We all want to grow as writers, but in order to do so sometimes we have to step outside of our comfort zone. If you're anything like me, then some of the following ways we can do this will probably intimidate you and even scare you. Writing conferences! EEK! So many people! Other writers reading my work! NO WAY! I know, I know. Deep breathe. I do, however, assure you that every single one of these tips will make you a stronger, more confident writer. So suck it up and start getting stronger today.
1. Write Everything
And by write everything, I mean write in every genre. If you never try your hand at horror or romance how will you know if that's your chosen genre or not? You might really enjoy them. Even famous authors have dabbled in different genres. Stephen King has written crime thrillers! Shawshank Redemption ring any bells? Ann Rice, queen of vampire horror novels, took a shot at erotica!
Novels, though categorized in one genre, tend to have many elements of different genres within them, so familiarize yourself with those other genres and it will be easier to write your story. So go ahead, don't be shy. If your specialty is space ships and asteroids try writing a fantasy involving unicorns and magic or a western with lots of dirt, blood and guns. Or combine the two! Who knows, you just might find that you're a pretty darn good fantasy western writer!
2. Get Constructive Feedback
You know that writing friend of yours? Yes, the one you haven't shared your writing with yet. Well, would it help your confidence if I told you that their constructive criticism would make you a better writer? Huh? Just do it! I know it's terrifying, but after a while it'll be much easier to handle and you'll be able to figure out what works and what doesn't with your writing. And you know what's even better than getting feedback from one friend? Getting feedback from two friends. Even better yet, join a writing group!
3. Pick a Writing Prompt Every Week
Hey, need some extra motivation and some exciting new goals to keep your writing on track? Well, make or buy a calendar for yourself and writing down a writing prompt at the beginning of each week. Make it your goal to complete a short story every week based on the weekly prompt. It would be a great way to try out new genres! Here's a prompt to get you started: Every person is born with a twin. One is evil and one is good. Your twin died at birth and the government isn't sure which one you are. They make their best guess and send you to one of their territories when you turn 16. They choose wrong. How do you proceed?
4. Read and Examine Authors Work
If you want to write like Stephen King or Ernest Hemingway or Michael Crichton you'll need to read their work, the more of it the better. If you don't want to or just don't have the time then choose a favorite. Read it again and while you do, notice their sentence structure, their rhythm, their word choices. Figure out what makes their writing style theirs and then make it your own or at least practice at it. It will take time, but keep those details of their style in mind and write in that style often.
5. Volunteer for a Literary Magazine or Publishing Company
Much like getting feedback on your writing, this also provides a way for you to see what works well and what doesn't as far as writing goes. What better way to learn the dos and don'ts of writing than seeing first hand what editors like and don't like?
6. Go To A Writing Conference
Who doesn't like a vacation? On top of getting away from the stresses of every day life, you get to learn how to make your writing better. Writing conferences usually have dozens of classes to choose from, the subjects ranging from anything between How to Structure you Story to Describing setting from the Colonial period. Anything you need help with you can find in one of these classes or through one of the teachers. They are also a great place to meet writers and potential critics for your work!
7. Write in Different Perspectives
By practicing your writing in different perspectives you're able to write your stories the way they're meant to be written. There is almost always a better perspective to write in depending on the story. If you want your story to feel more intimate, like the reader is right there with that character, there is first person. If your story requires information from multiple characters, there is third person. And so on…
8. Start a Blog
Writing is writing no matter the reason or topic. You'll learn sentence structure. You'll learn how to say things beautifully. Your left brain will get a workout and all that creative energy will hopefully bleed over into your novel or short story or whatever it is you're writing! One great thing about starting a blog is that you have to write and put out content at least once a week. Deadlines are wonderful if they help you become a better writer!
9. Writing Workshop or Writing Group
Writing workshops and writing groups are everywhere and more often than not access-able to you. You can find them at your local community college. You can even find them online these days. I would opt for the one that meets in person. There's something to be said about developing relationships face to face. It's a lot easier to do so as well. Like writing conferences, it's also a great place to find work to critique and in turn have your own writing critiqued. You can also create a good support system with the other writers you meet and they can help you on your journey to becoming a published author.
This is an obvious one, but I believe that all writers need to hear this often: to become a better writer you need to write. DUH! Make the time to write. No one is ever too busy to write, you just need to get your priorities in order and possibly make some sacrifices. Replace your hour of television in the evening with an hour of writing. Use that fifteen minutes in bed that you usually spend on your phone to write instead. If writing is important to you, you will find the time.