Take your writing to the next level! Transform your writing! Write a bestseller! We all want to be better writers. In nearly twenty years of helping writers, I’ve offered workshops that promised that next level to my students. After yesterday’s total solar eclipse, some writing coach will no doubt promote a course or workshop to eclipse one’s writing too.
Writing Tip for Today: Here are three helpful tips to become the best writer you can be:
Connect Your Passion
They say write what you know. Yet all too often, writers interpret that saying as writing their own lives. You know yourself better than anyone else, so it’s natural to write elements of your own life into fiction. But to fully engage your readers, there’s a trick. If you write about yourself (or your attitudes, beliefs and emotions), you must make readers see themselves in the story—not you. The secret of becoming the best writer you can be lies in connection. Connection means that while you dig deep for authentic feeling, passion and actions for your characters, your readers don’t really see you as they read. Readers who see and identify themselves or their beliefs, feelings or emotions, can make a strong connection with the story and its characters. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, it’s never really about you. Rather, it’s always about your reader and those universal feelings we can all connect with: the need for love, belonging, justice, or truth.
In the Saddle
In my classes BIC is a common acronym for “Butt in Chair.” You’ve probably heard about 10,000 hours necessary to master anything. Well, hop in the saddle, pard’ner. I can’t guarantee you’ll produce a bestseller if you write for 10,000 or ten million hours. But I do believe you’ll get better. Getting the words down in the first place is what separates writers from dreamers. Writers without some form of writing discipline tend not to get very far. And while we’re on the subject, let me remind you that when you are getting the words down, you shouldn’t try to edit them. Novices often think they’ll save time and effort by working over their words for perfection as they write. But the opposite is usually true. Writers who trot out their inner editor as they draft are often stuck on page one, trying to get the right word in that opening line. It’s great to have a killer first line, but it won’t matter if that’s all you ever write. Different brain areas are involved, and it takes skill to edit as you draft. As you build on those 10k hours, let the words fly fast and furious. Write as often as possible—daily is best. Draft in a white-hot heat—later you will have eternity to rewrite.
The third piece of the best writer formula is revision. Not just tinkering with word choices or finding typos. Revision is the key for taking a big fat mess of a draft and molding it into something a reader can connect to. Last post we talked about Big Picture revision—editing for structure and story. These concepts are not easy for some writers, but they’re essential for producing that top-shelf, next-level writing promised by so many workshop leaders. Study story arc, concept and premise until you have it down pat. Rewrite your work to fit these conventions, then rewrite again, lay aside and revise once more. Learn to embrace revision, if not love it. If you connect to your readers, show up and write and don’t shy away from revision, your writing just may eclipse what you wrote yesterday. Isn’t that awesome?