idea though even just for an additional opinion.

Paul Anthony Shortt said...

I think the strongest sign of a great writer is one who can receive crushing feedback, pick themselves up, and fix the things that need to be fixed. It's very easy to assume that, because friends have said they love your work, that it doesn't need any substantial edits, but sometimes it takes an outside or professional perspective to see the flaws.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I agree with Paul. It's about shoving aside the ego and being willing to learn and change.
I have two test readers, one of whom can give some crushing feedback. After that, I have three critique partners who help me polish to perfection.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Becoming a great writer starts with picking up that pen then doing it again and again no matter the challenges. Too many people give up in the early stages.

J. A. Bennett said...

Man, I felt all of this while writing. Three crappy books should be enough, right? Something's bound to happen with my fourth. Doesn't matter, because no matter what, I'm going to keep working at it.

Melissa said...

I agree.

Of course, one also must learn how to filter advice. Not every suggestion should be heeded. But that comes with time and experience as well.

Great post! :)

D.G. Hudson said...

A bit of humility, a good sense of humor, a strong sense of self, and a willingness to keep learning. That's what a good writer is made of.

Interesting series about writing, Misha, and the 'guess the letter in the title' game is a great idea!

Madeleine Sara said...

So true Misha, we are all writers, but to be good and to become successful authors we need to do lots of writing.
Bless you re: your good wishes for my mother. Yes I would appreciate a co-host for my Blogfest if you are able. Hugs x

Jaye Robin Brown said...

To me greatness comes in your ability to set aside your precious darlings or your unintentional biographical details in order to really tell your character's story.

Julia Hones said...

The same stories can bore some readers and entertain others.
Everything is subjective.
Many of the stories considered literary classics now were rejected several times before they were published.
Time to write!

Christine Rains said...

Fantastic post. I've learned so much from my critique partners, and I belong to a local critique group that has taught me a lot. A great writer is flexible, keeps learning and evolving, and even after all the tough stuff still loves what they do.

Romance Reader said...

Lovely post. And I completely agree, Misha. We need to keep at it to make it.

All the best!

Nas

Julie Luek said...

Is always interesting to read the various definitions of great writers out there-- thanks for adding your very thoughtful post on the subject. I do agree, regardless of how this is defined, there's no way to get there but write!

Kelly Hashway said...

My first published novel was the sixth book I wrote. It takes time to learn to be a good writer. You have to be willing to put in that time.

M Pax said...

An open mind to keep learning is a must. I think you've read a few things that continue to sit on my hard drive. :D

Catherine Stine said...

A lively imagination and unwavering tenacity.

Catherine Stine said...

A lively imagination and unwavering tenacity.

Michael Di Gesu said...

For me.... passion is most needed .. passion for the beauty of words ... passion for your characters ....passion for the world you build ... and passion for you story. Awriter MUST also evolve and grow.... challenge themselves ... write in different genres... write outside your comfort zone... it will add intricate layers to your a story.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I think one sign of greatness is someone who writes what he or she loves, and not what he or she thinks will sell or what fits the "trend" at that particular moment. I like your point about thinking of the worst thing that can happen to a character; that already sets up a conflict for that person that would be interesting to write about.

Susan Oloier said...

Misha,
First of all, I love the new look of the blog. At least it's new to me.
Secondly, I absolutely agree: don't use an adverb when you can use a strong verb instead. I heard my son's teacher tell the class to use adverbs on a day I volunteered. I cringed, then later told my son to go for the strong verb first.
Greatness in a writer? There are many things. I often find economy of words to be a gift.