3 Steps For Taking Your Writing To The Next Level

There are any number of posts out there (including many by me!) on how to improve your writing. Today, I’m not focusing on specific tips–I’m asking you to step back and take a look at how you’re approaching your writing. If you can cover these three angles, you’ll improve. Guaranteed.

1. Get serious about craft.
Read like a writer. Pick up great books in your field–or just great books–and study what makes them work. When you gasp, ask how the author made you do that. When you cry, ask what got you so invested that you ended up sobbing into your pillow. Think consciously about your writing, and ask yourself scene by scene what your goals are. Then check if you’re achieving them. Examine everything from your prose to your pacing. If you’re the type, pick up books on craft. I like Robert McKee’s Story and Stephen King’s On Writing, but there are heaps of great options out there.

2. Get serious about revision.
Get great critique partners. If you don’t respect their writing, why are they critiquing yours? If you’re happy with your critique partners, then really listen to what they have to say about your writing.

And if you’re reading this and thanking your lucky stars that you’re not the sort of person who needs critique partners? You do.

Accept that serious revision doesn’t mean tightening words and shifting commas. You’ll probably cut and rewrite whole sections. It’ll be hard. There’ll be some sections that are beautifully written and have to go anyway.

3. Be patient.
You know the rule about how when you finish a novel, you should stuff it in a drawer and let it marinate from anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months before you go back to start revision?

It’s true. And it applies to you.

Take the time to let your story sit, then come back to it with fresh eyes. You’ll be amazed at what you see. Everybody I know who’s tried to rush it has wished they hadn’t.

Revise properly. Read it again. Put it through another reader. Don’t go to all the trouble of writing a novel and then blow it because you got impatient.

Bonus fourth tip: Keep writing. If you’re querying and waiting to hear back, keep writing. If you’re on sub and waiting to hear back, keep writing. If you’re stuck with your story, pick up something else and keep writing.


5 Responses to 3 Steps For Taking Your Writing To The Next Level

  1. Julie Jun 21 2012 at 7:11 am #

    I loved your bonus fourth tip. 🙂 Great post!

  2. Linda C. Jun 21 2012 at 7:29 am #

    Love the two craft books you mentioned. Great books. Besides novel writing books, screenwriting books like Syd Field’s Screenplay (or McKee’s Story, which you mentioned) are so helpful for getting the bare bones of story structuring. I definitely recommend those to aspiring writers!

  3. Jess Jun 21 2012 at 8:11 am #

    Thanks for the tips, Amie! Patience has been my downfall (one of them, anyway), and I’m trying to be a little more realistic in setting aside time before revising and querying 🙂

  4. Kat Zhang Jun 21 2012 at 9:19 am #

    All great points, Amie!! 🙂

  5. Alexa @ Alexa Loves Jun 21 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    Simple, yet very effective. Love this post!

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