Writing can be anything we want it to be. For some it’s a profession, for others a hobby, and for the rest it’s a burning passion that needs an outlet. For me, I feel like I fall under all three categories at times.
No matter where we fall on the spectrum at any given time in our writing careers, there are three essentials to improve writing skills. I broke them down into the three L’s to help you remember them.
Learn to Write
“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” – Brian Herbert –
When I first started my writing group we quickly realized that we needed to have an educational aspect to our agenda. It wasn’t enough to be writing down words in our novels and short stories. Otherwise we would be writing a lot of not great stuff. Each week we rotated who would bring a writing development topic to the meeting. They would spend 3-5 minutes sharing something they learned that week to improve their writing.
These topics ranged anywhere from character development, organization, writing methodologies, to punctuation and grammar review. Nothing was off the table, because none of us were flawless writers, if such a thing exists.
Get feedback on your writing, try to understand what you need to improve, then study it. Find articles that explain, teach, and give examples. Read books and make notes on paragraphs and sentences that resonate with you.
Check out Udemy, YouTube, or your community college and see what kind of writing courses they offer. These can be great ways to improve your writing skills with structured feedback and scheduled practice.
Which brings me to the last part of learning to write. Practice. Nothing beats practice. It doesn’t matter how much you “learn” through research, courses, or trained professionals if you don’t implement what you’re taught. Practice can be through writing prompts, writing contests, or even journaling.
I personally enjoy writing prompts because they are short, sweet, and I can focus my writing on a specific element. Here’s a writing prompt I did focused on developing a scene.
Live your Story
If you are writing science fiction that takes place on another world, I’m expecting you to become an astronaut and move to mars. Especially when it comes to futuristic or fantasy stories, this piece of advice can seem ludicrous. But here me out.
I’ve been reading the adventure fantasy story where the young hero joins with a party and travels across wilderness to far off cities and nations. In so many of these stories, the party travels by foot and is carrying all of their stuff in packs. Seems feasible and realistic right? This summer I went on a World Building Writing Trip where I hiked 100 miles across the Uinta’s carrying everything I needed in my pack.
Guess what I learned from this. Stuff is heavy! Now, when I write my story, I’m going to make sure that what they carry is realistic, or is sitting on a horse.
Feel what is it to be in your story, know what “warmth spread across my face as the sun peaked above the horizon” feels like. Stay up all night, go camping, try and have a rigid training regimen for a week or two.
The more you can experience the wonders of the world, the more rich and believable your writing will feel to readers.
It’s easy to give up on things when you don’t love them. As soon as it gets hard quitting makes the most sense. But when you love something, the hard times aren’t quite that hard, the struggles don’t hurt quite as bad, and the highs. Oh the highs are so wonderful. Writing is an act of creation, of making things exist that couldn’t before.
Writing can, and should be fun. If you love it.
“And if love be madness, may I never find sanity again.” – John Mark Green –