The other day, I was sitting on the sidelines watching my son’s soccer practice. On the field behind me a football coach was yelling at his players, saying, “If you’re not sweating, you’re not working hard enough!”
My first thought was, “Man, I’m glad you’re not my boys’ coach.”
But that line bothered me for the rest of the day. Was he right? Will working hard make them better players? My thoughts turned to writing. If I worked harder, wrote more, would that make me a better writer?
The conclusion I came to was ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Yes, in that the more you do something, your craft is developed. But at the same time, if you’re doing it wrong, it’s like banging your head against the wall. It can hurt your craft and frustrate you.
1. Write as often as you can. I work a full time and part time job. I’m a mom and I’m taking classes. Time is more valuable than gold. But if I want to write, I just have to suck it up and sit down and write. That means I might only have an hour a day. But the reality is, the more I write, the better I get.
2. Read. When you read, study the way the author has constructed the story. Pick one or two elements that you feel are lacking in your book such as plot, character arcs, or conflicts within a scene. Focus on those two elements as you read and see how that author has developed them. Write down notes in your journal at what worked and what didn’t. Read another book and do the same thing. I find I learn so much by reading other author’s books.
3. Find critique partners who know their stuff. These people don’t have to be writers. Sometimes your best critiquers are actually readers that have the eye for when a character isn’t being true to themselves or the plot is sagging. Trust them. Listen to them.