Becoming a Better Writer

Writers are constantly learning and growing. The more we learn the more we want to know. We’re like sponges always longing for a sink full of water into which we can immerse ourselves. I look back at my writing journey and realize it happened in stages. I guess all writers go through something similar.

Beginning writers often feel frustrated because their imagination and their skills are at different levels. The image in their mind looks different when written on the page. This is when they hone their craft by learning the technical aspects of storytelling:

    Such as…

  • Show, Don’t Tell
  • Using the Active Voice
  • Never Use Two Words When One Word Will Do
  • Use Vivid Nouns and Active Verbs in Place of Adjectives and Adverbs
  • Don’t Over-Explain
  • Vary Sentence Structure
  • Avoid Word Repetition (unless it is for emphasis)
  • Use Metaphors and Similes—Don’t Abuse Them
  • Write. Rewrite. Rewrite

As writers become more comfortable melding their skills and imaginations, they develop a style. Their voice becomes distinct and we search for tools to keep us sharp. If you’re like me you have shelves filled with books on writing. You subscribe to writing magazines. You follow writing blogs. Writers are excellent teachers. At least they think they are. So, what resources do I turn to over and over again?

  • Writing Fiction A Guide to Narrative Craft 6th Edition by Janet Burroway
    I got this book for my first writing class and no matter how many other reference books hit the shelves I find this one easiest to understand. (the 9th Edition was released in 2014)
  • Blog: Helping Writers Become Authors.
    K.M. Weiland consistently publishes relevant and educational content. Every writer should visit this blog.
  • The Writer magazine
    There are so many choices for writers when it comes to magazines and I’ve subscribed to several. The Writer magazine fits my needs better than any of the others.

People might tell you that writing is a solitary endeavor and when you’re clacking away at the keyboard or writing longhand in notebooks it does seem that way. It’s a little known fact that we NEED other writers. They are the true gems in our resource arsenals. In truth, I’ve learned more about my writing from other writers than any teachers or books. I guess you could call this blog post a love letter to my top influencers:

  • Staci Troilo has been a phenomenal friend and colleague. She’s a skilled writer who always takes time to help me when I ask. She knows (at least I hope) that she can depend on me to be there for her both professionally and personally.
  • Annie Neugebauer is brilliant! Though I’ve never met her in person, she inspires me through her blog. If I leave a comment, she responds and makes me feel like my opinion counts. She was also nice enough to help me edit a poem that won me an award. I am now and forever her faithful servant.
  • The Fayetteville Writing Circle has been one of the best things to happen to my writing. Ever. I’ve grown fond of all its members and we’ve become a tight knit group. Their feedback on The Widows of Wyatt Abney has given me direction which I know will make it a better story overall. They’ve become invaluable to me and my writing.

From the growing pains of a beginning writer, through the fog of finding my voice, to building relationships with like-minded people, I’ve become a better writer. I’m a sponge swimming in waters abundant with knowledge, resources and friendship.

  • Michele Jones

    Missy, your post is very true. I have several author resources that I turn to when I need advice, scene help, edits, or an encouraging word. Staci is one of my go to resources (and my sister) and always has a fresh take on what stumps me.
    Hopefully other writers will become a resource, and influence, a shoulder to lean on.
    Good luck with your WIP.

    • Staci is a peach! I really need to get in touch with her. Sometimes a person just needs a Staci fix. ?

      I’m blessed with a growing network of writing friends. When I stop and think just how much my writing has improved over the past three years I’m in awe. I never thought I’d get to this place and I really like it. Still much, much more to learn, but at least I now know I’m teachable. ?

  • You are the sweetest! I’m so touched, Missy, really. Thank you for the kind words. <3

    Speaking of craft books, have you read Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel? It's my favorite!

    • I have heard of Maass’s book. It’s on my wishlist!

      I attended a workshop last night called Working the Genre Divide. It was about “strategies for working genre-style plots while still employing the fine imagery and inventive language of literary fiction.” It was a VERY GOOD workshop and I got a lot of out it.